Oh, poor DC Universe, you remain a mystery even to yourself.
To reset the table for you: Swamp Thing, DC’s third live-action original for its still very young streaming service, was canceled less than a week after its debut. Not entirely shocking when you consider that the show’s 13-episode order had previously been cut by 3 without warning. Rarely is that kind of cutback a good sign. However, fears of yet another troubled superhero production were seemingly squashed when the pilot debuted to fairly strong reviews. Hey, everyone, this thing doesn’t totally suck! In fact, it might be worth wa…
And then it was canceled.
With no explanation or formal announcement.
Even the show’s high-powered producer, James Wan, was left in the dark, commenting on Instagram, “Don’t really know or understand why #SwampThing was canceled.”
Urge to believe conspiracy theory, rising.
Or so the internet seemed to feel, which is why everyone, myself included, fell for a tall tale about some kind of improbable paperwork mix-up suddenly putting WB on the hook for millions it had assumed it would be getting in tax credits from North Carolina, which is where the show was filmed.
Deadline, THR, io9, and others, however, followed up directly with the North Carolina Film Office and were told there was no truth to the theory. Yes, North Carolina’s tax credit rules are such that WB had to apply twice, first for the Swamp Thing pilot and then again for the rest of the season, but there was no paperwork error in that process. WB applied for a combined total of $17 million in tax credits, and the check is in the mail.
If that’s not the culprit, then what exactly happened here? THR’s sources are saying it’s not as complicated as we want to believe it is. Simply put, Warner Bros. TV, the studio responsible for the production of the show, lost faith in the finished product. They didn’t think Swamp Thing was very good and thus transitioned into simply keeping it going to bolster their DC Universe original content library even though they had no intention of bringing it back for a second season.
The official cancellation decision came when it did because WB-TV was faced with a deadline and ultimately opted against paying the millions it would take to store the show’s sets in North Carolina. If not for that, their true plans for the show would have likely stayed secret and the first season would have played out without anyone knowing it had no chance of coming back.
Frankly, something about this still seems off. WB-TV has shown far more patience with other superhero properties which maybe didn’t get off to the best start, like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Swamp Thing, meanwhile, is DC Universe’s second best show, according to RottenTomatoes. It must seriously go off the rails by the end of the season. Or it stays basically the same quality throughout but simply isn’t the type of show WB-TV wanted or thought it was getting. Or we still don’t know the full story.
Either way, DC Universe doesn’t know what to tell its fans about all of this. Here’s what they posted in their Watchtower forum:
The full 10 episode season of Swamp Thing will continue to air on DC Universe with new episodes released weekly. There are no current plans for a Season 2.
We appreciate there are questions as to why,’ but unfortunately we are not in a position to answer at this time.
And now, the good news: DC Universe continues to develop new shows, new seasons, new stories, more availability, and more platforms. We’ve got a lot of exciting plans for our other shows in the works, and look forward to sharing more in the coming months.
According to THR, DC Universe’s claims of ignorance are genuine. This all came above their pay grade, and the DCU executives have yet to receive any guidance from their bosses as to where the streaming service fits – if at all – into WarnerMedia’s larger streaming strategy. Possibilities include DCU being folder entirely into WarnerMedia’s streamer, turned into an add-on subscription to go along with a base package, or perhaps kept separate but entering into a windowing strategy wherein its originals would eventually also appear on WarnerMedia. For now, all DC Universe can do is move forward with business as usual.
Not that there’s anything completely usual about this right now.