HBO is a cable television giant. They broadcast an incredible slate of amazing movies. In fact, they have always been the premiere cable outlet for movies. And as time has gone by, HBO has expanded to become one of the greatest television showcases on earth. HBO has successfully rolled out a number of massively entertaining television shows over the years. From Sopranos to Boardwalk Empire to Entourage and Game of Thrones, HBO has successfully displayed an incredible slate of projects. They have managed to build a television empire after once only being the foremost channel for movies released on cable. HBO began to create its own original programming after realizing their television shows were drawing more subscribers than the movies they displayed.
HBO broadened their horizons, expanding every aspect of their business. They not only bought critically acclaimed films and documentaries to feed their hungry audiences, but they began to roll out a much larger production budget and essentially became a small studio themselves. Since this started, HBO has financed or co-financed a number of varying projects. With this kind of production and success, came the big names and big faces- Hollywood elite took notice and wanted in. But HBO, like many other production companies, is prone to making a stinker every now and again. With the power given to actors and directors to helm their projects from beginning to end, there are bound to be some shows that go down in flames. Sure, HBO has been great, but they also have had some very forgettable moments and series. Without further ado, these are the 15 shows HBO wants you to forget about.
Fresh meat is always the easiest to jump on. Recently, this Scorsese-produced project penned by Terrence Winter suffered a terrible fate that comes when a poorly written show undermines what was a winning formula for success. Unfortunately, instead of showcasing the dramatic strength of the 1970s and its music industry, the Super-Team wasted time on talking- a lot of talking. It was as if they tried to remake Goodfellas as a television show based in the music industry but instead of the raw dramatic power and character development that made Goodfellas so successful, we were preached to by uninspiring characters who never seemed to pick up positive tread. The biggest issues were exposed by a lack of plain old good writing and storytelling. And what’s even crazier is that the show had a top-notch cast and even showcased a naked Olivia Wilde. But alas, poor writing will always undercut a good concept 100% of the time, and with no place for the show to feasibly flourish, HBO pulled the plug after just one uneventful season.
It’s never a good sign when you have animals dying on your set. This dramatic show about life at a horse track was marred by animal rights activists who were pissed off that horses were dying during the filming of fake horse racing scenes. Of course, the animal deaths paled in comparison to the story deaths taking place during season one. This was another high-powered show featuring a cast of Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Tom Payne and Nick Nolte. With big time director Michael Mann’s name on the project and Hoffman playing the dual role of lead actor and producer, one would have thought that this show had huge potential written all over it. But alas, big names equal big budgets and HBO didn’t like the bad press from the animal deaths. The show did have its moments and was compelling at times, but the characters never really connected to form a cohesive storyline that drew the audience in and made them want to back some of these main players. It would end up being a rough ride for this show. Although Mann and his staff threatened to bring the show elsewhere after HBO suddenly cancelled them prior to season 2, the show died off and remained a one season failure.
13. K Street
It’s rare that super-director Steven Soderbergh and A-list actor George Clooney rarely miss. But in K Street, the mighty Clooney and Soderbergh definitely whiffed big. The show was about political insiders and lobbyists in Washington, a subject matter that writer/director Aaron Sorkin has dominated in the past. However, the show was intended to be largely improvised, not scripted. With James Carville and Mary Matalin as themselves, anchored by fictional characters, the idea was to blend reality with fiction. The hybrid show failed to connect with audiences. With little character development to grasp onto, the audience felt little reason to watch. The guerrilla style of filmmaking also caught the audience by surprise; a kind of political behind-the-scenes aura that really never caught on. After just ten episodes, the political show disappeared with little fanfare and wasn’t renewed for a second season by HBO.
