When Shadowhunters ends its run on Freeform in a few weeks, it will be remembered as a young adult fantasy drama that was highly popular with young, mostly female viewers. But what if the show had been picked up by a different network – or had been produced by another one from the start?
With the idea of Shadowhunters airing on a different network, it’s like with all great tales of travelling back into the past – there’s always the question: would one do anything differently? For all, you science geeks, too, comes the knowing there are infinitely many alternate universes with each having their own retelling of the same event with a plethora of tiny changes. As thus, there must be a universe out in the orbit where Jocelyn is still debating on whether to change the course of her daughter’s life. The aforementioned daughter who is currently attending Brooklyn Academy of Arts rather than woken with a pair of fresh new eyes and instead of Alec being a Shadowhunter, he’s king of the faeries… okay, no, we can’t exactly see that one happening, but the point still stands — no two series would be the same. So, why would this happen? Easy. Shadowhunters would’ve aired on an entirely new network.
But how would the show be different if it had aired on another network in this universe? We carved out a few scenarios.
HBO: A SUPERNATURAL MATURITY
Before Netflix wove its way into our digital spheres and in the hearts of many who devoured the content for hours on end, there was HBO with its identical format now penned as the norm. It’s a tad different from what we are used to; more mature, more westernised — Netflix is the TV of the digital age whereas HBO is customised for a particular audience. This can be viewable through their price, something HBO’s recently departed CEO Richard Plepler is extremely protective of seeing as it sets the groundwork of their brand; appealing to the older crowd, the ones who seemingly already have their lives together. But it works. Being the world’s most profitable single network and having a lineup of well-renowned content, HBO has also received an average 25% of all nominations for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmys since 2013.
Yes, this means during the life span of the series, the Shadowhunters cast would have likely received an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble. Think Katherine Mcnamara’s speech at the Teen Choice Awards was the determiner of how many tissue boxes one could go through in just over a minute? Try again because it’d be tripled. This is but the spark for the ember of changes. Freeform allows Shadowhunters to be a platform to feature topical issues such as depression, portrayed through Alec Lightwood after a demon takes over his body and kills Clary’s mother and then, too, in Jace’s overarching character development following the abuse he suffered from. Highlighting such issues permits conversations to take place but in the Shadow World and concerning the plot itself, the writing only hints towards the subject and therefore has a watered-down dialogue where the viewer knows what is happening, yet not in graphic detail. On HBO there would be raw, darker toned, stretched out conversations and arguments between characters with a handful of eff-bombs (we already have a few ideas on who’d be the culprit) dropped along the way given the mature classification.
Those changes to the dialogue make sense with how emotionally constricted some of the characters were in the first season. Alec could barely stifle a smile, let alone a laugh, due to his internalised homophobia and inability to let anyone truly in. He bottled his frustration up until it massively boiled over and his first aim of a strike was a remark at Clary. Remember when he caught her sneaking out of the Institute? It may have been the initial takeoff of their snarky back and forth, but it unravelled into a conversation about his closeted sexuality. Everyone has a limit and could have easily mirrored the books where the circumstances were still troublesome – with Alec being in love with his Parabatai, the Clave prejudiced against gay Shadowhunters, and his family not knowing his secret. Instead, he pushed her up against the wall and forbade her from ever repeating it, making for natural speech. Emotional, too, with HBO predominantly using the monologue technique with the camera staying on actors for a while.
Speaking of the camera, there would be certain stylistic changes. Depending on who you ask, the GIF makers of the Shadowhunters fandom or the casual film student, the cinematography is either needing a few more light bulbs or is a spill of carefully desaturated colors and flickers of light pulling the viewer in. That is not to say HBO doesn’t have its own aesthetic, because it clearly does. Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies, both giant cash cows in their own individual rights for the network, show it is an important aspect when setting the tone we were talking about earlier. These visual styles begin as an idea planted in the showrunners minds, then get passed through each episode’s director, grow by being executed by the episode’s director of photography, and eventually are brought to life by visual effects, color grading and editing to achieve a shot unable to go by comparison due to the pure brilliance. Why does this differ to other networks? Mostly due to a budget which unfortunately Freeform doesn’t have.
