Women Not Naked: HBO Cancels Enlightened

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Of course because Enlightened is about a woman who isn’t naked and fucking, no one watched it.  The smarter the shows about women are, the shorter their lifespan. Even HBO is now guilty of it. Sex that shit up or pay the price.

Whatever the reason, the brilliantly written, directed and acted Enlightened has been pulled just as its audience was building. What is wrong with HBO?  As the show wore on so did its word of mouth. It was never going to be the one people talked about at the water cooler the day after and it was never going to be the thrill that “girls doing things while fucking” shows are. But Enlightened was proof that someone (Mike White) felt it was worth investing in a segment of the population that is mostly ignored. Single women over 40.  It was one step in a more interesting, and yes, “enlightened” direction. It might have, ever so slightly, changed the world.

The audience was building and would have been there for season 3.  But they lost their nerve, HBO did.  I think about all of the shit they play on their many different channels all day long and I just can’t believe they don’t have room for such a rare burst of genius.  And so it goes.

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47 Comments

  1. JamesinToronto
    March 19, 2013

    You know what Sasha, just because you like something doesn’t mean it’s the best thing ever or is immune to cancellation. And ragging on Girls because it doesn’t fit your idea of what women should look like or act like on TV is short sighted. I would think you would support a woman who creates, produces, writes, directs and stars in a successful tv show but that might be asking too much of you. Shame on you. I fully expect this comment to be redacted.

  2. Kane
    March 19, 2013

    Sasha, I truly am sorry because I’ve read for a few weeks your thoughts on the show and I’ve even said I was prepared to give it a shot. However this cancellation had nothing to do with women not getting naked. You’ve been doing this for far too long to say something like that. Fox cancels great shows, FX cancels great shows, HBO is no different. HBO cancelled Deadwood, a very male centric show. They also cancelled Hung, which was about Thomas Jane and a big dick. Bored to Death and Luck we canned, Treme was facing heat and so was Oz during the third season. It’s all about ratings. You can’t blame HBO for this if they aren’t getting money from advertisers. If HBO never cared about the show they never would have taken the risk in the first place, they would’ve told Mile White to make Laura Dern show some skin, they would’ve had a crossover with Entourage. Each and every network cans great shows every single year, this just happened to be a show led by a great actress that didn’t get many viewers. And it’ll be in the pantheon of great shows that never made it past a few seasons, like Firefly and Arrested Development. Family Guy got cancelled twice!

  3. Zach
    March 19, 2013

    Enlightened was great, and I’m sad to see it go. It really hit its stride this season. SO much better than the obnoxious, conceited Girls.

  4. Bryce Forestieri
    March 19, 2013

    Ugh! Total bummer!! Laura Dern, I wish you the very best and hope you soon find a project consistent with you talent. One of the most underrated actresses of the last 25+ years.

    SO much better than the obnoxious, conceited Girls.

    Nah. don’t be hating

  5. Aragorn
    March 19, 2013

    It is all about ratings game…There are sooo many other shows that have all the nudity or sex and still get cancelled.

    Also, I would expect that a young woman who writes/directs/acts would get more support from a blogger who claims to support women in TV and movies… Oh maybe if that young woman were black, she would have been labeled as a”revolutionary” in this site!

  6. menyc
    March 19, 2013

    Sad, we all hoped it could last. That said, kudos for Mike White and Laura Dern for completing a perfect 2nd season arc. One of the best season and series finales in years. The show was just too smart and unique to catch on. I honestly feel it will have a following in its future like Freaks & Geeks and Arrested Development.

    Oh and I blame Krista.
    “Fucking. Krista.”

  7. Tyrion Lannister
    March 19, 2013

    Thank the Old Gods and the New for Game of Thrones!

