Why did Netflix cancel “The Baby-Sitters Club”?

April 18, 2024
10 mins read

In the first quarter of 2022, fans of the highly-acclaimed Netflix Original comedy-drama series called “The Baby-Sitters Club”, were devastated when they learned that it was canceled. As with other TV networks, the streaming service never gave an explanation why they chose not to renew it, given that it received many positive feedbacks not only from the fans but also from the critics. Several theories came out as the reason behind its cancelation, including poor ratings, artistic differences, and lack of product marketing. The drama series only aired for two seasons.

What was “The Baby-Sitters Club” all about?

Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” was an American drama series about a group of middle-schoolers who started a babysitting business in the fictionalized town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.

Highly inspired by the novel series with the same title

The TV show was inspired by the best-selling book series of the same title written by Ann M. Martin, published from 1986 up to 2000 – in 2016, close to 180 million copies had been sold. While Ann was mostly known as the main author of the series, she only wrote the first 35 books on her own, and many ghostwriters collaborated with her on the rest of the books. The idea of publishing books focused on babysitting by Scholastic Corporation, came about after “Katie’s Babysitting Job” became popular. It was supposed to be just a four-book series, but it became so successful that Scholastic kept ordering new ones from the author. They stopped in 2000, by which time they already had over 200 books published.

A Netflix reboot and TV premiere

For many years, kids from elementary to teenagers were thrilled by “The Baby-Sitters Club” books, and showrunner Rachel Shukert created the TV drama version through Netflix. They filmed it in Vancouver, by “The Chronicles of Narnia” producer Walden Media, along with Michael De Luca, who worked on “Escape at Dannemora.” It wasn’t the first time someone thought of producing a live-action series, since cable TV giant HBO also had its version in 1990. The Netflix version made its television debut on 3 July 2020 with 10 episodes, renewed for a second season with another 10 episodes, which was aired from 11 October 2021.

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Main stars of “The Baby-Sitters Club”

When online articles came out about the Netflix TV adaptation series, two TV veterans were reported to be part of it, Alicia Silverstone and Mark Feuerstein. Alicia played the role of Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer, a divorced mother of the president of the babysitters club. Fans said it was a great idea to cast Alicia, because she was one of the teen queens back in the 1990s, via the hit movie, “Clueless.” Mark portrayed the character of Watson Brewer, the affluent fiancé of Elizabeth in the first season, who later on became her husband. He was part of several popular hit TV series including “The West Wing,” “Royal Pains,” and “Prison Break.”

Most of the young teens who were hired to play the original members of the baby-sitters club were new actors, or had little acting experience, including Sophie Grace as the club prexy Kristy Thomas, Shay Rudolph as the former New Yorker Stacey McGill, Momona Tamada as the artsy Claudia, and Malia Baker as the shy Mary Anne Spier.  They were joined by Xochitl Gomez in the first season and Kyndra Sanchez in the second, who both played the role of Dawn Schafer.

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The similarities between the novels and the drama series

One of the reasons why fans of “The Baby-Sitters Club” book series were delighted and relieved with the Netflix adaptation was because most of the storylines were pretty much the same.

Stories told from a club member’s perspective

Almost all the episodes of the TV adaptation were told from one of the club member’s perspectives. The creator of the show felt that it would resonate well with loyal book readers as it was how the stories in the book were presented. It was also great that the monologue of each of the main characters was written with care, and much sensitivity was poured into it, which made each episode quite moving for the viewers.

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Girl power was still the main theme but elevated to the next level

The original books already highlighted the subject of female empowerment, which was why it had been such a huge hit with young female readers in the past, and Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” left the viewers in awe since it celebrated girl power to the next level. Imagine a show that showed the girls often discussing the value of girls supporting girls, and bravely exploring all the options they could have in a world that was mostly dominated by men. Some viewers found it fascinating that the girls quoted former First Lady Michelle Obama or that they compared the babysitter’s clothes to the iconic Ruth Bader Ginsburg outfits with reverence. They also delved into many social issues, as the girls were quite informed on what was going on around them, while also having fun at the same time. The great thing about these girls was that while they were smart, they were aware that they didn’t know everything, so were curious to learn more.

