Wednesday, December 14, 2022

What the Minx is HBO Max Doing?

I really liked the show Minx.

Minx was set at a fictional male porn mag in '70s LA. It alternated between raunchy sex romp, let's-put-on-a-show enthusiasm, workplace comedy, and romance while being funny the whole time. It's the kind of show that could have run for seasons without outstaying it's welcome.

It ran on HBO Max. If you don’t know anything about HBO Max, you should know that it’s becoming a tire fire now that it's under the aegis of Warner Bros Discovery, a merger of equals between Warner Brothers and… well, Discovery. Yes, Discovery, the network full of reality TV shows somehow merited equal footing with Warner Brothers. Don’t ask me how.

The head of Warner Bros Discovery, David Zaslav, has been ruthlessly slashing shows left and right. In the case of Minx, the show was renewed and a second season created. They are finished filming the second season. I want to repeat, the second season is already in the can. All HBO Max has to do is release it. Instead, Warner Bros Discovery has decided to shelve it.

This isn't the first project they've done this to. If you'll remember, Warner Bros spent 70 million on the movie Batgirl. Then decided to shelve it when it was nearly finished so that they could take the tax write off and record more profit, somehow.

They also started pulling TV shows off of the HBO Max service. I want to stress, this isn't like Netflix, that sometimes doesn’t own the shows that come on to the service. That can happen from time to time. In this case, Warner Brothers Discovery owns and has created these TV shows.  It would be like Disney pulling The Mandalorian off of Disney Plus. There's no reason to do it, you're not gaining anything by doing it, and the only reason you would do it is if you wanted to gain some weird financial tax advantage thing.

You can almost see some logic in the removal of a few of these. For example, one of my favorite shows of all time is At Home With Amy Sedaris which ran for three seasons on TruTV, a Warner Brothers channel. At Home is a beautifully weird TV show that deserves to have a huge audience. Seriously, everyone I’ve ever introduced to At Home has laughed while mumbling, “What the fuck?” Sadly, no one watched it when it was on the air and I'm not surprised that it hasn't found a home on HBO Max, even though it deserves to stay.

The weird part is that this creeping horror has continued though to HBO shows, once thought untouchable. The most recent announcement is that Westworld will be pulled off of the service. I was never a Westworld fan, but there are some of you sick people out there. This is a show that HBO spent half a billion on, and it’s being yanked off of the service, just like that!

Say what you will about Westworld. Yes, it tried too hard to outsmart its audience. It never had a really tight focus. It was always more concerned about making cool moments than having a coherent plot. However, at its debut it was a high-profile show, and they’ve spent a lot of money on it already. It’s weird that it’s getting wiped from HBO Max entirely. I mean, that's the point of having a subscription to HBO Max, right? So that you can watch the TV shows that HBO makes? Am I crazy? On what other service can I watch Arli$$? I have purchased a subscription to HBO Max explicitly to watch Arli$$, and if they remove it, we riot!

Just kidding. No one wants to watch Arli$$.

With all of these removals and weird decisions, this is becoming a really dangerous trend for Warner Brothers Discovery. I'm not sure what the official justification is for removing these projects and taking the right off. Are they claiming that these projects were somehow defective? Are they trying to avoid paying residuals? Are they thinking that their brand will be damaged if they allow these shows and movies on the air?

I mean, at this point, should Warner Brothers Discovery ever release another movie or TV show? If you make more money taking the tax write off, then why release any TV shows or movies at all? Just make a TV show, shelve it and claim the tax write-off going forward! That way everyone wins: the creatives get to make a TV show, and the corporate arm makes money!

It would be like if you owned a pizza place. You would make a pizza and hand it to a delivery driver, who would then drive a block and throw the pizza in the trash. Then you would claim a tax write-off because that pizza could potentially have damaged your brand. Think how much money you would make!

Look, I'm not a fancy corporate tax lawyer, but doesn't all of this seem like corporate fraud?

Think about it. Are you trying to claim that the shows would damage your brand? The Metacritic ratings of the shows that you have removed would demonstrate otherwise. For example, Infinity Train received ratings in the high 80’s. At Home with Amy Sedaris was well-liked by critics. Hell, Minx has a 75 rating. You’re telling me that these shows will damage your brand but, like, Arli$$ won’t?

I usually have bad vibes about giant corporate mergers, but I had pretty bad vibes about this one from day one. I mean, what the hell is Discovery? Are people really clamoring for a streaming service full of Say Yes to the Dress? Besides, Warner Brothers not only had HBO Max, it also owned HBO, movie studios, a giant media production arm. So why in the hell was this a merger of equals? It could only have been a merger of equals because David Zaslav employed black magic fuckery to goose the numbers. In the process he's hurting artists, hurting the product, and hurting the audience. The only people who win are the investors. Bravo.

(As a side note, this article was mostly written using talk-to-text, and “David Zaslav” was put on the page as “David’s Ass Laugh.” I think that’s fitting.)

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