Freeform has renewed Cruel Summer for Season 2. The YA drama could return with the same cast or in the form of an anthology.
Young Adult Drama Cruel Summer has quickly become popular. It is the most-watched series in Freeform’s history and has recently been renewed for a second season. The renewal announcement came ahead of the anticipated season one finale that aired on Tuesday, June 15.
After an unexpected twist in the season finale, the Jessica Biel-exec produced series returns is still up in the air. The drama could return with a new story with the same characters and actors. The other way it could go is by using a similar storytelling device but with a whole new cast of characters.
Cruel Summer was the first scripted series to debut under the newly instated President of Freeform, Tara Duncan. She started the job just under a year ago, and soon Cruel Summer became the Disney-owned network’s most-watched series ever. It ranked as the number one new cable drama of the year among women aged 18-34 and had the most recent episode delivering the drama’s biggest linear TV audience yet, which had risen by 31% over its premiere. The mystery, which is available to stream on Hulu the day after its linear airing, averages 6.8 million viewers per episode. Cruel Summer was also Hulu’s most-watched next-day season one title from a linear channel in its first seven weeks till now.
A teen psychological thriller, Cruel Summer, follows two young women Kate Wallis and Jeanette Turner. Kate is the popular girl with a charming life who one day goes missing, and Jeanette is the nerdy wannabe who is accused of having something to do with Kate’s disappearance. Even though all signs point to Jeanette being guilty, as the series progresses, viewers begin to wonder if Kate is really who she seems to be? Set over three summers and told through shifting points of view, the drama show will challenge perceptions as it follows the plot of how one girl can go from being a naive outlier to one of the most despised persons in America.
Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Allius Barnes, Harley Quinn Smith, Blake Lee and Brooklyn Sudano are seen in pivotal roles in the mystery series.
Cruel Summer is a studio eOne production and was created by Bert V. Royal. Tia Napolitano serves as a showrunner. Napolitano, Royal and Iron Ocean Productions’ Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple are the series’s executive producers. Max Winkler is the director of the show’s pilot.
Freeform president Tara Duncan had stated that she thinks what has really resonated with audiences is that Cruel Summer has a very clear, strong mystery, but a mystery that’s told from the point of view of two characters that people can relate to. That central concept is whether the grass is always greener on the other side and the perspective of who you believe, either Jeanette or Kate. The story should shift depending on whose shoes you stand in, as Duncan thinks it is relatable for the viewing audience. The idea of an unraveling mystery story told week over week is one that the audience has responded lovingly to.
Over the several years, audiences have gravitated towards the drama-thriller genre. Like HBO’s Mare of Eastown, mystery dramas are still a genre that brings in audiences based on evidence. The enthralling mystery coupled with a point of view feels extremely relevant to young adult audiences today, and the issues that characters are facing in these popular shows are the same issues that young people are dealing with in our current society. This is also why Cruel Summer has struck a chord on many levels.
The most interesting fact about the show’s impressive numbers is that it is based solely on original ideas. Cruel Summer isn’t a reboot, a sequel series or based on any book, podcast or true news headline. Several people wondered if it was a true story because it has an original ripped-from-headlines feel to it. That is a testament to the masterful storytelling of the show. Also, this is a story told from the perspective of two characters, and the audience has been able to put themselves in both shoes and see themselves. If a show has great characters and a well-told story, it will find an audience and succeed and really break out.