More like Bleak TV, amirite?
The seismic Warner Bros. Discovery merger has made for one bloody brutal summer in the television biz, with buzzy series both old, new and upcoming getting unceremoniously scrapped in the name of corporate belt-tightening (or, in the words of John Oliver, “to appease Wall Street”).
While HBO Max has been the WBD entity hardest hit, all corners of the mega-conglomerate’s corporate portfolio has been impacted, including original flavor HBO, as well as TNT, TBS and CNN.
The downsizing comes as WBD prepares to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single, unified streaming service. A name for the combined service, which is poised to launch in Summer 2023, will be announced at a later date.
“Our strategy is to embrace and support and drive the incredible success that HBO Max is having,” WBD President and CEO David Zaslav said on an earnings call earlier this month, before adding, “We want [the content] to be broader. We will, as one company, come behind that. We think [the combined HBO Max/Discovery+ service] is going to be superb. It’s about curation. It’s about quality. It’s about how good.”
But as we learned over the past several months, a number of high profile shows (and films) will not be around for the aforementioned service’s ribbon cutting ceremony next year. Scroll down for a comprehensive list of the merger’s casualties.
WONDER TWINS (HBO Max)
The straight-to-HBO Max movie, starring KJ Apa (Riverdale) and Isabel May (1883) as the iconic DC Comics duo, fell out of development last May — just one month after the project was announced. Though a lot factored into the decision to cancel the film, its $75 million budget was reportedly the principal concern.
GORDITA CHRONICLES (HBO Max)
The cancellation of the family comedy after one season is part of a larger move away from live-action family programming at HBO Max, which “will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future,” a spokesperson said in a statement on July 29. “As a result, we’ve had to make the very difficult decision to end Gordita Chronicles at HBO Max.” Executive-produced by Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldana, the series followed a family of Dominican immigrants who move to Miami in 1985, focusing on 12-year-old daughter Cucu “Gordita” Castelli (played by newcomer Olivia Goncalves) as she struggled to adjust to her new environment.
BATGIRL (HBO Max)
The decision to shelve the nearly-complete Batgirl movie — which was intended to bypass theaters and premiere on HBO Max — sent shockwaves across the entertainment biz in early August. The standalone pic, starring In the Heights‘ Leslie Grace as Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, was reportedly not testing well enough with audiences to instill confidence in Warner Bros. Discovery. “We’re not going to launch [a] movie until it’s ready. We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quota. And we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it,” WBD’s President and CEO David Zaslav later explained. “Particularly with DC, where we think we want to pivot and we want to elevate and we want to focus.”
STRANGE ADVENTURES (HBO Max)
One week after the Batgirl news broke, HBO Max confirmed that Greg Berlanti’s DC anthology series — which was first announced in 2019 — was not moving forward at the streamer. Kevin Smith, who had been eyed to co-write an episode, reasoned on his Hollywood Babble-On podcast, “I thought Strange Adventures being a causality kind of made sense to me. Nobody necessarily knows these characters; it sounded like an expensive show.”
BATMAN: CAPED CRUSADER (HBO Max) + 5 Others
Although HBO Max has scrapped this animated reimagining of the Batman mythology by way of Batman: The Animated Series‘ own Bruce Timm, with J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves and Ed Brubaker also serving as EPs, the series will be shopped to other outlets by Warner Bros. Animation. It’s one of six animated offerings HBO Max is passing on (but that will similarly be shopped). The other five include Merry Little Batman, The Day the Earth Blew Up: A Looney Tunes Movie, Bye Bye Bunny: A Looney Tunes Musical, Did I Do That to the Holidays: A Steve Urkel Story and The Amazing World of Gumball: The Movie.
Not even HBO was spared. The crown jewel of Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio took a hit on June 7 when the premium cabler confirmed that J.J. Abrams’ $200 million sci-fi drama — which was handed a series order four years prior — was not moving forward. Abrams wrote and created Demimonde, in what would have been his first solo creator credit since ABC’s Alias way back in 2001. (He co-created Lost and Fringe with other writers.)
THE LAST O.G. (TBS)
In April, not long after word got out that TBS and sibling TNT would halt all scripted series development, Tracy Morgan’s Brooklyn-centric comedy was one of the first dominos to fall. However, sources told TVLine at the time that Morgan and Co. were informed of TBS’ decision to end the series with Season 4 several months before the Warner Bros. Discovery merger closed.
THE BIG D (TBS)
One month before the the dating competition show’s July 7 debut, news broke that TBS was scrapping the JoJo Fletcher/Jordan Rodgers-hosted show altogether. “We’re assessing our schedule to ensure we have the right content mix to support our network strategies,” a TBS/TNT rep explained at the time. “We are grateful to JoJo Fletcher, Jordan Rodgers, and the executive producers of Big D for their partnership through the process.”
UPDATE: Chad has been rescued by Roku!
On July 11, just hours ahead of the Season 2 premiere of Nasim Pedrad’s single-camera comedy, TBS announced that it was pulling the show off the schedule — permanently. The move capped the sitcom’s short but tumultuous lifespan. Starring the Saturday Night Live vet as a 14-year-old boy, Chad made it to the pilot stage at Fox in 2016 but was ultimately passed over. Then in 2019, TBS reshot the pilot and gave Pedrad the official green light. A teaser trailer was first released that spring, but Season 1 didn’t see the light of day for another two years, finally premiering on April 6, 2021. With Chad gone, TBS is now home to just two scripted offerings, Miracle Workers and American Dad.
FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE (TBS)
TBS’ scripted exodus continued on July 25 with the cancellation of Bee’s late-night series after seven seasons. In its announcement, the network called it a “difficult, business-based” decision. Full Frontal‘s demise leaves Peacock’s Amber Ruffin and Showtime’s Ziwe as the only remaining female voices in late night.
TBS’ serious-minded sibling announced in June that the dystopian thriller — TNT’s last remaining scripted original — will bow out after its upcoming fourth season. The network’s exit from the scripted game marks the end of a powerhouse era, as the cabler was once home to such hits as The Alienist, Claws, The Closer (and its spinoff Major Crimes), the Dallas revival, Falling Skies, Franklin & Bash, The Last Ship, Leverage, The Librarians, Perception and Rizzoli & Isles.
CNN’s standalone streaming service was shuttered on April 30 — just one month after its much-hyped launch. In addition to its on-demand library of series and films, CNN+ featured live original programming hosted by both CNN staples and anchors who were poached from other networks (including Fox News’ Chris Wallace and NBC News’ Kasie Hunt).
RELIABLE SOURCES (CNN)
A lynchpin of CNN’s Sunday morning lineup for nearly three decades, Reliable Sources — which had been hosted by Brian Stelter for the past nine years — was abruptly cancelled in mid-August. Before signing off for good on Aug. 21, Stelter told his audience that “CNN must stay strong,” and warned about the impending threats that media and democracy will continue to face (watch here).