After a stellar premiere and near-unanimous high praise, DC Universe has decided to cancel Swamp Thing.
The cancellation of Swamp Thing comes as one part surprise, two parts gut punch and leaves me with an overwhelmingly bitter taste in my mouth.
I’m a longtime DC/DCEU fan, so I’m used to questionable choices and bad decision making, but even I have to admit that this one seems particularly poor.
While Titans received mixed opening reviews and mostly middling season reviews, and Doom Patrol started with cautiously optimistic reception (and then gained steam to become a consistently well-reviewed, well-loved TV show), Swamp Thing emerged from the fetid, foggy swamps of Louisiana to rave reviews and high levels of anticipation for what was to come.
Well-deserved, too, as the premiere — and the episode airing tomorrow — feature a superb cast, great writing and high production values.
Unfortunately, it seems that those same high production values — along with WB’s long history of making some truly bullheaded decisions — have been the undoing of Swamp Thing.
While most trades and media sites have pointed to creative differences or WB’s dislike of the direction of Swamp Thing, it seems that the actual reason for the cancellation of the show is much more mundane and, somehow, that much more infuriating.
Writer/reporter John Gholson wrote about an accounting mistake from North Carolina, where Swamp Thing is filmed, and how that led to the show receiving only $13.1 million rather than the promised and planned for $40 million.
Read 2 reports this morning from 2 different websites – one a focused genre site; one an entertainment trade – and nether mention the tax stuff. The genre site cites unnamed sources saying there were creative differences. Eh, grain of salt. This is a mostly a bean-counting thing.
— John Gholson (@gholson) June 6, 2019
From the very first episode, it’s easy to see how much care, time, and money went into the production of Swamp Thing. There’s no questionable effects, cheap sets or bad costuming to be found throughout either of the first two episodes.
And while Swamp Thing himself — along with many of the more horrifying moments of the show that have to do with sentient plant life seem to be largely practical effects — they’re all movie-level quality, so I’m guessing they don’t come cheap either.
So it makes sense that Swamp Thing isn’t the cheapest show to film and that WB and DC Universe would want to be able to keep up the high quality that they gave to us in their first episode.
It also makes sense that the lack of the full tax rebate is what forced DC Universe to abruptly cut Swamp Thing’s episode order from 13 to 10 episodes while they were filming.
What doesn’t make sense is cancelling a show after its first episode opened to such glowing reviews, with many outlets calling it the best premiere from DC Universe and even more individuals deciding to get a DC Universe account based on this one show alone.
To give up on the show due to budgetary reasons despite how well it’s been received and how much the fans and actors have already fallen in love and gotten on board with it is an especially bad decision given the overall niche nature of DC Universe.
Again, if it is solely a budget concern rather than any major differences in terms of the show’s direction or creative team, I understand making the show shorter in its first season.
However, North Carolina isn’t the only place on the earth that has swamps in which to film, and DC Universe wouldn’t need to begin production right away — at this point, the fans would certainly wait for another high caliber season.
There’s also quite a bit that DC Universe might do to increase its own revenue (including not immediately cancelling a well-received show for which many people signed up for the streaming service in the first place).
Opening to international markets is a major one, and a move that would likely prove to be especially helpful in terms of subscriber numbers given the large amount of international DC fans who are currently unable to legally stream DC Universe shows yet would clearly like to.
I do recognize there’s a whole lot of inside baseball that likely affects the decision to cancel the show as well.
Of course neither I nor anyone not affiliated with DC Universe is privy to that knowledge, so I don’t know how Warner Media’s upcoming tiered streaming platform fits into this decision or even what is going to happen with DC Universe — which doesn’t release subscription numbers — as a whole.
It’s possible that DC Universe gets folded into that service and Swamp Thing gets new life and a new budget once everything settles, though I’m not holding my breath for it.
For now, I’ll be hoping that another studio or streaming service — hello, Netflix — picks up this lovely little horror show and gives it the budget it needs so that we can all get the monster love story that we deserve.
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