The First Cancellation Post Mortem: Hulu Boss Concedes Sean Penn Mars Drama 'Took a While to Reveal Itself'

The First Cancelled

The fact that The First‘s astronauts were all space suited-up with nowhere to go until the very end of Season 1 proved to be the ambitious — and now cancelled — series’ undoing, Hulu’s Craig Erwich suggested Monday at the Television Critics Assoc. winter press tour.

While the streamer’s VP of originals maintained that he’s “really proud” of the drama and Sean Penn’s lead performance, the exec conceded that series creator Beau Willimon’s decision to focus Season 1 on “people taking on the adventure of going to Mars but not the actual adventure” did not resonate with viewers. “The show took a while to reveal itself, which was a challenge… Unfortunately, the audience did not materialize.”

Set in the near future, The First starred the two-time Oscar winner as an astronaut leading a crew attempting to become the first humans to set foot on Mars. Designated Survivor‘s Natascha McElhone co-starred as the Elon Musk-esque CEO funding the mission. The cast also included LisaGay Hamilton (The Practice), Hannah Ware (Boss), Keiko Agena (Gilmore Girls) and James Ransone (The Wire).

The eight-episode season dropped in September and received mostly tepid reviews. It marked Penn’s first significant foray into television.