Amazon has canceled three original series — “I Love Dick,” “One Mississippi,” and “Jean-Claude Van Johnson.” The move continues an aggressive shift by the digital giant away from the original-programming strategy championed by ousted Amazon Studios president Roy Price and toward a new approach mandated by company founder Jeff Bezos, who has called for bigger, broader series with the potential to perform well internationally.
Produced by FX Productions, “One Mississippi” starred co-creator Tig Notaro and was the most lauded of the three canceled shows. Its second season premiered in September. “I Love Dick,” from Jill Soloway, deputed in May, but did not receive the critical or national-media attention that Soloway’s groundbreaking Amazon original “Transparent” earned. “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” a comedy starring the action-movie actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, premiered last month.
All three shows were developed under Price, who was fired last year following a sexual-harassment investigation. Prior to his dismissal, Price had been ordered by Bezos to abandon the niche programming strategy that had led to critical and awards success with series such as “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” but yielded no broad cross-demographic hits along the lines of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
The departure of Price and several other programming executives last year upended the leadership structure at Amazon Studios, where former ABC digital executive Albert Cheng is now serving as active head and former Fox international television executive Sharon Tal Yguado was promoted to development chied. While Amazon brass is said to be pleased with Cheng and Yguado, Bezos and Jeffrey Blackburn, senior VP of business development and entertainment for the company, are believed to be having conversations with several high-level entertainment executives about coming aboard. Industry speculation has focused on A+E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc, NBC’s Jennifer Salke, and former Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal. Amazon’s search is believed to be focused primarily on female executives. Fox’s Dana Walden has withdrawn from consideration for an Amazon position. YouTube’s Susanne Daniels is also said to no longer be in the running.
Amazon enjoyed success at the Golden Globes this month, where original series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” won awards for comedy series and actress in a comedy series for star Rachel Brosnahan. The company is exploring further development with “Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, with whom it has an overall deal. Amazon also has 12 projects in various stages of development with Skybound Entertainment and “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, whom Tal Yguado recruited into an overall deal last year. And Bezos was personally involved in successful negotiations last year to secure rights to produce a series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
Soloway also remains under an overall deal with Amazon. But the future of “Transparent” remains unclear, as sexual harassment allegations last year against star Jeffrey Tambor have thrown plans for a fifth season into limbo.