“Champaign ILL” featured rising stars Sam Richardson (“Veep”) and Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) and garnered plenty of critical acclaim when it debuted. The series came from the minds behind popular comedies “Happy Endings” and “Black Monday.” Yet you probably never heard of it.
Originally produced for YouTube Premium, the entire 10-episode season was released in 2018. But the series, about a hip-hop star’s entourage that’s forced to readjust to life without perks when the star unexpectedly dies, didn’t manage to find audiences, particularly as YouTube started exiting the scripted business.
Now, “Champaign ILL” is getting a second lease on life — via a recent exclusive acquisition by Hulu, which re-premiered the series on Oct. 12. It’s the latest example of a show that fell through the cracks but then found a new home on a streamer, where audiences might discover it for the first time.
Since the dawn of television, the majority of new TV series have not been able to last beyond one or two seasons. The primetime graveyard is filled with long-forgotten shows that didn’t make it to syndication. Peak TV made it even harder to break through the clutter of so many series competing for attention. But the advent of the streaming at the very least has made it possible to reintroduce shows in multiple ways.
The streamers’ growing appetite for original fare is opening the door for outlets to take a flyer on short-lived series that never got a chance to connect with viewers. The best example may be Netflix’s takeover of another YouTube series, “Cobra Kai.” The “Karate Kid” sequel quickly turned into a major hit for Netflix, which had ordered more seasons as well. Other examples include Pop TV’s little-seen “Flack,” which Amazon Prime Video picked up and promoted like a new show, and Lifetime’s “You,” which has turned into a phenomenon in subsequent seasons on Netflix (as has Fox’s “Lucifer”).
But most of those examples are of network or cable shows that already exhibited some promise in their secondary windows on a streaming service. “Champaign ILL” isn’t quite getting the same treatment — it’s not being billed as a Hulu Original, and it hasn’t been renewed for more seasons. But the producers behind the comedy have been touting it in press releases like it is a premiere, perhaps hoping to capitalize on this do-over, and the stars are hopeful more people will discover the series now.
Pally was very aware at the time it launched in 2018 that “Champaign ILL” faced the challenge of launching in a crowded marketplace on a platform known more for user-generated content than original scripted series. “There’s just so much good stuff,” he says. “And so yes. Sam and I were frustrated that it didn’t find an audience, but we were also so thankful to get to do one season of it. We kind of treated it like, we may never do more of this anyway. It gave it a certain energy. Unfortunately, it just got lost in the shuffle 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 it a bit more attention. Pally doesn’t expect more episodes — but he’s open to the idea.
“When you put this much heart and soul into something, you just want people to see it,” Pally says. “I’m so thankful that it’s in a place now where I can point people to it. We did some really brave and outlandish stuff on that show, including an episode all in one take, and we broke the form quite a bit, it gets pretty serious and a meditation on grief. At the very least, my grandma will be able to see it now.”