Let’s play monopoly for a second – as an HBO show with a bigger budget, Shadowhunters would be more gritty, toying more with the composition of a frame and creating more meaning in a shot which would result in foreshadowing.
In order to have foreshadowing, there must be a story. Obviously, cable television’s format is entirely different to broadcast. The episodic filters down to only ten episodes in comparison to the twenty-two slate, plus there are twenty more minutes added for episodes to be an hour long, so the plot must be adaptable to a much tighter story. Shadowhunters already does a perfect job of balancing relationships with the action, but it would be higher stakes and the tension would be visibly electrified. Scenes set at the Institute, Hunter’s Moon and New York Police Department may be considerably cut down to efficiently allow room for action sequences that have our spines tingling not knowing what will happen next. Relationship dynamics would be a carbon-copy of what we currently see on Freeform; between 2014 to 2015, cable featured 105 LGBTQ characters in scripted shows. Although we can rest easy knowing the Malec relationship would be seen played out with equal representation, it does leave the question to whether Magnus’ bisexuality would be represented as highly with only 10% of characters on HBO being bisexual men, especially keeping in mind that bisexual characters on either side of the gender spectrum are more heavily represented on cable television than broadcast.
Additionally, the cast’s recurring habit of talking about each other’s butts may become one of our own. Sex scenes wouldn’t only feature the outline of sheets but the potential for nudity, and the probability of a lot of it if the series were to take a leaflet out of GOT’s handbook – nudity is just as highly word associated with that series as dragons are.
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: SEEN IN 4K
Didn’t Netflix ask us the other day if we were still watching Shadowhunters? There’s a difference between a show viewable on Netflix and a Netflix original. Mainly, it is either solely created by Netflix ala Orange Is The New Black and Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes or series where Netflix holds the exclusive distribution rights in the respective country (in the current case of Shadowhunters).
Netflix already did play a significant part in rebooting Shadowhunters for its second season, which was visible in the darker and more mature tone and plot lines the show took on. So as far as story, characters and plot are concerned, there probably would not have been lots of changes.
However, we would have had to get used to a significantly shorter season as Netflix tends to not order more than 10 – 12 episodes per season for their originals. The episodes would also have been a little longer with typical Netflix episodes ranging between 50-60 minutes.
In comparison to its movies, Netflix’s TV production is fairly ahead with a 70% statistic of original TV programming allotted last year. While the scope of stories are uniformly different, they’re unified through the stylistic choices made in their cinematography. There’s a reason why you can see every wrinkle on The Ranch Sam Elliott’s face as it is shot using RED cameras. These cameras are super duper fancy and push for 4k streaming, a step above the usual 1080p HD. Sometimes too fancy as Jessica Jones’ cinematographer Manuel Billeter opts for using a Panavision PVintage prime lens that softens the harshness of the Dragon — as if Jones were to be right across from you. If Shadowhunters had been a Netflix Original from the start, we could have expected similar conditions – those demons would have probably looked even scarier in 4K .
The CW: BACHELOR WITH RUNES
Dubbed as the younger sister to The CW network, Freeform sets out an eager competition especially with having the same target market and both networks of the young adult variety. But the disparity is enough to make the two stand on their own. If you’ve seen one of their television shows or even if you’ve only heard through the grapevine, love triangles would be the first thing coming to mind. It was there in One Tree Hill with the iconic Brooke Davis and Peyton Sawyer showdown over Lucas Scott. And it was there from the first minute Damon Salvatore comes waltzing back into town in The Vampire Diaries, slowly tearing apart his brother Stefan’s relationship with Elena Gilbert. Though Shadowhunters played the same melody for a moment in time with Clary caught between Simon and Jace, it was clear the latter was the one who captured her heart from the get-go. On The CW there would’ve been a switch in seasons, continually battling between the two until the end was near in sight or fans grew with aggravation for a different narrative. Conversely, whether it be a comic-book show or teen drama, the plot is built around the romance. Issues come into play that will raise the question of ‘will this hinder it?’
