The teen comedy-drama Teenage Bounty Hunters premiered on Netflix on August 14 and quickly attracted a devoted fan base. The series centers on fraternal twins Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Fellini) and their haphazard venture into bounty hunting while trying to figure out how to pay for damages to their father’s car. Teenage Bounty Hunters’ outlandish premise lends itself to a lot of comedic moments, but many viewers were surprised to find a nuanced LGBTQ+ storyline between Sterling and ex-best friend April Stevens (Devon Hales) amid the antics. That plot point made it all the more heartbreaking when, despite positive critical reviews, Netflix announced in October that it was canceling the series, thus depriving queer viewers of nuanced representation. But the fans are fighting back.
The cancellation prompted a swift backlash on social media. Fans organized #SaveTeenageBountyHunters, started letter-writing campaigns, and set up a petition that has garnered over 30,000 signatures. Queer fans have made it clear that Teenage Bounty Hunters wasn’t just deprived of a satisfying conclusion — it was stripped of any chance to grow.
The series’ fleeting run on the streaming site mirrors those of Everything Sucks! and I Am Not Okay With This, two YA-leaning series that featured queer teen girls. While the teen-oriented programs may not amass as many viewers as some of the platform’s queer hits like Ratched and Hollywood (both are from Ryan Murphy), the niche representation of queer teens nonetheless attracts an enthusiastic fandom — one that’s increasingly tired of female-led, LGBTQ+ shows always being first on the chopping block. While another may crop up to take its place, fans find it discouraging to see series after series used as litmus tests for audience interest as though any show’s topics, characters, and connection to fans is interchangeable.
By their nature, streaming platforms that drop whole seasons at once automatically tend to treat freshman seasons of shows as pilot episodes. GLOW, another series that features queer female characters, was canceled ahead of its fourth season due to budgetary issues amid the pandemic, but the reasons for Teenage Bounty Hunters’ cancellation are not as clear. It remained in the top 10 on Netflix for more than two weeks in the United States, but it was a blip on the United Kingdom’s chart. It’s possible the show is a victim of circumstance as production companies prioritize their biggest hits to make up for the unprecedented industry-wide hiatus produced by the coronavirus pandemic. But Teenage Bounty Hunters wasn’t given a second season, and it’s hard not to think that it would have been in a normal world.
Meanwhile, cast members and creatives have expressed their support for the movement to save the series.
In an Instagram post, show creator Kathleen Jordan said, “Thank you to everyone who watched our show. And thank you to the most ridiculously supportive fan base I’ve ever seen… we are so incredibly lucky to have you on our side. #SaveTeenageBountyHunters.”
Inspired by the final episode’s title, “Something Sour Patch,” part of the letter campaign includes sending packs of Sour Patch Kids with written messages to Netflix executives. After the makers of the candy heard about the movement, the official Sour Patch Kids account tweeted, “@netflix seems like we’re on our way to your headquarters in an effort to #SaveTeenageBountyHunters.”
The show ranked as one of the platform’s top-performing programs, securing over 422 million streaming minutes in its debut week. It also has an audience and critic score of more than 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, all earned despite its rather under-advertised release. The sparse publicity didn’t go unnoticed.
Following the cancellation announcement, Hales tweeted, “Why do I feel like more people are going to hear about Teenage Bounty Hunters in the next 24 hours than [they’ve] heard about [the show] in the last 2 months.”
Fans expressed similar sentiments, having found the series through social media and word of mouth rather than promotions.
The pushback echoes the recent campaigns to rescue Wynonna Earp and One Day at a Time, two LGBTQ+ programs saved from premature endings by fan initiatives. Teenage Bounty Hunters borrows aspects from both shows, having the sisters spearhead conversations on topics like drinking, masturbation, sexuality, religion, and family dynamics in its 10-episode run.
In terms of its queer story, a romance eventually unfolds between rivals Sterling and April at their suburban Atlanta private Christian high school. Uptight and driven by playing by the rules, April is at once a faithful Christian and a lesbian. The show’s depiction of those identities as not mutually exclusive is a refreshing deviation from the torturous storylines often explored in media, showing Christianity and sexuality at odds. Her identity is not without bumps in the road, though. While April is comfortable with her attraction to Sterling, she isn’t ready to become a pariah at her judgmental school. Her story resonates with viewers of many faiths, as April’s struggle is not about liking girls; it is about the oppressive circumstances that keep her from acting on those desires, and how they affect her relationship with Sterling. And Sterling’s own journey of self-discovery is equally thoughtful, which made Teenage Bounty Hunters meaningful to queer fans.
The authentic friends-to-enemies-to-lovers story between Sterling and April brought to life so beautifully by Phillips and Hales is now woefully unfinished, as the fate of their relationship was one of two major unresolved storylines left at the end of the season.
Those fans who became invested in the story that reflects their underrepresented experience deserve a proper ending, whether Netflix reverses course or the show gets a second chance from a network like Pop (which saved One Day at a Time) or Freeform, renowned for its groundbreaking queer teen storytelling.
Check out the trailer for the first season below.