'The First Lady' Canceled After One Season at Showtime

The anthology series led by Viola Davis, Gillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer won't return for season 2 — even with new characters

(L-R): Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, Viola Davis as Michelle Obama and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt in THE FIRST LADY. Photo Credit: Ramona Rosales/SHOWTIME
Photo: Ramona Rosales/SHOWTIME

Showtime's political drama The First Lady won't return for season 2.

The network confirmed plans to veto the series led by Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson.

"Showtime can confirm that the anthology series The First Lady will not be moving forward with another season," a network spokesperson said in a statement obtained by Deadline.

"We would like to applaud the artistry and commitment of our showrunner Cathy Schulman, director Susanne Bier, their fellow executive producers, our amazing cast, led by executive producer Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson, and our studio partner Lionsgate for their dedicated work in telling the unique stories of three remarkable leaders," it continued.

The anthology series, which debuted in April, followed the stories of three different American first ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt (Anderson), Betty Ford (Pfeiffer) and Michelle Obama (Davis).

Viola Davis as Michelle Obama and O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama in THE FIRST LADY
Jackson Lee Davis/SHOWTIME; TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty

As recently as February, the show's executive producers teased that season 2 was expected to follow the storylines of different first ladies.

"I would be very intrigued to depict Hillary Clinton because I think that her position was so complicated …. I think that would be incredibly interesting," EP Susanne Bier said at the series TCA presentation.

EP Cathy Schulman added, "If we could figure out a way to do Jackie Kennedy that didn't tell the same old story again — particularly the latter part of her life — I'm fascinated by that."

When asked if Melania Trump's story could be featured, they entertained the suggestion. "I think the series could do with a fun season, so let's talk about that," Bier said.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford in THE FIRST LADY
Murray Close/SHOWTIME; Bettmann/Getty

Season 1 of The First Lady was not an unqualified hit — the series currently has a 41 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a 58 percent audience satisfaction score.

Some viewers dinged Davis, who also served as an executive producer, for her portrayal of Obama. The actress, 56, told BBC News in April that it's "incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work."

"They always feel like they're telling you something that you don't know," she said of critics. "Somehow that you're living a life that you're surrounded by people who lie to you and 'I'm going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth'. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you. But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that."

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