Unrenewed: ‘Vinyl’ and a brief history of pickup reversals
HBO on Wednesday canceled “Vinyl,” which would not be all that unusual for a show that has weak ratings and a fairly high budget, as it did.
What made it unusual, however, was the fact that four months ago, HBO said it was renewing “Vinyl” for a second season. The pickup came four days after a premiere that managed only 764,000 same-day viewers but was seen as a vote of confidence in creator Terence Winter (a veteran of “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire”) and producers that included Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger.
Now, with a new person in charge of HBO’s programming — Casey Bloys took over for Michael Lombardo in May — the channel has opted to scrap a planned revamping of the show for Season 2 and devote the budget it would have used to other projects.
That’s a fairly common thread in the handful of shows that have been unrenewed in recent years. Here are a few examples.
‘Tell Me You Love Me’ (HBO, fall 2007)
What it was: A drama about three couples, their relationships and their sex lives that featured more graphic and realistic depictions of sex than is typical on premium cable, by a long shot.
What happened: It was renewed midway through its first season, but the following summer, creator Cynthia Mort said she and HBO mutually agreed not to press ahead: “Given the considerable amount of time that has passed and despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we were unable to find the direction of the show for the second season.”
‘Southland’ (NBC, spring 2009)
What it was: A cinema verite-style cop show shown that followed LAPD beat cops (Ben McKenzie and Michael Cudlitz foremost among them) and detectives (including Regina King) on and off the job.
What happened: The show debuted to mostly positive reviews and decent ratings (about 10 million tuned into the premiere) in April 2009. NBC picked up the show for a second season and produced six episodes but never put it on the air. Pick your reason: It was too dark for its assigned 9 p.m. timeslot; it was too expensive relative to its so-so ratings; there was regime change at NBC.
TNT eventually picked up the show and aired those six episodes produced for NBC along with three additional 10-episode seasons.
‘Luck’ (HBO, winter 2012)
What it was: A David Milch-created, Michael Mann-directed drama centering on a recently paroled gambler (Dustin Hoffman) and his associates, set mostly at a horse-racing track. HBO gave it a near-immediate renewal, picking up a second season two days after its on-air premiere.
What happened: Production had started on Season 2 when HBO shut the show down in March 2012, following the third death of a horse used in racing scenes. A 2013 investigation by The Hollywood Reporter showed American Humane Association monitors were often ignored when they requested changes or accommodations for the animals’ safety.
‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ (syndicated, 2013-14)
What it was: Hall’s second go-round as a late-night host was syndicated by CBS Television Distribution and got off to a strong start in the fall of 2013.
What happened: The show’s renewal was announced in February 2014 amid declining ratings. By the end of the season, however, some stations were planning to move the show to less favorable timeslots, which would have made turning a profit much tougher.
‘Hindsight’ (VH1, winter 2015)
What it was: A dramedy about a woman (Laura Ramsey) who, on the eve of her second marriage, is transported back in time to 1995 and sets out to correct what she sees as the missteps she made in her life.
What happened: Critical praise never translated into much of an audience (the show never drew above 367,000 same-day viewers), but VH1 renewed the show midway through the season despite the small numbers. Following a change in management, however, the show was scrapped in summer 2015.
‘The Brink’ (HBO, summer 2015)
What it was: Like “Vinyl” and “Luck,” the comedy series about a chaotic geopolitical situation had several big names attached, including stars Jack Black and Tim Robbins and executive producers Jay Roach (who also directed the premiere) and Jerry Weintraub.
What happened: HBO handed out a renewal about a month after the series premiere. It backtracked in October 2015, saying, “After evaluating our schedule and our programming needs, we unfortunately decided we cannot give The Brink the attention it deserves for a second season.”