It is extremely ambitious to tackle historical shows. There is a lot to live up to. For the first part, you need to hit the mark on historical accuracy or risk turning off your audience. This show jumped right into Julius Cesar’s civil war of 49 BC. There is tremendous meat to the rise and fall of Julius Cesar and HBO tried to do it justice. With sweeping sets in Italy, the period reconstruction was a massive undertaking. The international crew alone totaled over 350 people. The show was monstrous, costing $100 million over the 12 episode first season. With massive cost and little fanfare for HBO, the show was essentially a massive bust; the equivalent of a big budget blockbuster movie dying opening weekend at the box office. Rome launched with some critical acclaim and a few Emmy’s, but the reality was that the expense for the show far outweighed the recognition and attention. Despite being incredibly accurate, the show turned out to be an incredible financial failure.
11. The Comeback
What could go wrong when you bring on former Friends star Lisa Kudrow to star in her own comedy show? Well, apparently a lot. The show was created by the executive producer of Sex and the City and included Kudrow as a writer and producer on the show. And much like most projects in which actors have too much control, Kudrow ended up with massive input and control. The end result was a satirical look at the television industry with Kudrow as the lead who struggles with getting older in an industry that often turns on women who age. The show premiered right after HBO’s massive hit Entourage but ratings were terrible. On top of that, the critics weren’t impressed with Kudrow’s shtick. With reviews like “It’s interesting” from The New York Times, there wasn’t a lot of excitement on the show.
The television show Treme was an exciting concept that took its name from a neighborhood in New Orleans. The show takes place just three months after the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused. In addition to the subject matter, it featured a solid ensemble cast featuring Jon Seda, Steve Zahn and John Goodman. The show, mainly because of its subject matter, was an initial hit with critics, although there were some who thought the show was too clichéd. HBO enjoyed some of the positive reviews from the show and extended it for 4 seasons. However, the show lacked the bite and punch of a sustainable success and the 4th season was limited to only 5 episodes. The one consistency Treme always had was low ratings. The show opened with 1.1 million viewers and quickly slid to 600K viewers for the beginning of season 2. It is amazing it ever made it past a second season.
Hung is a show that seemed like a nice gimmick on the surface, but the reality wasn’t nearly as appetizing. The age-old concept of a disappointed, sexy human being turned to prostitution and thriving is not a novel idea. Nor is the concept of a disgruntled teacher turning bad. So the show Hung was off to a bad start. However, the fact that a man was the lead as a prostitute gave the show something to hang its hat on, if you know what we mean. However, the show was only able to last 3 seasons. The show initially garnered some critical buzz out of the gate. Despite some praise, the show wasn’t able to build and capitalize on much more, though. When HBO announced after season 2 that Hung would be renewed, many were surprised. The ratings were low and despite other shows which had more viewers and were more exciting getting cancelled, Hung had one massive benefit; low production value. So HBO took a shot at the audience picking up on it but it was not able to happen.
8. Lucky Louie
This is what we call the “one and done.” It is rough to have a television show go down after just one season. The show starred comedian Louis C. K. and depicted the life of a working-class family, all while using Spartan sets and wardrobe. The nature of the show didn’t hold water and after just 13 episodes (one of which was unaired) it was cancelled. Lucky Louie was largely received poorly by critics. The show also ruffled some major feathers. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights labeled the show “Barbaric.” Not only were Lucky Louie’s ratings lacking, but many viewed the show as simply not being what the HBO brand wanted. Either way, the show was a disaster on multiple ends and it getting cancelled was inevitable.
7. Hello Ladies
When most people have never heard of your show, you know you’ve got issues. The show features Stephen Merchant as an Englishman seeking out love in Los Angeles, California. The television show was short-lived, only lasting 9 episodes. The story of the awkward Brit didn’t jive with the American audience and left HBO with a show that died upon arrival. The ratings were dismal and critics could care less. Hello Ladies was the brain trust of Stephen Merchant, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky. Once again, a comedian, Merchant, was given the reigns to create his own show and too much power and control led to a disaster. The attempt to gain an audience from Merchant’s fans did not go over well and the show ultimately failed.
