As you have no doubt read, things are changing at HBO Max. Already, we’ve seen the cancelation of Batgirl, a Scoob sequel, and the removal of a half-dozen originals from the service (among them Seth Rogen’s American Pickle and the Anne Hathaway-starring Witches remake). Yesterday, on an earnings call with investors, it was announced officially that HBO Max will merge with Discovrery+ to form a new service next summer.
There are plenty of reasons for all of this, most of them having to do with money and content strategies that may or may not make sense to a viewing public that still hungers for content. But we’re not here to try and make sense of the executive decision-making that happens at multi-billion dollar tech companies or to even pass judgment on the powers that be who are holding our beloved IP hostage.
No, we’re here to worry about what it all means for the rest of the beloved HBO Max content roster and make educated guesses about which series might be safe, and which could be headed for an early grave in the name of synergy and/or savings if the culling continues. Will most of these predictions eventually devolve into a pathetic attempt at bargaining to save a bunch of weird TV we’ve grown too attached to over the years? Probably.
The idea that HBO Max would put Hacks – an award-winning, critically-beloved series about a legendary female comic on the road to getting her stand-up groove back – to pasture all for a measly tax break is, quite frankly, a storyline you’d expect to see on Hacks. But hear this, corporate overlords – you’ll have a gay mutiny on your hands. Queer cruise lines everywhere will join forces, creating a rainbow-colored armada that will lay siege to Warner Media’s headquarters. Dead shrimp will be thrown. Chainsaws cranked.
The idea that Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder might be robbed of the chance to showcase their comedic chemistry if the show doesn’t get its already-promised third season is just too much to bear. What’s worse? Hacks is also a show that’s given underrated and unseen talent like Paul W. Downs, Meg Stalter, and Carl Clemon-Hopkins a platform to brandish their own comedy chops, playing supporting characters that have sparked their own fandoms online. In other words, Hacks is a series that transcends generational gaps and manages to interrogate archaic societal norms like sexism in stand-up and ageism in Hollywood without preaching or proselytizing. There’s really no series like it on TV – which is even more reason it needs to be saved. — Jessica Toomer
This should be a pretty short blurb. Totally one you can skim through. Creator James Gunn already offered assurances in the form of a tweet. And while the desire is for more blockbuster-y big-screen adventures for DC properties, someone has to acknowledge that Gunn is one of the best in the biz at delivering those and you probably don’t want to piss him and his army of fans off by killing one of his darlings. A popular one that’s already tapping into that sweet, sweet Funko Pop money. Seriously, if they touch that title sequence or a feather on Eagley’s head, we riot. — Jason Tabrys
Dune: The Sisterhood
Before director Denis Villeneuve brought his epic adaptation of Dune to the big screen, HBO Max had already announced plans for a spin-off series focused on the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of preternaturally gifted women operating in the shadows of a galactic empire. Following the success of the film – and plans for its sequels – a prequel show set 10,000 years before the fall of House Atreides seemed like a no-brainer. Every streamer is hoping to craft their own version of a Marvel cinematic universe on the small screen these days and HBO’s already betting on House of the Dragon to revive its Game of Thrones fandom. What better pre-existing IP to build on than Frank Herbert’s imaginative and beloved sci-fi franchise? But, with only a director and writer attached to the project at the moment, The Sisterhood could be one of the easier deadweights to drop, from a business standpoint.
We’re not saying we want that to happen. In fact, the idea that the world of Dune could be explored with seasonal arcs that focus on rival Houses and politically-ambitious factions warring over rights to a galaxy full of strange resources like spice is exciting for any kind of genre fan. No, we definitely don’t want to see this kind of potential wasted, we’re just warning you, it might be. — Toomer
The Other Two
While this new season, which is set to debut in late September, is probably safe, I don’t feel rosy about the prospects for a season 4. The show, which debuted on Comedy Central 73 years ago in 2019, has already had a roller coaster ride of an existence and while it’s beloved by very smart people such as me and probably you if you’re reading this (Goddammit, we have great taste), it doesn’t get the awards love or loud critical praise of something like Hacks. Which is also on this list. Gulp. — Tabrys
If the current state of the world hasn’t convinced you we’re living in a soft launch of Hell, this should: what if the current turnover at HBO Max cheats us out of another season’s worth of ogling at Jake Johnson’s chest hair? As preposterous as it sounds, we have to prepare ourselves for the worst and a future in which Johnson’s sleazy, seductive 70’s porn publisher — who harbors an affinity for peacocking his furry bosom with low-cut button-ups and brightly-patterned silks – doesn’t return to give us more thirst-trap material to post on main. The good news here is that the show has already been renewed for a second season and it sports a devoted fan following. Add that to its captivating and comedic plot about an ambitious journalist who starts an erotic magazine for women, and, well, we have high hopes that our anxiety is whispering doomsday predictions in our susceptible little ears for absolutely no reason and Johnson will, in fact, get to revive his musky manwhore for round two. — Toomer
You’d think this animated series, currently streaming its third season, would be as far from the chopping block as metaphorically possible at this point. After all, during a time of upheaval and uncertainty within its movie verse, DC’s TV roster feels like a safer, surer bet. Especially Harley Quinn, an animated, action-packed, darkly-comedic take on the beloved Gotham villain, her girlfriend Poison Ivy, and the crew of misfits they’ve assembled to wreak havoc in Bruce Wayne’s backyard. Sure, cartoons used to fly under the critical radar – we’ve had to spend years trying to convince comic fans to give this show a shot simply because it’s pixelated – but that seems to be changing and Harley Quinn is a big reason why. With polarizing bad guys, morally-grey anti-heroines, NSFW Batman content, and storylines that approach complicated social issues with a surprising amount of insight and care, Harley Quinn is Peak TV, and not just for the animation crowd. We’d be sad to see this one go especially since, now more than ever, DC needs some consistency in the projects it’s greenlighting, but if the Scooby-Doo shelving has taught us anything, it’s that streamers are happy to gut anything – even a successful, already-filmed follow-up – if it’s in cartoon form. — Toomer
This is a weird one because this show is, as far as we can tell, still theoretical, launched into the minds of Conan O’Brien fans as a comfort and a promise for something new after he left TBS more than a year ago. Since then, we haven’t heard much about when or what it would be, and with this burst of news and rumors, wonder creeps in about if we ever will hear anything more about it and what that means for Conan and “TV.”
