Fans of the popular animated series The Legend of Korra were shocked to hear that Nickelodeon would no longer be airing new episodes on their channel. Despite the popularity of the show and its critical acclaim, poor ratings were cited as the reason for it being pulled from the schedule. While the initial headline of Korra‘s removal outraged fans, it was also announced that the remainder of the third season would be released exclusively online. This news is not surprising to many fans as a large portion of the fan base are adults who view the series on the network’s website anyway.
The Legend of Korra is the successor to the hit Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Both series are set in a world reminiscent of a blend of classic fantasy elements with well-loved martial arts tropes and a healthy dose of subtle pop culture references. The timeline is somewhat anachronistic, not relating to any particular time period in real history. The focus of the show is on “benders,” people who can manipulate elements, either air, water, earth, or fire. The benders’ techniques mimic a martial arts style of movement and it is in that movement where the show’s fluid and crisp animation really shines.
Both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra focus on a bender who can manipulate all four elements, the world’s designated peacekeeper, known as the Avatar. Each series is acclaimed for its ability to use mature writing on a family friendly show to weave action, humor, political conflict, family, as well as spiritual issues into the adventures of the Avatar. The first Avatar series is one of the most popular products that Nickelodeon has ever produced, putting the pressure on The Legend of Korra to live up to its predecessor. In the midst of its third season, the show remains popular as ever with fans, but the ratings do not seem to be satisfying the network.
Many see The Legend of Korra‘s move to online distribution as a step towards the future of television. With websites like Netflix and Hulu offering viewers the ability to watch episodes, and even seasons of television, back to back at any time, scheduled television seems to be a thing of the past. While some fans fear that Korra‘s removal from television is a sign of impending cancellation, others claim that the series’ popularity could just as easily be a beacon of things to come for networks. The Legend of Korra‘s internet presence shows that, when made available through functioning streams, shows will draw viewers to the networks’ official websites. The newly web-based series could demonstrate fans willingness to deal with advertising in online videos in order to view the show they love at any time they wish. The Legend of Korra has one episode remaining on scheduled television before its move to online distribution and about a half of a season after that. The performance of the second half of The Legend of Korra‘s third season may not only determine the series’ future, but the future of all shows like it.
By Matt Isaacs