6. How To Make It In America
Well, we know the answer to how to make it in America and it is not by virtue of the show with the same name. The fact that Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson were the Executive Producing team behind the show would lead you to believe that this would be an instant success. However, Wahlberg’s usual golden touch did not turn this fledging show into anything more. The show was centered around New York’s fashion scene. The show was never able to garner much of an audience. Season 2 seemed to garner a better audience. The first season struggled with a score of 59/100 while season 2 grabbed a Metascore of 79/100. But beyond that, the show never gained any steam and despite Mark Wahlberg making promises that the show would appear on another network, alas, the show failed and has never reappeared.
5. In Treatment
Gabriel Byrne is the perfect actor to anchor a big new show on HBO. The show features a psychologist who visits with his patients on a weekly basis, and, in addition, has his own sessions. The television show was able to run for three seasons and many critics found it a clearly conceived concept. The concept of being able to live the life of a therapist added intrigue to the show with a wide variety of characters going in and out of Byrne’s life. However, the show proved to have too little substance beyond allowing the audience to sit in on psycho-therapeutic sessions. The first 2 seasons landed the show numerous awards and critics applauded. But the luster came off for season 3 and when nothing new came about, the show ended up being cancelled due to low interest. HBO was interested in the show possibly continuing on in a different format, but the show’s producers never committed and thus the series was concluded.
4. John From Cincinnati
When you last only a single season and a total of 10 episodes, we can ring the epic fail bell. Set at the beach, the show hoped to capitalize on surfing and followed a dysfunctional family of professional suffers. The show featured a strong cast of talent with Rebecca De Mornay, Ed O’Neill, Luke Perry and Jennifer Grey. Despite the ensemble cast, the show wasn’t able to hold water. The show seemed to be both confusing and misguided. Premiering after the series finale of The Sopranos, you would figure the show would be destined for greatness. The show was able to grab 1/3 of The Sopranos finale audience which tallied 12 million viewers. Even with that massive head start, the show quickly dwindled down to only 1.2 million viewers. The show was a big failure for it’s co-creator, David Milch, who had enjoyed a great deal of success with Deadwood.
Actors Clancy Brown and Nick Stahl anchored this cast of characters in a crazy take of circus freaks traveling around the country to entertain. But the show has a twist: Nick Stahl’s character had extraordinary powers. Meanwhile, Clancy Brown portrayed a crazy priest hellbent on stopping the evils of the world while he passed righteous judgement upon all those around him. He harbored the true evil. The show blurred some lines and was extremely high concept, not to mention being expensive to produce. The show exploded onto the scene with strong ratings and reviews but went off-track and ended up falling apart. The historical production costs were high and, as the show shrunk in ratings, it became a causality of the metaphorical scissors. The show drew an epic 5.8 million viewers in season 1 but would drop to 1.7 I’m season 2.
2. Flight Of The Conchords
The two-man band from New Zealand made their way to HBO in 2007. The story centered around the duo heading to New York City to naturally try their hand at fame in the music business. The show featured the two real-life Conchords themselves, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. The show lasted just two seasons as despite being a critics’ darling, it lacked true bite as a commercial success. The storylines were weak and the American public didn’t buy into watching two New Zealanders struggle through the urban jungle that is New York City. Their plight was uninteresting, and thus, never drew the ratings that HBO had hoped for. Although the show helped McKenzie and Clement gain a broader audience, they still could not achieve the success they had hoped for on the small screen. The duo still tour together and their musical comedy show is a hit on smaller stages. But as a television show- no bueno.
Labeled the “worst comedy show in some time” by Variety Magazine, Animals is most likely the worst show ever put on the air by HBO. The absolute absurdity of the program itself and its futile attempts to be original, is why Animals is such a dismal failure. Avant-garde shows become interesting and cool because they are inventive and special. Animals misses on all levels. With an average rating of 54/100, the show has been an epic failure critically and with ratings. The worst part of the show is that HBO paid for 2 seasons of this nonsense. Based off of the 2 episodes that premiered at Sundance, HBO made the commitment. With very little to hang their hat on after a terrible season 1, it would take a miracle for the show to get past its initial deal with HBO. We are honestly surprised HBO doesn’t just cancel the show now, despite pre-paying for a season 2. One thing is for sure, the executive who green-lit this embarrassment is most likely not going to be with HBO much longer.