Now, of course, it’s not like the late-night legend ran off to milk cows on a Wyoming cattle ranch, he’s staying close by with his podcast empire, but the lack of clarity around this new HBO Max show allowed for a lot of theorizing. And now those theories have turned into expectations that may not get the payoff some of us demand. So I just want to know who to blame for the cancellation of the never formally announced Conan And The Masturbating Bear Play Old Time Baseball On All The Continents show, assuming it doesn’t still happen. — Tabrys
The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco’s murder-mystery series was one of HBO Max’s first big wins – in the ratings department and in the eyes of critics. So, naturally, you’d think the streamer would have some loyalty to the show that helped put it on the map. And it might. Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys has already teased a third season which means there’s support for the show at an executive level (and Bloys is rumored to be taking a larger role with the Max/Discovery combo streamer). The problem? Cuoco isn’t sure if she’d come back to continue Cassie’s story – one that had a satisfying if incomplete ending in season two. After solving a murder despite her alcohol-induced blackouts in season one, Cassie began working for the CIA, using her flight attendant day job as a cover for her many missions. She thwarted assassination attempts, deranged doppelgangers, and her own inner demons to grow and evolve in season two but for the show to get another crack at things, the creative team will likely need an idea that’s more outrageous and watchable than what’s come before. Knowing how the comedy series loves to reinvent itself and push its storytelling to the limit, that’s certainly possible. — Toomer
Once again, this show would appear to be an anathema to the rumored big screen dream corporate think, but like Gunn, Matt Reeves’s projects are likely protected by a forcefield thanks to his successes. Plus, there’s just too much Batworld for him to unfurl in cinemas and it’s got a big name in Colin Farrell. But wait! Isn’t Batgirl a Batworld project with big stars? It is, but there isn’t that linear connection to something that worked undeniably like The Batman. The DCEU is either in a state of crisis or turnover, The Batman is clear from any of that baggage, likely making it easier to cut ties with anything not that. Which sucks. This isn’t fair or right, it just is. — Tabrys
Starstruck is a terrific little comedy, a story about a woman who accidentally hooks up with a celebrity and has her life thrown into chaos. It’s the stuff fanfiction writers create on the daily, done well thanks to Rose Matafeo’s charisma and charm and willingness to look absolutely ridiculous on-screen for a good laugh. There’s romance, there’s self-contemplation, and there’s some cringe-comedy that feels painfully relatable to every millennial-aged woman who once had a poster of Jonathan Taylor Thomas hanging in their childhood bedroom. Please, for JTT, just watch this show. If you don’t watch Starstruck then HBO Max might kill Starstruck and then what has this all been for? — Toomer
Our Flag Means Death
They would NEVER! Put aside the fact that this show is as charming as a basket of puppies, filled with great singular performances, and a storytelling triumph. It also has a vocal fanbase that has spent the space between the season 1 finale and the season 2 premiere making fan art and enough social posts to make the show and its characters trend repeatedly. There’s just so much positivity here and so much nuance to explore (and celebrate) with the show’s central romance between Ed and Stede. Losing this show would be the deepest cut on this whole list as far as I’m concerned and the biggest PR disaster for the mothership. The internet would literally never stop talking about the stupidity and callousness of that decision.
Our Flag Means Death is also the most powerful reminder of what we’d be losing if HBO Max (and others) fully move in a direction that signals a fundamental change or retraction from the bold creative strategies of the recent past. Niche programming gets written off constantly, and a pirate show probably fits under that heading, but look what they made! Magic happens in entertainment when ambitious and creative people get a little bit of land and a little bit of water. Magic ain’t cheap, of course, but isn’t it worth it? We joke about there being too much TV all the time, but streaming also enables a ton of shows that aren’t exactly mainstream and that creates a lot of chances for things to expand the idea of what mainstream means (which can create undeniable and profitable hits from out of nowhere). It also gives people the chance to connect deeply and truly with their favorite thing in a world where that can mean so much. –Tabrys