Using a landline to schedule appointments with clients

When news about the reboot of “The Baby-Sitters Club” came out, fans were excited, but at the same time worried, that if the TV drama version adapted to today’s world, there was a chance that it would be less personal. Instead of the girls meeting in person at an appointed time in Claudia’s room, due to the landline in her room, everything would be virtual, using social media platforms, and client appointments would be made through mobile phones. It presented a dilemma to the creator of the show, because the club meeting was an integral part of the book and the landline ‘phone was the center of it all. The executive producers and creators knew that it wouldn’t be the same if they messed that up. The issue was resolved because the teens were under 13 years old, and couldn’t create an Instagram account, which they initially thought they could use for marketing their services. They went analog, which meant printing and distributing flyers with a landline number that Claudia had as part of the Internet service package her sister was using.

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The same Schafer and Spier connection

Just as in the novels, Dawn and Mary Anne quickly became friends, and the rest of the family also became close. It started when Mary Anne had some issues with the other babysitters, and that was the time Dawn Schafer’s family arrived in Stoneybrook. The easy camaraderie was because Mary Anne’s father and Dawn’s mother dated back in high school; the Schafers helped resolve the issues that Mary Anne had with her father.

Popular charges still made an appearance

Fans of the books were pleased to see some of the popular charges that the babysitting club took care of in this new version, including eight-year-old Charlotte Theresa Johanssen, the three-year-old Jamie Newton, and the Pike family. The shy little Charlotte had a great relationship with Stacey. She skipped a grade level because academically everything in school was quite easy for her, except getting along with other classmates, because they teased her as the teacher’s pet. Jamie, one of the club’s favorite clients, was at that stage when he wanted to try everything by himself, but couldn’t since he was still in the learning phase of tackling his buttons and shoelaces. The Pike children were described by some as not for the faint-hearted sitters – if they survived the babysitting duty for these kids, it would be a piece of cake to handle any other kid.

Some central stories played out a bit differently

Some of the storylines were modified, just to ensure that they would be relevant to today’s society and family dynamics. Anyone could easily tell that the drama series was made for 21st century viewers, as several iconic pop culture objects and trends were mentioned, including “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a spiritual practitioner, New Moon in Scorpio ritual, and a 25-year-old Conair see-through landline curved phone bought from an Etsy shop.

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A different approach to Stacey’s illness

Awareness of health issues such as Juvenile Diabetes became one of the central points discussed in the first season; this happened after a new girl named Stacey arrived from New York. Both the book and the drama series showed that Stacey kept her diabetes from the other girls, because she was scared that they would judge her. Her struggles with the illness were used to ruin their reputation by a rival babysitting agency, comprised of older teenagers who stole their business idea. In the Netflix drama version, instead of just spreading rumors, their rivals uploaded a video showing Stacey having a seizure when her sugar level dropped so low, so insinuating that Kristy’s group weren’t reliable babysitters.  In the books, the girls only became curious about the illness so they would know how to deal with Stacey better. However, in the drama series, the girls not only took time to understand the illness, but also took a mature approach to it by meeting with their clients to explain the situation, which reassured the parents of their charges.

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More diversity in the club members

One of the first things that loyal fans of the book noticed upon watching the drama series, was that the babysitters club was more inclusive. In the novel, the representation was limited to the Japanese-American Claudia, the African-American Jessi, and the rest of the characters were predominantly Caucasians. In the TV version, Dawn was a Latina and Mary Ann biracial; only Stacey and Kristy were white. They even had characters as members of LGBTQ, such as Dawn’s father who was revealed to be gay; Janine, Claudia’s sister, was lesbian; and Dawn, who later admitted to being pansexual. The show was quite progressive compared to other series.

Deviation from relationship timeline and gave more details

Another deviation was the Mary Anne and Logan relationship timeline. For instance, they weren’t supposed to be together when they all went camping, since he wasn’t introduced as Mary Anne’s crush until the 10th book. The TV show went into detail on why Dawn’s parents filed for divorce, which wasn’t tackled in the books because the author opted to just gloss over it. Apparently, her father turned out to be gay, which ultimately destroyed the marriage.

