VH1’s Hindsight was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises — an appealing time-travel dramedy that’s both a ‘90s nostalgia trip and an intriguing meditation on the road not taken — and fans were thrilled when it got renewed for a second season back in March. But a couple weeks ago, we were hit with a major bummer: VH1 announced the show wouldn’t get a Season 2 after all, despite the earlier renewal.
After we drowned our sorrows in a case of Zima, we got on the phone with Hindsight creator Emily Fox to find out what the hell happened, and what the chances are that another network might pick up the show. Plus, Fox explains how they got all that great '90s music for the show, and offers a few vague hints about what we might see in Season 2. (If we get to see it at all.)
First of all: What happened? How did we go from renewed to canceled?
That’s an excellent question! [Laughs.] We were quite blindsided. I believe, speaking as diplomatically as possible, that there were some leadership changes at the network, and some reevaluating went on, as often happens when someone new comes in. I couldn’t speak to what’s going on quote-unquote “at Viacom” — people keep talking about things going on at Viacom like they’re talking about the Death Star — I imagine everyone’s under fire to bolster the financials in their particular section.
I think VH1 was taking a big swing with us, and looking to move into a certain kind of scripted content, and we all had very high hopes. And of course, we were all flattered and thrilled by all the incredibly nice reviews that we got. But you know, I guess you can’t eat reviews. But look, we were extremely proud of the season that we made. I’m only disappointed that we won’t be able to continue to tell the story at VH1. It’s especially bittersweet because we had written the second season. It exists!
Yeah, exactly how much prep work had gone into Season 2? You had written every episode already?
We had mapped out every episode. We were in the process of writing Episode 5 of our initial order of eight. So we had a direction. We knew where it was going. And we deliberately created a cliffhanger because we knew we were getting a second season! And now I feel terrible! Because everyone was so outraged; they said, “How could you leave us hanging?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t!” You know, call me and I’ll tell you how it turns out… no, of course I can’t do that. But we had mapped out the next chapter.
So Becca might be doomed to be stuck in that magical elevator for all of eternity, then?
I sure hope not! [Laughs.] If it comes down to that, I’ll sit down and write a novel. But there is another chapter to this story that exists in some universe.
What are the options now? Are there talks with other networks?
Yes. I can’t speak too specifically to that, but yes, we were sort of immediately snapped into “Project Save Hindsight.” Because our fans were really, really devoted. I can’t tell you how moved and flattered I was, and everyone involved with the show was, by how much this meant to the fans. It wasn’t just, “I enjoyed it.” It was like, “This show gave me big feelings.“
It was partly the music, and the nostalgia, and the outfits. But it’s also: The time in your life between college and really growing up is such a universal experience. No matter where you were or what you were doing, everyone remembers that moment where you open the door to adulthood and walk through it, and it’s so bewildering and dizzying and confusing and amazing, and the show really sought to capture that feeling of "Oh my God, I’m free!” I think it just spoke to a lot of people in a really profound way. And that was what made us think this story deserves to continue to be told. So many people were so invested in it that I don’t want to cheat them out of knowing how it turned out.
I personally went through that time in my life in New York City in the '90s, so Hindsight definitely struck a chord with me. Did you live in New York in the '90s, too?
I did! I moved there after college. I went to Yale, and then I moved to New York with all my friends, and we all lived within a six-block radius of each other. And it was such a stunning revelation that, “Oh my God, this is just like college, but with no homework!” We all had the s–ttiest jobs, and no one was making any money. We were like these roving packs of girls and guys, just having the best time. It was the best time. I mean, we were all terrified, but we had each other. And to me, that’s what Becca and Lolly’s friendship was all about: “This is terrifying, but I have you. And as long as I have you, I’m not alone.”
Plus, the mid-'90s were this very specific time right before computers and the Internet took over all of our lives.
That was sort of a happy accident. Because this show was originally developed for NBC in the fall of 2009. And at the time, the leap that Becca took was only ten years, back to 1999. And when we redeveloped it at VH1, we made the leap bigger, because time had passed, and also, we wanted to do something that felt more dramatic and more different. 2009 to 1999 was a little different, but not radically so. And when we changed it so that Becca was waking up in 1995, we realized, “Oh my gosh, she’s waking up at the dawn of the technological age!” There’s nothing. You had a pager; it might not even be alphanumeric. If you were late, you were late. There wasn’t anything you could do about it! So it was really fun to lean into that.
And of course, the '90s music was such a big part of the show. Did airing on VH1 help you get access to all those great songs?
It was actually our music supervisor, Jon Ernst, who was the DJ on Singled Out back in the '90s. He is a magician. He’s the most phenomenal music supervisor. We would sit and look at a scene, and I’d say, “What I want in this scene is something like this song.” And he’d be like, “Well, what about that song? I’ll get you that song.” And five minutes later, we had that song. And the reason we were able to do that was we didn’t buy them outright; we made a lot of three-year deals on a lot of the music. The cost actually was shockingly low to put together that soundtrack.
And it sounds clichéd, but it was almost like a character on that show. The memories, you know. Every once in a while, we would get a network note where someone would say, “I really don’t like this song.” And we would privately say, “Oh, she got dumped while listening to that song.” Because it just conjures up such powerful memories. It’s like, on 90210, how Brenda listened to “Losing My Religion” a thousand times after Dylan broke up with her? I now can’t listen to that song because it makes me so sad, because they broke up to that song. It’s just such a powerful nostalgic gateway, and it was really fun to see how people responded, like, “Oh my God, I haven’t heard that song 'December’ in a billion years. But I know all the words, and I started crying.” It was really fun to bring that back for people.
So is there anything fans can do to help, besides making crying GIFs on Twitter? Should we send a bunch of Ace of Base CDs to Hulu or something?
[Laughs.] You certainly could; I’m sure Hulu would be thrilled. I think the collective enthusiasm of the fans, whatever outlet they choose — Twitter is obviously a really powerful tool. Facebook, Instagram, whatever is your drug of choice. Mostly, I think the thing that’s going to make the difference is just if there is a network that feels like this particular show fills a need for them. And it’s a very specific thing. It would be my greatest joy if it found another home, because I would still really, really love to tell this story. And I think a lot of people would really like to know what happens next. There’s a petition on change.org that my mom and all of her friends have signed. [Laughs.]
But I think the gods need to smile on things like this. The enthusiasm of the fans is very heartwarming to me and to everyone on the show, but… I know that there have been these stories about fans sending cases of nuts to CBS to renew Jericho. Someone had suggested they were going to send jars of apricot jam to VH1. But you know, I think VH1 is going in the direction that they need to go in. I think the best hope for Hindsight is to find another home. And I’ve got fingers and toes and eyes crossed, hoping that happens. Especially since we have Season 2 mapped out and written. It sort of exists in my mind. I could say, “Oh, I don’t know where she ends up,” but actually, no, I know exactly what happens next. And I’d love to tell other people.
Can you tell us anything that you have planned for Season 2? Even just broad themes you were going to tackle?
We were going to potentially find out more about why this happened. Just a lot of the bigger picture was going to be peeled back like an onion. Because our long-range goal was never just to say, “Oh, this happened, and here were the consequences.” Building on some of our favorite shows, like Lost, to some degree — the first couple seasons, there was really exciting stuff about the mythology. This was very philosophical and very allegorical, but at the same time, everyone wondered, “Why?” Including our characters. So the exploration of some of the different forces of nature was going to be pretty interesting. There were just so many wonderful twists and surprises we had planned, I do hope they get to see the light of day.
Season 1 of Hindsight is streaming now on Hulu.