The showrunners of “Tuca & Bertie,” “Gordita Chronicles” and “Whistleblower” have rallied together under WGA West to call out the ways in which they believe the merger that created Warner Bros. Discovery led to the abrupt cancellations of their series.
The comments came in a new “Broken Promises Bulletin” — an addendum to a December 2021 report on the harm of mega-mergers — published Monday by the Writers Guild of America West, titled “How the Warner Bros. Discovery Merger Hurts Workers and Diversity.”
“The casualties of this mega-merger include numerous projects created by, featuring and/or centering the experiences of women and people of color,” the post states, citing multiple titles that have been scrapped by the David Zaslav-led company since the April 2022 close of the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, “including ‘Batgirl,’ one of very few mainstream superhero films to feature a Latina lead actress; ‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,’ one of a handful of woman-hosted late-night shows; ‘Gordita Chronicles,’ a series about a Dominican immigrant family whose showrunner was a Latina woman; ‘Tuca & Bertie,’ an animated series featuring two lead women of color, and ‘Chad,’ a series about Middle Eastern Americans created by and starring Iranian American comedian Nasim Pedrad.”
WGA’s resurfaced concerns regarding the WBD merger come amid talks of a potential industrywide writers strike.
In a statement to Variety, WBD said it is “committed to facilitating greater inclusion of underrepresented groups in larger numbers both in front of and behind the camera. While there is always more work to do, we are proud that so many of our diverse creative partners have recently been recognized with Emmys, Golden Globes, GLAAD, and NAACP awards and nominations. And, earlier this month, the WGA itself recognized our shows and diverse writing teams with 14 Writers Guild Award nominations across 12 original titles. We will continue to nurture diverse writing talent and create inclusion across the industry. Our global pipeline programs are dedicated to providing pathways for underrepresented creatives across a variety of categories including writing, music supervision, producing, show running and animation – all with the shared purpose of ensuring more marginalized creatives have an opportunity to learn and earn a place within Warner Bros. Discovery and the industry at large.”
See the creators’ written claims in full below, and read the WGA’s addendum in its entirety here.
“I got into television to counter the negative mainstream stereotypes about Latino communities and tell
stories like ‘Gordita Chronicles,’ which features a young Dominican girl who immigrates with her family to
Miami. The showrunner and I did everything in our power to set the show up for success, and the first
season was showered with positive reviews and strong viewership numbers. But after the merger, HBO Max was given a new mandate from its Discovery leadership to cut costs and Gordita Chronicles was cancelled just five weeks after first airing, and will now even be removed from the platform. The studio executives claimed the cancellation reflected HBO ‘rebranding’—by implication, away from shows about Latino families. This merger has provided pretty stark and immediate evidence that industry consolidation not only harms diversity and inclusion, but can also contribute to the erasure of U.S. Latinos.”
— Claudia Forestieri, creator and executive producer of “Gordita Chronicles”
“I originally created ‘Tuca & Bertie’ for Netflix, but when they canceled it after just one season, we fought
to get the series picked up at Warner’s Adult Swim network. The women-led series had been a cult hit and a critical darling—the Warner execs knew it needed advertising support and time to grow viewers in the male-dominated adult animation space. But the merger went through right before the most recent season launched, and almost everyone who worked on the ‘Tuca & Bertie’ marketing team was laid off. Then several of the show’s main executives at Adult Swim and HBO Max left in the turmoil. Planned marketing projects to promote the new season didn’t happen. Then we learned the show had been cancelled. It’s already harder for shows centered on women, and this merger cost us the support we needed to thrive.”
— Lisa Hanawalt, creator and executive producer of “Tuca & Bertie”
“I created a drama that focused on women lawyers and advocates who fought against a culture of sexual harassment and corruption in the U.S. military, achieving historic gains after the murder of Mexican American soldier Vanessa Guillén at Fort Hood. After a competitive bidding process with multiple outlets, I sold Whistleblower to HBO Max in February 2021. During development, we received only compliments from our executives. The leads were three BIPOC women, and it was a story I was excited to tell. Despite it all, the series was canceled soon after the merger, before it went into production. The press speculation is that the new company is focusing more on what’s seen as ‘Middle America’ content. But Black, Asian, and Latinx communities are Middle America too.”
— Moisés Zamora, creator and executive producer of “Whistleblower”
The new WGA report ends with the assertion: “The series of mergers that led us here—first the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger and then the $43 billion WarnerMedia Discovery merger—have each promised to create a better competitor, but have instead left the merged entity debt-burdened and focused on cutting costs to rationalize these disastrous business decisions. Yet media’s merger mania shows no sign of slowing; the latest industry speculation is that Comcast may next seek to acquire Warner Bros. Discovery. Absent government intervention, this cycle of reactive consolidation will likely continue until it leaves just three or four companies controlling all content, while content creators and consumers pay the price for these costly mergers.”