LGBTQ couples are not falling short of that question. Where The CW shows a diversity of relationships in many forms and sexualities, it falls back in not having a sustained representation. Riverdale sees Cheryl and Toni’s relationship dangled for viewership and when Lexa was shot by a stray bullet after sharing one of the softer scenes with Clarke in The 100, it reminded of the work the network has to do in order to sit at the level of representation we’ve come to expect. Concerning Shadowhunters, unfortunately, the Malec relationship and the various others of different orientations would not be carved out the way they were on Freeform, with the eagerness to create sub-stories for evolution which have flourished the couple into one of the most critical aspects of the series. To play catch up, the network needs to not use them as tokens. Fanservice, too, the word the majority of the fandom cringes to whenever its uttered except if it is there to do particularly that.
What The CW does exceptionally well is knowing how to tell a story for young adults. There was a time in all of our youths where our ‘previously on [insert show here]’ conversation had the table adjacent to us confused with those of real people and then falling disappointed when they find out of the fact. Its emotionally high-strung, campy style of portraying the lives of high school students dealing with the pitfalls of spooky tales from the supernatural perfectly fits Shadowhunters. Only Brooklyn Academy of Art would be the backdrop, falling away from the Institute, as a split between Clary’s two worlds. And remember Jocelyn? In the alternate universe, we probably wouldn’t be able to answer that question with a resounding yes as she would’ve been killed off either during the pilot episode or even prior to facilitate Clary’s hero arc.
Fox: ONBOARD THE PARABATAI
Fox is a little different since their shows aren’t conventional. In relation to Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad; each one of them is a film genre that the movies have abandoned, and therefore adapted to fit the one-hour episodic. Sci-fi has its own network, however, because of the hybrid of the teen element, it wouldn’t fall moot. What would is the villain of the season element Shadowhunters fans are used to. Valentine, Lilith, Jonathan and their (half-) season-long arcs would get replaced by the MOTW (Monster of the Week) formula, known mostly from the since past supernatural series, X-Files, where mythology was examined. Undeniably, it would be weird to see the series without Valentine. He’s an integral factor as Clary’s father (and Jace’s for a hot second in the plot twist of the century and the slow descent into incest territory), but what grabs our attention is which monsters would be featured and just how exactly the team would defeat them. Would steles still be a thing or could there be a new weaponry of choice? Someone go ask Isabelle Lightwood about that.
Josh Schwartz’s O.C also lived out its days on Fox and was the first to inspire the era of teen-dramas with Gossip Girl following suit as it dipped into the luxurious lifestyle of New York’s elite. If basing the teenage dynamics on the series, Jace and Alec’s bromance would’ve been the heart of the show, setting off the focus on platonic relationships. This isn’t the only case as the musical hit Glee (where Harry quite literally danced his way into our hearts) while too a trendsetter, prioritised friendships and unique storylines, even though it still promoted relationships such as Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry, Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson or Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce. Fox doesn’t typically focus on heterosexual couples only, after all the network did get praised for its representation of the LGBTQ community at the GLAAD awards throughout the years. For the 27th annual award show, Empire, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family, all from 21st Century Fox, started off the list of nominees. Therefore, there would be no difference with Malec, but there would be with Clace. Clary and Jace wouldn’t flirt with the idea of being together. If they were together there wouldn’t be much of a focus on it. Perhaps it would’ve happened towards the end of the series or they would’ve been together mostly throughout with no division. Don’t mistake, shippers, content would still be served steaming hot – just with a slow buildup, testing the idea of being together and only becoming fruitful as of the payoff. Instead, the show would make headway for other stories with possible class issues shown between the downworlders and the shadow world.
