“The First Lady” Showtime series, a portion of which was about Michelle Obama, has been canceled after one season and will not be renewed for a second one amid awful reviews and more.
The 10-part anthology series debuted on the network a little more than six weeks ago, and Showtime announced this week it wouldn’t be “moving forward” with a second season.
“Showtime can confirm that the anthology series ‘The First Lady’ will not be moving forward with another season,” a spokesperson told Variety in a piece published Monday.
‘The First Lady’ Canceled at Showtime After One Season https://t.co/UjxtL6s7Ky
— Variety (@Variety) August 2, 2022
“We would like to applaud the artistry and commitment of our showrunner Cathy Schulman, director Susanne Bier, their fellow executive producers, our amazing cast, led by executive producer Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson, and our studio partner Lionsgate for their dedicated work in telling the unique stories of three remarkable leaders.”
The show was about the story of three former first ladies — Eleanor Roosevelt, played by Gillian Anderson, Betty Ford, played by actress Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michelle Obama, played by Viola Davis.
The series told the first ladies’ stories with cuts between their different eras in the White House. Variety’s chief television critic Caroline Framke noted this format of squeezing their stories “together doesn’t just make for confusing television, but does them all a disservice in the process.”
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave show a score of 41%, with several accusing the series of failing to have “compelling narratives” for the leads. One critic for The Atlantic, Shirly Li, wrote that “The First Lady is a barely thematically connected and carelessly staged summary of three fascinating figures. All of them deserved better.”
The New Yorker wrote that, “The Showtime miniseries, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Gillian Anderson, manages to make life as a White House wife seem both cosmic and forgettable.”
Audiences appeared to struggle with the story-telling structure, too, but more so with the way Obama was portrayed, giving the series a 58%.
Several wrote about how upsetting they found Obama’s character. “Really upset with Michelle Obama character played by Viola Davis I’ve never seen Michelle look so strange with the awful eyebrows and wiggly mounts?” one person wrote.
Viola Davis on playing Michelle Obama in #TheFirstLady:
“There’s a lot of fear that I messed up my portrayal. I’m mostly terrified about what she will think. I don’t want to insult her & have her calling me. I gotta make the sister look good. I just hope that it lands with her.” pic.twitter.com/wVaZJx7lQL
— Film Updates (@FilmUpdates) April 17, 2022
Another wrote that they had a problem with the “switching back and forth” in the timeline and wrote that “I would have preferred watching more of a single timeline. In fact, 3 separate series, starting with Eleanor, then Betty, and lastly Michelle would have been better. Viola Davis always pursing her lips was extremely distracting.”
“I really enjoy this series,” a third shared. “My favorites are Gillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayals. Viola Davis’s portrayal annoys me because she purses her lips constantly along with odd facial expressions that I don’t ever recall Michelle Obama ever doing.”