An “angsty” Kristy

Due to the difference between 1986 and 2020, our teen club president seemed to be more angsty because of her control issues. While Kristy wasn’t the typical mean girl whom most people hated, she was a bit bossier in this version, specifically during the first season although she became softer the following season. She always pushed an idea or a person to prove that she was always right, but not to the point that she would intentionally hurt anyone. She had issues with her father, and on top of that, her mother was about to marry again. Kristy didn’t like the idea of her mother depending on another man for her happiness, and felt that she and her siblings should have been enough for her.

Dawn’s character was more vocal and adventurous

From both the books and the TV adaptation of “The Baby-sitter’s Club,” she was still the same Dawn Schafer who was a health nut, and wasn’t afraid to take a stand. However, in the drama series, she was more involved in tackling social issues instead of just focusing on her love for animals and nature. She took time and more effort to be the voice of the people, as she led a revolution among the campers in Camp Moosehead.

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Fascinating facts about the TV series

Here are some interesting nuggets of facts surrounding the casting and the filming of “The Baby-Sitter’s Club”:

Sophie Grace was a huge fan of the books

The young actress who played the club’s president, Sophie Grace, read the books while growing-up. Her grandmother gifted her older sister the collection, which was shared with her, and they both became quite obsessed with them. At that time she was only six, while her older sister was 15, and it became some sort of special bonding experience.

Alicia Silverstone didn’t have any idea about the books

While most people in the production were fans of the books, Alicia Silverstone, who played Kristy’s mom, didn’t have any idea what the craze was all about. However, she appreciated the complexity of her character, and said, ‘It was just so sweet and lovely and made me smile and feel good. I think what turned me onto the script was that it included a complicated relationship between Kristy and Elizabeth.’ She said that she was lucky it wasn’t a prerequisite to be a fan of the book to be hired for a role. The actor also understood babysitting pretty well, since she had relevant experience when she was 10.

Producers chose young actors without popular children’s shows experience

It was intentional on the creator’s part to hire actors who had no or little experience acting in Los Angeles’ popular children’s shows such as Disney and Nickelodeon; they wanted the young actors to be as natural and grounded as real kids as they could be. During the audition, they knew immediately if a kid would fit the role or not, such as Xochitl Gomez, who had crystals clinking inside her pockets, which was quite like her character Dawn, and Sophie Grace, who came in wearing gray jogging pants, which was very much like Kristy.

The truth behind the cancelation of “The Baby-sitters Club”

Getting a reliable babysitter for a child was a tedious process, and this was the main reason why the book series became a huge hit back in the 1980s, not just because it promoted female empowerment and entrepreneurship. The reason still stands today, and why Netflix found it relevant to offer its TV adaption. However, after two seasons, they chose not to renew it, and the fans of the series as well as the TV critics were greatly disappointed. Some analysts said that the main culprit was TV ratings; while “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” developed a loyal following, it didn’t draw a wider audience. Apparently, in the top 10 Nielsen weekly streaming ratings issued on 11 October 2021, the second season was nowhere to be found. There was only one time that the said season reached the ninth position on Netflix’s Top 10 rankings.

It was a legitimate observation by some fans and media people, that while it was natural for Netflix to cancel the show because it wasn’t performing well business-wise, they felt that the streaming service didn’t provide the right amount of marketing. Not many people were aware that they offered a TV adaption of it. An online entertainment editor-in-chief, John Squires, posted on Twitter, ‘Babysitters Club has been an iconic, beloved property for decades & you’d hardly know there was even a Netflix show.’ Based on the millions of copies that were sold for many years, it wasn’t logical that something considered a treasure by many people couldn’t have found a bigger audience for the drama version. Some couldn’t fathom that the series ended just like that, especially since most TV critics found it extremely delightful. It was frustrating for the fans of the books, who only realized that there was a new TV adaptation when news about its cancellation surfaced on social media.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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