NBC: SAY GOODBYE TO ANGST
Get ready for an onslaught of laughs as NBC’s stellar lineup features successful comedies with mainstream appeal, still having the essences of those before – Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office – but tailored for the modern American. Probably more than what we’re used to. Actually, there’s no ‘probably’ in sight with the way Shadowhunters has us curling up into an anxious mess after every episode, and if we’re laughing, it’s for a blimp of a second destroyed by yet another disastrous but completely ordinary event in our Shadowhunters’ lives. How haven’t they cracked various times yet? We’re not entirely sure.
Consequently, the show’s genre would be flipped on its head and revolutionised. The length would change to fit the typical twenty-two minute long episodic. Possibly with the birds chirping in the alternate episode where Alec is flamboyant, take note of the stylish quiff to his gelled hair, Jace serves up coffee in his nice alliteration van, “Java Jace” and Valentine has a fixation with top hats. A Community approach still targeted for the young adult market. It’s not too much of a stretch with the adlib thrown into recent episodes, Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr. showing off their funny bones when Lorenzo Rey caused some warlock rivalry.
STARZ: UNLEASH THE DOWNWORLDERS
Something wicked this way comes – with fictional worlds dark, dreary and positively destructive for mother hen Lilith to unleash her demons at Starz. Not exactly one would expect with a name inked in the glitz of Hollywood. But with network heavy hitters – Black Sails, Outlander and Spartacus – it’s safe to say we’re still on the edge of our seats. Yet no longer with the knowledge our favorites are one episode away from resurrecting (Clary, anyone?). In fact, if there’s a correlation across the board it’s the accurate depiction to the narrative’s realism. Their in your face extravagance can make for an initially off-putting viewing, but it’s also one of those rare gemstones where what you see is exactly how the period was. Meaning, the death count rate would be as high as the number of Alec’s eyerolls. Or even higher? One could arguably question. Surely, season two of Shadowhunters took a dive into the underbelly of the Shadow World with season 3 escalating and for this reason, it serves as the proof of concept.
Additionally, in recent years, Lionsgate bought Starz Network. Why is this an important nugget of information? The entertainment company has a track record for successful young adult movie franchises such as the Hunger Games and Twilight. While the film and TV industry are two parallel lines running separately to each other with the possibility of overlapping, the business venture does bring in more media content. Starz YouTube TV streaming service is one of its hosts. The network has 14 channels, including: Starz, Starz Encore, and Starz Encore Westerns. As one of the few premium cable networks on the platform, Starz is able to target a younger demographic who aren’t able to afford pay TV. That isn’t to say American Gods, Party Down and others currently available aren’t listed elsewhere as they can be viewed on on-demand services like Hulu and Amazon.
SYFY: WARLOCKS, VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, OH MY!
Grab your stele as ghastly ghouls, lightning-quick superheroes and bloodthirsty vampires sink their fangs into the Syfy network. One wouldn’t be able to find a series living on the outskirts of science fiction with the channel airing the likes of The Magicians, Krypton and Wynonna Earp. The single television network devoted to the genre 24/7. It doesn’t stop there but rather double agents as the ultimate pit stop for genre news with Syfy Wire — alike to E News to Entertainment Weekly. The site is an inside look into breaking genre news, analysis and original content, and the occasional program-break. Hoping to take flight with a topical daily talk show and a Syfy Wire awards for the linear network which acts as the division breaker to what Syfy prides itself on: a community. As such, noise factor is the determinator to their lineup. How about a billboard or two? A plane?! Shadowhunters wouldn’t change one bit.
Shadowhunters season 3B airs on Mondays on Freeform (USA only) and on the following day on Netflix (worldwide except USA).
Australian fangirl extraordinaire with a Bachelor of Arts (Screen Studies). After seven months of professional work experience in sports media, I decided to switch gears and fall back into one of my earliest passions: writing. I now write for a variety of websites, including ShumDario News. While that’s how I spend the majority of my time – you can also find me binge-watching television shows, attending conventions, and belting out some very tone deaf Taylor Swift.