DC Universe reportedly pulls the (drain)plug on the new, critically acclaimed horror series on the streaming service. As we discussed in our review, the worst fears in this scary show were that “Swamp Thing cancelled” would be the next headline about the series. It appears that DCU’s decision to shorten the episode order was a harbinger of a greater lack of faith in the series. Yet, it’s also possible that something as simple as an accounting error may have played a significant role in the fate of the show. This also leads to larger questions about the long-term viability of the DC Universe streaming platform, especially with other direct-to-consumer services from Warner Bros. competing for audiences’ dollars.
DC Universe is not the only streaming service offered by parent company Warner Media. HBO Now and Cinemax’s standalone services are also available, at $15 and $10 per month respectively. Expected to launch later this year, however, is a Warner Bros. streaming platform that will offer HBO, Cinemax, and a repository of Warner Bros. films and television shows to choose from. It’s possible that DC Universe will also get bundled into this service. Still, with all those different content houses under the same umbrella, the reported $16-$17 per month cost for WB streaming seems like not enough to sustain them all.
Swamp Thing Cancelled Over Accounting Error?
This series is, essentially, an effects-driven rubber-suit monster movie. For projects like this, studios need to spend money in order to achieve realistic effects for audiences spoiled by superhero feature films or epic series like Game of Thrones. A key part of what saw Swamp Thing cancelled are budgetary concerns, specifically how much money DC would get from North Carolina to film the series there. The show boasts a hefty $80-million-plus price tag, though state grants were meant to cover some of that cost. Reports suggest that DC Universe expected to get more than the amount they did, which was about $12 million. It’s also possible that the film grants will be cut altogether from the state budget next year. It may seem unlikely that a few million bucks here and there could sink a series with this budget, but as a poet once said: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
Swamp Thing Cancelled Over Creative Differences?
Despite the money troubles detailed above, entertainment industry newspaper The Hollywood Reporter found sources who claim it was more than money that saw Swamp Thing cancelled. Though unnamed, more than one person with knowledge of the production described creative differences between executives and storytellers. All of the live-action shows released so far on the DC Universe streaming platform have been dark. Yet, it’s possible that the slow-burn horror the storytellers attempted wasn’t ultimately what the powers-that-be wanted. Of course, if the response to the series remains positive, those attitudes are always subject to change. In today’s media environment, “cancelled” doesn’t always mean “forever.”
#SaveSwampThing Twitter Campaign Takes Off
With Swamp Thing cancelled, there are likely no immediate plans to do anything new with the character. A few fans on Twitter have started to use the hashtag “#SaveSwampThing” in the hopes that the series will be rescued by another network. There’s the CW, which rescued Supergirl from cancellation at CBS, but Swamp Thing’s high budget and adult themes wouldn’t mesh well with the teen-focused dramas there. Similarly, other streaming services like Netflix or Prime Video will be direct competitors with WB’s streaming service. But there remains a glimmer of hope for fans of the mossy behemoth.
If the show continues to garner good reviews and maintains a faithful following, it’s possible the show could come back in some form. If the filmmakers are able to find another suitably swampy location to set the show (especially with generous film grants), Swamp Thing could get another chance. It’s a long shot, but shows that have consistent streaming “ratings” are always on-the-bubble for renewal.
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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.