*Disclaimer: This article is from The Brock Press’ 2018 satire publication, which followed the theme of ‘fake news’ meant to bring humour to our readers. All quotes are attributed to made up characters.
One of the most ambitious shows in media history will not be coming back for another season, according to the network that conceived it.
After 242 seasons, HBO has cancelled America, its experimental drama covering the development of an entire country since its creation in 1776. A spokesperson from the network declined to comment, but it seems that ratings have rapidly dropped over the last four seasons, after Michael Bay took over from Aaron Sorkin as series showrunner.
“They brought me in because they wanted to breathe more life into the show,” Bay has told The Brock Press. “I wanted to be ambitious. The writer’s room put together the most insane Presidency arc I’ve ever seen; it’s a shame we’re being cut off before we can see it come to fruition.”
The introduction of the current president on the show, it seems, has led to the ratings drop. Though it initially seemed to be a more comedic arc, critics have said that the show has struggled to strike a consistent tone, turning from political tragedy to Adam-Sandler-esque comedy at the drop of a hat.
“When a show introduces an arc about election fraud at the same time as introducing a porn star ex-lover filing a suit against the President, it’s hard to know what that show is going for,” wrote one review. Esteemed critic and intellectual John Oliver dubbed the arc ‘Stupidgate’, referring to the popular Watergate arc of the 1970s, but in which ‘every single character is a complete idiot’.
Fans of the show have also lamented that the recent presidential arc has been “all-encompassing”. One of the consistent strengths of America has been its multiple plot lines. Since the most recent Election Campaign arc, however, almost every scene in the show has dealt solely with the presidency.
“There were a lot of fascinating stories running parallel a few years ago,” writes one Tumblr fan account dedicated to the show. “There was a subplot about a town in Michigan whose water was poisoned. There was a lengthy arc about protests against police brutality. Now it’s just the one plot line, and it’s getting more ridiculous each episode.”
“We had to put a lot of energy into this President’s story,” Producer Zack Finder has said in a response to such critiques. ‘Yes, we had to make some sacrifices, but I felt it was worth it to capture the epic scale of the story. We tried to keep other threads going with the live Twitter feed, but apparently it wasn’t enough’.
Bay is referring to the Twitter banner that runs at the bottom of the screen during every episode of the most recent season. It features tweet from the main characters, particularly the president, as well as other side characters, and world-building elements including arguments about political correctness and the numerical rating systems for dogs. Though entertaining, many viewers have found them to be largely superfluous. Many of the tweets from the President have been difficult to understand, often completely different from what is actually happening in the show.
Bay has said that this was part of an ambitious marketing campaign, which also saw an actor from the show pretend to officially run for President.
“He wasn’t a popular character on the show, we didn’t expect it to go anywhere,” Bay said. “We didn’t expect it to go very far, but a lot of people were in support of that. It’s crazy to think that something like that might actually happen.”
America has both been too reliant on shock tactics, and too mundane in recent years. In the last five seasons, the number of episodes in which mass shootings occur has rapidly risen; though incredibly moving and popular when first introduced, these episodes are failing to draw any attention anymore.
In response to this, a number of controversial arcs surrounding the President have been introduced in an attempt to bring viewers back.
“He’s not a good person,” says actor Ballic Aldwin, who is playing the current President on the show. “He seems to have a lot of support in the fanbase, which I’ve found incredibly confusing, but we’ve tried to make it very clear on the show that he’s corrupt and unfit to be the President. So Michael (Bay) has been working with the writers on a more compelling villain for the next few seasons.”
It is likely that Day Lewis is referring to the suggestions this season of the impending threat of Russian bots, which keep appearing within the show’s live twitter feed, and mentioned at certain points in the show. This plot thread never came to any head, but Finder says that huge developments were going to come next season.
‘People assume we were talking about twitter bots, hackers and stuff,’ Finder says. ‘But here’s the thing: in the next season, Russia was actually going to invade. With giant robots. It’s been a while since we’ve had a high-action war thread, and I wanted to really bring the big guns.’
Bay has also teased that, in the next season, the current President would go toe-to-toe with the Russian leader in a giant mech fight. Recent seasons have focused on increasingly petty squabbles, such as whether or not the current President’s hair is real, but Bay had hoped that this fight would bring the show back to the serious, grounded drama it’s renowned for.
It’s unclear what HBO intends to do with the now empty time slot that has been emptied by the show. Many fans have been hoping that they might revive a classic show like The Flight of the Conchords, or simply play reruns of Game of Thrones 24/7 until the final season airs. HBO executives seem enthusiastic about expanding Bill Maher’s presence on the network, for some reason. In any case, the legacy of America will be hard to live up to. It’s a shame for everyone involved that it was run into the ground by one insane storyline.