The pursuit of cost savings is claiming some familiar shows and raising fears for others.
One of the most buzzed about TV shows at the moment is HBO Max’s comedy series “The Rehearsal.” Created by and starring the visionary comedy weirdo Nathan Fielder, the show follows the comedian’s attempts to help ordinary people prepare for difficult life challenges by endlessly rehearsing them in a simulation. Much absurdity results.
In the premiere, Fielder used an untold amount of HBO’s money to have a complete, exact replica of the Brooklyn bar The Alligator Lounge made, down to the tiniest detail, including a working pizza oven. Then, in a separate episode, Fielder had the bar shipped to a warehouse in Oregon, so he has a place to relax in-between rehearsals.
Now, building this man his own bar and transporting it around the country probably doesn’t cost as much as, say, even one episode of “Game of Thrones.” But it can’t be cheap, either.
At its best, this is what HBO is supposed to be doing. The company built its reputation by offering something you weren’t going to get anywhere else, thought-provoking, engrossing, ongoing stories that no one else could compete with.
As soon as a new episode airs on Friday, “The Rehearsal” takes spread like wildfire all weekend. It’s clearly caught on in a big way. But how much longer will HBO Max fund Fielder’s absurd visions? Because more and more, it’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – Get Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Report is operating with both eyes firmly on the bottom line.
The New Warner Bros. Discovery CEO Is Watching Every Penny
This Spring, the $43 billion dollar merger between Warner Bros and the reality TV show empire Discovery was finalized. In theory, this should be a boon for subscribers. HBO Max gets a ton of new content, and if you just don’t like cooking shows or reality TV, well, you can just watch something else on the app.
But if things keep going the way they are going, will there be anything but reality shows to watch on HBO Max?
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But after the merger was completed, new CEO David Zaslav, who oversaw the transition from Warner’s former owner to AT&T (T) – Get AT&T Inc. Report, and previously served as President and CEO of Discovery, has told shareholders he would be looking to find $3 billion in cost savings.
The Warner Bros. and Discovery portfolios included channels ranging from TLC to TBS to TNT to Adult Swim to National Geographic. Programs from all these channels, theoretically, will all end up on the HBO Max portal at some point.
Each of these channels has their own leadership, but now they all ultimately answer to Zaslav. And he’s apparently not been shy about finding some of that $3 billion in cost savings by canceling shows. (Heck, the guy canceled the CNN+ streaming service less than a month after it premiered.)
Warner Bros. Discovery Is On A Canceling Frenzy
Recently news broke that the Emmy-winning series “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” was canceled, a move that stunned the television industry, as it had just received its 19th Emmy nomination, and Bee’s commentary about the reversal of Roe vs Wade had been going viral this summer.
But Bee has plenty of company, as there’ve been cancellations across the Warner Bros. Discovery line. No matter your favorite flavor, something you like probably got canceled lately.
Early in July, news broke that the cult favorite Adult Swim “Joe Pera Talks With You,” which concerned the adventures of the most serene man in the Midwest, had been canceled after three season. But that wasn’t the only cut at Adult Swim, as the bizarre comedy “Three Busy Debras” was also canceled recently. That purposely off-putting show wasn’t for everyone, but it was the sort of oddity that Adult Swim specialized in.
(In May, Tom Ascheim left his post as President Of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classic. He oversaw Adult Swim as part of his duties, and now that job is held by Kathleen Finch.)
The main HBO Max line hasn’t been safe. Early in the summer the sci-fi series “Made for Love” and “Raised By Wolves” were canceled.
Now the coming-of-age comedy “‘Gordita Chronicles” has been canceled. The series told the story of a Latin family that moved from Santo Domingo to Miami in 1985. Executive produced by Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldaña, the series earned rave reviews after debuting last month.
But in a statement HBO said “Live-action kids and family programming will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future, and as a result, we’ve had to make the very difficult decision to end Gordita Chronicles at HBO Max.”
Warner Bros. Discovery owns half of The CW, while Paramount Global (PARA) – Get Paramount Global Report owns the other half. But the channel is fast becoming a shadow of its former self.
It once boasted the most robust slate of superhero TV shows around, but the so-called “Arrowverse” of DC characters has been whittled down of late. “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Batwoman” were both canceled, and now news has broken that “The Flash” will return with an abbreviated ninth and final season.
That leaves “Superman & Lois,” which is officially not part of the Arrowverse, as The CW’s last superhero show, and one of its last shows, period. (It’s complicated, as is always the case with any kind of DC continuity.) Though the Batman-adjacent show “Gotham Knights” is set for next year.
More cuts are surely coming. It might only be a matter of time before HBO Max tells Nathan Fielder that his days of having the entire bar for himself are numbered.