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Why Was ‘Westworld’ Cancelled? Explained

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld (2016)

Fans of Westworld were shocked when HBO announced that they had canceled the critically acclaimed TV series. Westworld is an HBO original series that premiered on October 2, 2016. The film is based off of the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton. This reboot series focuses on Westworld, a futuristic park run by robotic Hosts that allow visitors to live out any fantasy that their heart desires, with seemingly no consequences. No harm is allowed to come to humans and the Hosts’ memories are wiped after each fantasy. However, trouble brews when some Hosts begin to regain their memories and become sentient.

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The series received critical acclaim during its first season. Westworld season 1 also became the most-watched first season of any HBO original series. The series has received numerous Primetime Emmy Award nominations, as well as Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award nominations. With that being said, reception and viewership did start declining from season 2 onward. Even with criticism directed at the show’s plot and convoluted narrative, the show never dipped below a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Despite a few warning signs, fans still had hope for a 5th season. Showrunner Jonathan Nolan, as late as October of this year, had sounded hopeful about getting renewed for season 5. He indicated that he and co-showrunner, Lisa Joy, had always intended to create a 5th season to properly end the series. Now, with HBO announcing that the show won’t continue, fans are curious about why that is.

Why was Westworld cancelled?

HBO didn’t give a reason for canceling the series when they made their announcement. However, the reason isn’t too difficult to deduce. While the critical reception of the series never dipped too low, viewership certainly did. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the show went from an average viewership of 12 million in its first season to a meager 4 million in its 4th season. This drop in viewership is especially concerning given that Westworld was one of HBO’s most expensive TV series.

Each season became more and more expensive as it simultaneously received fewer and fewer views. Season 4’s budget was estimated to be $160 million. This budget is comparable to HBO’s House of Dragon which boasted a $129 million season 1 budget. However, House of Dragon has been averaging 10 million viewers on HBO and 29 million viewers across all streaming platforms. Needless to say, it isn’t surprising that HBO is dropping Westworld due to falling viewership when they have other big-budget shows that are getting results to focus on instead.

The news is especially understandable given the ongoing corporate shake-up as David Zaslav takes over as CEO of Warner Bros. and, subsequently, HBO. As reported by Deadline, right before Westworld was canceled, Zaslav had warned, “The grand experiment of creating something at any cost is over.” The statement comes as he employs cost-cutting strategies throughout the company and slashed projects such as Batgirl, Demimonde, and The Big D. While Westworld wasn’t explicitly listed as one of the shows targeted for cost-cutting purposes, it certainly seems to fit the type of project that Zaslav disapproves of.

(Via: THR, Featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.

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