HBO has earned itself a reputation for airing and developing ground-breaking television. The network is known for taking risks on shows that could be seen as controversial and for its "quality over quantity" approach in picking up new programs. With past shows like The Sopranos and Sex and the City under its belt and current hits like Game of Thrones and Westworld captivat
The network’s reputation has led to high expectations being placed on its show’s developers. This has been a factor in the cancellation of many shows not seen as meeting the HBO’s standards. While some of these cancellations are largely seen as justified, others have left fans and critics scratching their heads as some of their favourite programming falls by the wayside.
Sometimes even more confusing to viewers are the network's decision to pick up and renew certain shows. Sometimes a show declines in quality over the years and other times a show simply doesn't live up to audience expectation from the get-go. Whatever the reason is, there are certain programs on the network that simply don't feel like HBO shows.
These are 10 HBO shows canceled too soon and 5 that need to go.
15 Gone Too Soon: Flight of the Conchords
The creation of New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords revolved around the fictional day-to-day lives of the real-life musical comedy duo of the same name. Beginning in 2007, Jemaine and Brett’s on-screen struggles with their new lives in New York City and their struggle to find success in the music industry was a hit amongst viewers. In addition to their work in front of the camera, Clement and McKenzie were responsible for writing and performing music for the show.
The tremendous workload that came Flight of the Conchords ultimately proved to be very taxing on Jemaine and Bret, who announced in 2009 that the series had ended. While the series’ cancellation was a bit of a blow to fans, the show’s stars are still pursuing comedy. Jemaine has used some of his time away from the show to star in the 2014 horror comedy What We Do In The Shadows while Bret has become the music supervisor for the most recent Muppet films, winning an Academy Award for it in 2011.
14 Gone Too Soon: The Newsroom
The Newsroom was a political drama that starred Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn, and Thomas Sadoski, among others. Created by West Wing mastermind Aaron Sorkin, the show was praised for its depiction of the current American political climate throughout its 25-episode run. The show’s writing was praised for taking risks while addressing real world issues. The Newsroom kept audiences engaged with a combination of topical and enduring story arcs.
Although it maintained positive reviews throughout its run, Aaron Sorkin opted to end The Newsroom after three seasons. Many look to the large workload that came with the writing process as well as the small writing staff as key in the decision to end the show. As its principle writer, at least fans know that The Newsroom’s fate was decided by Sorkin.
13 Need To Go: Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is the latest comedy offering by veteran TV and movie writer Mike Judge, the man behind much of King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, and Office Space. The show is set in the titular area of California and follows a small start-up company called Pied Piper as they navigate the extremely competitive market.
Silicon Valley’s crude but smart humour made it a hit amongst casual viewers as well as critics. The show started out great but, in recent seasons, has not lived up to its own standards. The all-too-common driving narrative of Pied Piper being met with a seemingly unbeatable obstacle and, at the last minute, overcoming it has left the show feeling predictable. With the season four departure of T.J. Miller from Silicon Valley’s principle cast, it’s becoming less and less likely that the show will recapture the feel and reception that it found earlier on.
12 Gone Too Soon: Summer Heights High
The Australian mockumentary Summer Heights High centered around the lives of a high school's students and faculty. Focusing primarily on lead characters Mr. G, Ja’mie, and Jonah, the show was a smart and hilarious parody of Australian student life that resonated with audiences outside its home country, distributed in the US by HBO. Much praise went to Summer Heights High’s ability to keep characters relatable despite the over-the-top circumstances they were met.
Summer Heights High produced two spin-offs: Ja’mie: Private School Girl and Jonah from Tonga, neither of which managed to capture the magic of the original series which ended in 2008. There is some hope for fans, as show creator and star Chris Lilley has expressed interest in a series starring Mr. G.
11 Gone Too Soon: Todd McFarlane's Spawn
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn was an animated HBO series from 1997 that starred the titular Image Comics character. Bringing a sense of authenticity to animated shows for adults, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn garnered acclaim from critics and the public alike, who praised the show for its storytelling and for capturing the dark and gritty nature of the comic book series.
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn ended its run in 1999, but, fortunately for fans, a sequel called Spawn: The Animation is said to have been in development since 2009. With Spawn continuing to be published by Image Comics and a new feature film reported to be in production, we surely haven’t seen the end of this anti-hero.
10 Need To Go: True Detective
First airing in 2014 and featuring the on-screen talents of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the first season of the crime anthology True Detective was a hit amongst critics and the public alike. The show was praised for its fresh take on the popular crime drama genre of television and left viewers eager for more.
When the second season aired in 2015, however, something seemed off. Now featuring the likes of Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams as some of True Detective’s principle characters, many felt like the show missed out on recapturing the magic of its first season. The second season’s storyline and dialogue has been the main source of criticism, though some remain optimistic that the third season will bring the show back to its former glory.
9 Gone Too Soon: Best Ed
Best Ed was a short-lived animated show that centred around the adventures of Ed, an enthusiastic and well-liked dog, and Buddy, a squirrel a near polar opposite to Ed. The show is seen as a hidden gem in HBO’s roster by fans, who praise the cartoon for its quirky storytelling and impressive Flash animation.
The show also aired on the Canadian cartoon network Teletoon, but ultimately ended after an initial run of 26 episodes. While there was a DVD release of the series, Best Ed: Volume 1 only contained a collection of eight episodes. Here’s hoping we’re still around to see Best Ed is released in its entirety.
