HBO renews 'Enlightened,' cancels comedy trio
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 by Stuart L.
HBO has renewed its low-rated but critically applauded comedy "Enlightened" while canceling half-hour laffers "Hung," "How to Make It in America" and "Bored to Death."
The fate of the four comedies has weighed heavily on programming president Michael Lombardo. He, along with HBO co-president Richard Plepler, made the choice to ax the three shows, a rare housecleaning move for the payer cabler, in order to create more room on Sunday nights for a slew of incoming series the pay cabler has set to debut in 2012.
Of the three shows that were canceled, "Hung" had the largest audience. Series, starring Thomas Jane as a well-endowed high school teacher who makes a living as a male prostitute, averaged 3.9 million viewers -- including multiple linear telecasts, DVR and On Demand usage -- in its third season. However, that was down 44% from the 6.9 million garnered during the second season.
The skein was created by exec producers Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin. Other exec producers are Scott Stephens, Alexander Payne, Michael Rosenberg, Noreen Halpern and John Morayniss.
Second-year series "How to Make It in America" and third-year skein "Bored to Death" drew an identical 2.3 million apiece, each down about 25% from their respective previous seasons.
"How to Make It in America," about a pair of Manhattan twentysomethings looking to make their way in the fashion business, was created by Ian Edelman, who exec produced with Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Julian Farino, Rob Weiss and Jill Soloway.
"Bored to Death" was created by novelist Jonathan Ames, who exec produced with Sarah Condon, Stephanie Davis and Dave Becky. Series starred Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis
Ironically, of the four comedies whose future was on the line, "Enlightened" had the smallest audience. Only 1.5 million viewers tuned in to see the Laura Dern and Mike White exec produced series about a woman (Dern) who returns home from a treatment center to face a mind-numbing job in the corporate world.
Through ratings were small, "Enlightened" was a favorite of many critics and had a passionate following. The series had a healthy metacritic.com score and it scored on the kudos front last week when both the show and Dern were nominated for a Golden Globe.
"This is a big deal for a show like us," White said last week after the nominations were announced. "It's cool for a show like 'Modern Family,' but for us it's a whole different thing."
If not for HBO's incoming slate of new series, Lombardo and Plepler might have renewed one or two of the shows that were canceled. Net, however, is under a strict Sunday-only programming slate going forward -- with the exception of one or two smaller Friday shows -- the strategy for 2012 is to not air original series on Mondays.
That experiment, which had been attempted previously with "Six Feet Under" and "Big Love" many seasons ago, looks to be shelved for awhile now. HBO tested "Enlightened" on Mondays during its first season with poor results.
Among the new comedy series HBO has arriving in the new year are "Girls," created by and starring Lena Dunham; "Veep," with Julia Louis-Dreyfus; "Life's Too Short," with Ricky Gervais; and "Angry Boys," from "Summer Heights High" creator Chris Lilley. Also set to return is the third season of Danny McBride baseball laffer "Eastbound & Down."
On the drama side, Jan. 29 marks the debut of the David Milch-Michael Mann horseracing drama "Luck." The Aaron Sorkin project starring Jeff Daniels, tentatively titled "Newsroom," is looking like a possible summer entry. Also arriving are the return seasons of "Game of Thrones," "Treme" and "Boardwalk Empire."http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118047762?refCatId=14