Hulu’s ‘Campaign ILL’ example of streamers reviving little-seen shows
“Campaign ILL” featured rising stars Sam Richardson (“Veep”) and Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) and was to critical acclaim in its debut. The series was born out of the spirit of the popular comedies “Happy Endings” and “Black Monday”. Yet, you’ve probably never heard of it.
Originally produced for YouTube Premium, the entire 10-episode season was released in 2018. But the series, about the entourage of a hip-hop star forced to readjust to life without benefits when the star dies unexpectedly, failed to find an audience, especially since YouTube began to leave the script business.
Now, “Champaign ILL” has a second life – via a recent exclusive acquisition by Hulu, which replayed the series on October 12. This is the latest example of a show that fell through the cracks but was then found at home on a streamer, where audiences could find out for the first time.
Since the dawn of television, the majority of new television series have not been able to last beyond one or two seasons. The prime-time graveyard is filled with long-forgotten shows that went unreleased. Peak TV has made it even harder to break through the clutter of so many series competing for attention. But the advent of streaming has at the very least made it possible to reintroduce shows in multiple ways.
Streamers’ growing appetite for original dishes opens the door for outlets to post a flyer about short-lived series that never had the chance to connect with viewers. Perhaps the best example is Netflix’s takeover of another YouTube series, “Cobra Kai”. The sequel to “Karate Kid” quickly became a major hit for Netflix, which had also ordered more seasons. Other examples include Pop TV’s little-seen “Flack”, which Amazon Prime Video picked up and promoted as a new show, and Lifetime’s “You”, which became a phenomenon in subsequent seasons on Netflix (as did Fox’s “Lucifer”). .
But most of those examples are network or cable shows that already had some promise in their side windows on a streaming service. “Campaign ILL” doesn’t get quite the same treatment – it’s not billed as a Hulu Original, and it hasn’t been renewed for several seasons. But the producers behind the comedy have touted it in press releases like it’s a first, perhaps hoping to capitalize on this revival, and the stars are hoping more people will experience the series now.
Pally was keenly aware at the time of its 2018 launch that “Champaign ILL” faced the challenge of breaking into a crowded marketplace on a platform more known for user-generated content than for the original scripted series. “There are so many good things,” he says. “And so yes. Sam and I were frustrated that he didn’t find an audience, but we were also very grateful that we could make it a season. We kind of treated it like we might never do again anyway. It gave him some energy. Unfortunately, it just got lost in the mix of streaming services and paywalls. “
Pally says executive producer David Caspe pushed the show’s studio, Sony Pictures TV, to find a new home for “Champaign ILL” and hopefully get some more attention. Pally doesn’t expect more episodes, but he’s open to the idea.
“When you put so much heart and soul into something, you just want people to see it,” Pally says. “I’m so thankful that he’s now in a place where I can point it out to people. We did some really brave, weird stuff on this show, including a one-take episode, and we kinda broke the shape, it gets pretty serious and a heartache meditation. At the very least, my grandmother will be able to see it now.