8 Gone Too Soon: The Life & Times of Tim
The Life & Times of Tim has the dubious honour of having been canceled by HBO twice. First airing in 2008, the animated comedy developed a cult following for its unique, often dry, brand of humour. The show tackled situations ranging from being forced into a social outing with the boss to being held hostage at a strip club. No matter how outrageous the situation, the show maintained a sense of relatability with its main character, Tim.
Despite a recurring role from Big Mouth’s Nick Kroll, voicing Tim’s best friend Stu, and appearances by Aziz Ansari and Jennifer Coolidge, The Life & Times of Tim’s first two seasons didn’t meet the expectations of HBO, who canceled the animated series. Upon hearing rumours that the show would be picked up by another network, however, HBO brought Tim and company back for a third season before ultimately cancelling the show for good in 2012.
7 Need To Go: Divorce
Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker stars alongside Thomas Haden Church in Divorce, a comedy series first airing in 2016. Centering around, you guessed it, a couple’s divorce, the show was renewed for a second season following its initial 10-episode run.
The decision to renew Divorce for a second season came as a surprise to many. Criticized for its bland storytelling, the biggest complaint about the new HBO comedy was that it simply wasn’t funny. In addition, many felt that the show was boring and left the audience without any likeable characters. The attempt to convey a realistic portrayal of a couple’s falling out is certainly an admirable one, but Divorce simply fell short.
6 Gone Too Soon: Tell Me You Love Me
In just one short season, Tell Me You Love Me garnered acclaim for its brutally honest portrayal of a couple’s attempts to rekindle the spark in their marriage. Starring TV regular Tim DeKay alongside Michelle Borth and Adam Scott, among others, Tell Me You Love Me had a legion of acting talent behind it. The show’s realistic depictions of sexuality and documentary-like filming style brought a sense of authenticity and freshness to its somewhat common premise.
Despite critical and audience praise, Tell Me You Love Me only lasted for 10 episodes. HBO even renewed the series initially for a follow-up season but the show’s creator, Cynthia Mort, reported that the team couldn’t come to an agreement on where to take the show next. At least fans of the show can take some comfort in Mort’s convictions toward its quality.
5 Gone Too Soon: Bored to Death
A combination of mystery and offbeat humour, Bored to Death starred Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson and ran on HBO for three seasons from 2009 to 2011. The show centered around Jonathan, a struggling writer played by Schwartzman, as he took up work as an unlicensed private investigator. Praised for its storytelling and for the on-screen chemistry between its actors, Bored to Death’s cancellation was a surprise to both fans and critics.
The primary cast of Bored to Death has kept busy since the show’s cancellation. Schwartzman can regularly be seen in Wes Anderson pictures and Danson is heavily featured on the critically acclaimed sitcom, The Good Place. There may be hope for Bored to Death, however, as a made-for-TV movie has been development since 2013.
4 Need To Go: Vice News Tonight
Vice News Tonight is a unique show for HBO, as the show is the first daily series to air on the network. Aiming to keep its audience engaged in current events, Vice News Tonight combined elements of the traditional news format with more modern ways of obtaining information. Aware that people have up-to-the-minute updates on much of the world around them, the show’s creators hoped to offer a more in-depth look into the day’s events rather than a simple summary.
While it may have had good intentions, Vice News Tonight has not proven to be the unique news format it sought out to be. Criticized for not offering a truly comprehensive recap of current events, the show does not serve as an adequate alternative to other news sources.
3 Gone Too Soon: Carnivàle
Carnivàle was a drama set around the time of the Great Depression that focused primarily on the eternal struggle between good and evil. The show's main characters were Ben Hawkins, a young man with a healing power who travels with a carnival, and Brother Justin Crowe, a religious man capable of personifying the sins of others. Carnivàle's use of various religious ideas regarding free will, destiny, and everything in between made for a unique and captivating story.
Show creator Daniel Knaufe had planned for Carnivàle to run for six seasons, allowing for the introduction of new characters and a satisfying resolution of the show’s main storyline. The cost of producing the show, however, proved too high for HBO, who canceled the series after only two seasons. Carnivàle's lack of a true ending led to many public petitions calling for the show’s renewal along with a reported 50,000 emails directed at HBO by passionate fans.
2 Gone Too Soon: Deadwood
The HBO western Deadwood aired from 2004 to 2006 and captivated audiences with the story of the growth of the titular town during the 1870s. The inclusion of historical figures as main characters was widely praised for giving a unique insight into their, at times, underdeveloped backstories. Creator David Milch's writing was equally praised for capturing the symbolic relationship between order and chaos.
After only three seasons, the options of Deadwood’s main cast members were not picked up by HBO. The unlikely possibility of being able to assemble the same cast of characters in a new season ultimately led to the ending of the series.
Although it’s taken over a decade, there finally seems to be good news for Deadwood fans. After countless rumours of a revival of the series, a film version of the show is stated to enter production in fall of 2018.
1 Need To Go: Real Time with Bill Maher
Now don’t fly off the rails just yet; let’s try and look at Real Time with Bill Maher objectively. The politically-based talk show has been on HBO since 2003 and is hosted by the outspoken, at times controversial, comedian. For many years, the show has been praised for offering insightful political commentary.
So why is Real Time with Bill Maher on this list? The simple fact is that the show feels like it’s ran its course. Although the show strives to remain unbiased in its presentation, Maher often comes off as one-sided and dismissive towards guests he disagrees with. Is that inherently wrong? No, but it gets stale. Opinions on the show’s quality aside, Real Time with Bill Maher doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, with HBO recently renewing the talk show for another three seasons.
What are some of your favourite former HBO shows? Are there any that you'd like to see taken off the air? Let us know in the comments.
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