HBO Scraps McQueen, Delays “Westworld”?

HBO has become famous in recent years for scrapping high-profile projects developed with major filmmakers, and today they’ve just done it again.

THR reports that HBO has scrapped “Codes of Conduct,” its six-episode event series from “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen who would have directed all six episodes. As such only a pilot was shot.

The show was to explore a young African-American man with a mysterious past entering New York high society. Newcomer Devon Terrell was to star alongside Paul Dano, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rebecca Hall. It’s not clear why the network passed on the project, but it has been added to the scrap heap alongside two series by David Fincher (“Utopia,” “Videosyncrazy”) which are now dead with Fincher heading back to his “House of Cards” home at Netflix.

Those high profile cancellations come on top of reports of troubled productions that have required major re-tooling, such as the “Lewis and Clark” mini-series which looks like it will have to completely start over.

Then there’s Jonathan Nolan’s new take on “Westworld” which the trade claims might be pushed into 2017 despite plans to have it ready last year and a report at JoBlo which suggests the network wants to launch it this Summer. The trade report claims Nolan, every bit as controlling as his filmmaker brother Chris, has had to “put aside his ego” and bring in additional producers and writers ahead of production resuming next month.

With the notable exception of “True Detective” which started white hot and suddenly went ice cold, HBO hasn’t had a breakout hit since the launch of “Game of Thrones” in 2011. They had hoped its Martin Scorsese-produced “Vinyl” might have been that, but premiere reviews were soft and ratings softer – combined with a $100 million budget for the first season, $30M of which was spent on the two-hour pilot alone, it was a big swing that has yet to connect.

Though fairing well in comedy (“Veep,” “Girls,” “Ballers”) and unscripted series (John Oliver, Bill Maher, “Vice”), they only have four original dramas on the air right now – “Vinyl,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Leftovers” which will have its final season this year, and “True Detective” whose fate seems undetermined at this point.

They do have both David Simon’s porn drama “The Deuce” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope” on the way which may help alleviate some concerns, but in an age when HBO subscriptions cost more than Netflix and Hulu, but offer decidedly less content both licensed and original, where the network might be in a few years will be interesting to see.