‘Yellowjackets’ Gets Early Renewal: Showtime’s Gary Levine On Series’ Breakout Success & Season 2 Surprises

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Five episodes into Yellowjackets‘ freshman run, the survival drama has been renewed for a second season by Showtime. The series hails from creators/executive producers/co-showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, exec producer/co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco, eOne and Drew Comins’ studio-based Creative Engine.

Yellowjackets, featuring an all-star female cast led by Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci and Tawny Cypress, launched to strong reviews, scoring a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been seen by over 4 million viewers across platforms to date. Showtime’s President of Entertainment Gary Levine called it “an unadulterated sensation” and “a hotshot out of a cannon.”

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“It’s done extremely well in terms of streaming subscriptions,” Levine told Deadline. “It was our second biggest series debut ever on streaming, and it’s grown each week on streaming by double digit percentages. In terms of acclaim, in terms of buzz – no pun intended — and in terms of hard numbers, this show has just exploded. For it to be embraced as quickly and as deeply as it was by both audiences and critics alike, that’s a little like catching lightning in a bottle — you can never anticipate that but boy, it’s awfully sweet when it rarely happens.”

Yellowjackets’ streaming debut was second only to the return of Showtime’s signature drama Dexter with the limited series Dexter: New Blood.

Linear viewing is far less relevant in the multi-platform universe (Yellowjackets has been drawing modest Live+Same Day linear audiences but even there the show just hit a series high with its most recent episode, 295,000 viewers.) Still, putting Yellowjackets behind Dexter: New Blood likely helped the newbie to be discovered by audiences quickly.

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“While they are very different shows, we felt that both the strength and some of the tonalities of Dexter would be a great launching pad for Yellowjackets and it seems to have been borne out,” Levine said. “Dexter is a dark and violent show but it’s also a witty, funny show, it’s also a family drama, and Yellowjackets has some of the same mix of tones.”

With Yellowjackets being renewed, is there a pickup in the cards for its companion, Dexter: New Blood?

“Dexter is a limited series and any further discussions of Dexter will have to wait until we finish airing the limited series and see where we are with our stories and our characters,” Levine said. “Dexter was really designed to have a proper conclusion to the series, and I believe we will deliver that in the best possible way.”

Yellowjackets also brought back female audiences, which Showtime previously attracted with long-running hit Shameless.

“I think in terms of the breadth of audience and its audience demographics, it probably is closest to Shameless in terms of its reach,” Levine said. “It’s probably no accident that both had characters in their teens and adult years. But I also think tone, there is an audacity and irreverence to both of those shows that I think has some inherent appeal to a broader range of demographics.”

The creative team of Yellowjackets just finished editing the Season 1 finale, slated to air Jan. 16, last week.

“We have not heard the pitch for Season 2, the writers room has not even come together yet, they are going to come together in January,” Levine said. “I’m sure Ashley, Bart and Jonathan have some loose ideas but they hadn’t fleshed out their ideas and they certainly haven’t conveyed them to us.”

Still, “I do know that there will be some surprises in terms of the characters,” Levine said. “There are still lots of questions about who survived, what happened out there. There will be some real surprises in terms of that and I think some characters you may not even have met yet.”

Levine, who recalled how the Yellowjackets pitch struck a chord with him and his team to a point where he couldn’t remember whether the story was fictional or based on real events. “That’s how real the pitch felt,” he said.

Facing Prime Video’s similarly themed (on paper) The Wilds, Yellowjackets sailed through the development process, with both shows, which turned out very differently, doing well.

As for what Yellowjackets’ success speaks to, “I think what it says is, in this time of reboots, comic books and procedurals, there is a real hunger for originality,” Levine said. “It’s such a unique concept, and also the fact that it’s all women and showing of all sides of women: they are athletes, they are hunter-gatherers, they are cheaters, they are killers, and yet there is sisterhood and there is competition.”

Equal parts survival epic, psychological horror story and coming-of-age drama, Yellowjackets is the saga of a team of wildly talented high school girls soccer players who become the (un)lucky survivors of a plane crash deep in the remote northern wilderness. The series chronicles their descent from a complicated but thriving team to savage clans, while also tracking the lives they’ve attempted to piece back together nearly 25 years later, proving that the past is never really past and what began out in the wilderness is far from over. Season one also stars Ella Purnell, Samantha Hanratty, Sophie Thatcher, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sophie Nélisse, Steven Krueger and Warren Kole. Karyn Kusama directed and executive produced the pilot. Jacqueline Sacerio oversees the series for eOne.

“We are beyond grateful for the incredible support we’ve received for this show — both from Gary Levine, Jana Winograde, David Nevins, Amy Israel, Dave Binegar, and the rest of the fantastic Showtime team, and from our growing team of “Citizen Detectives” at home,” said Lyle, Nickerson and Lisco. “We can’t wait to continue telling this story with our amazing cast and crew. The saga continues!”

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