Why NBCU Should Renew 'Debris' (And Move It To Peacock)

Post by: Rick Ellis 17 May, 2021

On Monday, CBS announced it is moving the supernatural thriller Evil to its sister streaming service Paramount+, the third CBS show set to make that move for the upcoming season. There are several factors that led to that decision, but a primary reason is that not only is the broadcast television audience getting smaller - it's getting less ambitious in its viewing habits. In the same way the market for compact discs is over-50 consumers looking for new titles from their favorite classic rockers, broadcast television is increasingly focusing on safe schedules full of predictable spin-offs and premises. 

In this environment, it's tougher than ever for a complex, mythology-driven drama to find an audience. Audiences don't want to invest the time and to be honest, the broadcast networks often struggle to promote shows that have multi-layered story elements. Moving slightly eccentric shows such as Evil and Clarice to a streaming service makes a lot of sense. And I think you're are going to see other networks making a similar calculation.

Which brings us to NBC's Debris, a science fiction series that over the course of its first season has developed into a clever, complex drama full of unexpected turns and real emotional payoffs. And like most mythology-heavy shows on broadcast television in recent years, it has struggled to find an audience.

Created by showrunner J.H. Wyman, here is how NBC describes the series:

When wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft scatters across the Western Hemisphere, it soon becomes apparent the pieces are messing with the laws of physics, changing lives in ways we can’t comprehend. Two agents from different continents, and different mindsets, are tasked to work together to recover the debris, whose mysteries humankind is not quite ready for.

While the logline doesn't exactly fill the reader with a strong need to watch the series, the show has made its case for survival each and every week. The concept of the debris unpredictably affecting everything from time to the physical properties of the world is just batshit enough to seem somewhat possible while still feeling insane and unpredictable. And while it took me a couple of weeks to warm to the unsettling chemistry of leads of Jonathan Tucker (playing Bryan Beneventi) and Riann Steele (as Finola Jones), the duo have managed to find that sweet spot which allows the humanity and personal lives of their characters to breath in a show that could easily become nothing but a typical "monster-of-the-week" knock-off of The X-Files.

But the nuance and inventiveness of Debris also makes it a difficult show to love.  It's not one of those shows that you can just lean back and half watch while you're finishing off the latest Sudoku puzzle. You need to actively watch the episodes and absorb some of the evolving mythology. All of which makes Debris an unlikely candidate for survival on broadcast television in 2021.

There is an option for the series that makes much better sense for the show and that also answers the question often asked by network executives in this type of situation: "what value will renewing this show bring to our business and bottom line?" And the answer lies with NBCU's streaming service Peacock.

Fans of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist are already pushing for the show to make the move to Peacock, because it is a series that creatively feels very similar to shows such as Peacock's critically-acclaimed Girls5Eva. There's a proven audience for shows such as Zoey's on Peacock and the series is well-regarded enough by audiences to make the decision nearly a slam dunk.

On the other hand, Peacock hasn't had much success with science fiction-oriented programming such as Brave New World and Intergalactic, which have received some positive press but not much buzz from audiences. It's tough to coax new viewers into a relatively new streamer and what Debris would bring to Peacock is a solid ensemble and clever premise combined with a season full of episodes that most people haven't seen. The show lends itself to bingeing and if it's properly done, the summer could be spent getting subscribers ready for the new season. The best chance for Peacock to develop successes in the science fiction genre is with a series that people might have heard of even if they haven't seen it yet. Debris fits the bill and it certainly seems to have enough creative legs to provide multiple seasons of action to a streamer that desperately needs it.

Debris deserves a second season and Peacock is the best place to make that happen.

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Last modified on Monday, 17 May 2021 22:54