On Friday, HBO made an announcement that was shocking, at least to some: They had decided to cancel Westworld — that is, their loose take on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film — after four seasons. There would be no wrap-up (or at least there won’t be yet). The show was simply done. But why did they give it the boot?
HBO has yet to publicly address the reasons behind their move, but it’s not hard to speculate why. For one thing, there’s the dwindling viewership. When it premiered in 2016, Westworld was an immediate sensation: Its first episode was had the highest viewership for an HBO premiere since True Detective. The reception to its second season was a bit more lukewarm. The third season followed that trajectory, as did the fourth. The last two seasons saw ratings plumet, turning it into a shadow of its once ratings powerhouse self.
The show might have still been able to power through on creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan’s plans for a six season arc. Problem is, it was also expensive. The first season cost around $100 million. Season four, meanwhile, saw the cost balloon to $160 million. One reason behind the high pricetag is that the show switched locations every two seasons, on top of all the special effects required to create androids.
Once David Zaslav took over as head of the newly merged HBO Max Discovery — and started making brash moves — surely an expensive show that was no longer drawing large numbers wasn’t long for this world. And now it’s gone. But hey, maybe a real world Westworld, made by people who never watched the show or movie, may be in the offing.