HBO Becoming Just Plain Old Television

HBO announced today that is essentially canceling the series 12 Miles of Bad Road, saying that the network was not happy with the show's creative direction. (Very disappointed!) Six episodes of the Lily Tomlin hour-long comedy series had already been shot, but production was held up by the strike, giving the network the time to analyze and ultimately pull the plug. This is yet another dent for the troubled (like Amy Winehouse!) network, which until recently had enjoyed near legendary status (they got so awesome they weren't even TV anymore.) This news comes after an announcement yesterday that president of entertainment Carolyn Strauss will be stepping down. Add to that the sudden death of Anthony Minghella, who was to executive produce and direct for the new No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the ratings and critical failure of In Treatment, and it begins to seem like HBO, once so proud, is on its way down, like static-y snowflakes falling. Maybe they just became too good for their own, well, good.

HBO-style programming exists all over the place now, with Showtime churning out high-quality, talked-about, "edgy" shows Weeds, Dexter, and (to a lesser extent) The Tudors. And FX, where swears are sort of allowed, produces quirky stuff (that I can't stand) that previously may only have existed on HBO. With all this similar programming and buzz-poaching from competing networks, HBO is starting to seem like a regular, boring old scattershot television network. I guess it's just that old, tired story of a high achiever having only one place to go. Which isn't to say that they're not still coming up with the goods once in a while: Big Love remains terrific and popular, and the new John Adams miniseries has genuine prestige (too bad it's finite.) But they still need series that really define them, the way Sopranos and SATC did in the early aughts. What's Charlie Kaufman doing these days? Let's get him a show.