  8. filmboymichael
    March 19, 2013

    The writing, acting and directing of this show made me swoon weekly (give Diane Ladd an Emmy stat!), but it is a ratings game and no matter how you try to spin this, the ratings weren’t improving – they were often flat or worse than the first season. It wasn’t watercooler enough (although it was where I work), and I imagine it was a fairly expensive venture. At least it got a second season and a satisfying finale, which is more than I can say for the HIGHLY underrated The Comeback

  9. Nic V
    March 19, 2013

    Well I’m dissappointed to see that it will be cancelled. There were a number of bright spots in Enlightened. First was that Luke Wilson became an actor again and not some weak imitation of his brother. The shining star in Enlightened was indeed Diane Ladd. One of the main problems was that Laura Dern’s character didn’t grow at all during the two seasons I watched. The Dern character seemed to be stuck at a bus stop waiting for the number 7 and every time the number 7 stopped Laura couldn’t figure out whether to get on or not and that wasn’t her fault it was completely the fault of the writer or writers. It was filled with interesting characters but the story just never really evolved so that even though the cast was interesting it seemed like in Season 2 they were doing the same schtick over and over. It had nothing to do with not being naked it had to do with weak scripts. I don’t recall seeing any nudity in Veep and that show works because the writing is biting and top notch. You can’t write a show that flatlines like Enlightened did during the second season and expect people to hang on. I watched every show but boy the last couple episodes almost felt like going to the dentist for a root canal.

  10. Andrew
    March 20, 2013

    What about Homeland?

  11. Max G
    March 20, 2013

    Midlife crisis much, Sasha?

  12. vv
    March 20, 2013

    Such disappointing news.

  13. James
    March 20, 2013

    Veep you fucking plonker.

  14. Sean
    March 20, 2013

    “But they lost their nerve, HBO did. I think about all of the shit they play on their many different channels all day long and I just can’t believe they don’t have room for such a rare burst of genius. And so it goes.”

    HBO is notorious for giving shows a chance even when they don’t hit their ratings marks and Enlightened was no different. HBO gave them a second season after abysmal ratings the first season. They obviously believe in the show, but television is a business. And by shit they play do you mean Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Girls, Treme, Veep, The News Room, Real Time with Bill Maher? HBO has the best shows on television and consistently produces great inspiring work from unique artists. A lot of shows just don’t make it. That is not HBO’s fault.

  15. Gentle Benj
    March 20, 2013

    And if Girls were to get canceled it would be because of our profoundly sex-negative culture or something. Welcome to Mad Libs: Outrage Edition.

  16. Valerie
    March 20, 2013

    Great show, a disappointment but not a surprise. But Sasha I think you might be a bit jaded. At the end of the day TV is a business. And rather than blasting HBO, I actually give them credit for green lighting this and giving us 2 seasons.

    As for Girls, it’s not my cup of tea but I can’t help but admire Lena Dunham and what she’s accomplished with this show, giving 20 something women something sort of reverent and topical. As I age I realize my view of feminism has changed from women having to be cold and patriarchal to be taken seriously to celebrating who we are and accomplishing the impossible based on that not the fact society seems to think successful women have to be “male like”. I think Girls encompasses a lot of that message to younger women. Maybe I’m looking at it as being more highbrow than it is, but I can’t help but understand why younger women embrace this, same as women my age embraced SATC in its day.

  17. Kane
    March 20, 2013

    I admire Dunham for running a show on HBO starting in her mid twenties after only doing an indie feature. I commend HBO for having the balls to letting Dunham do whatever she wanted. She’s not the stereotypical bombshell and she’s running her own show. If a show like Enlightened ever saw a third season I would’ve been shocked. Why? Because that means it would have had all the ratings it needed to get through to another go around. How many people out there even pay for premium channels? How many of that small majority, when compared to the rest of the population, watch shows other than Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and Entourage (great shows in my opinion)? Between HBO and Showtime you have two great networks that constantly release shows centering on women or a woman. They’ve given us Enlightened, United States of Tara, The Big C, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Veep, Sex and the City, Girls, The Comeback, (half of) Homeland and practically most of Big Love. Most of those shows also centered on one or multiple middle-aged women, not some sexy ol’ barbie dolls. Were some of these cancelled? Yes. At least they were given a very fair shot.

  18. Ryan B
    March 20, 2013

    Enlightened was fantastic.

  19. Jeff
    March 20, 2013

    Kane — the thing your missing is that those other shows got more than two seasons. Even bored to death got three. And that show never won awards. Enlightened at least got a golden globe for Laura dern. The point is, enlightened was robbed of more seasons. All those other shoes you brought up had more life.

  20. joeyhegele
    March 20, 2013

    I do not even understand why HBO cancels a show because of low ratings. Unlike network and basic cable, HBO does not make its money off of how much they can charge for commercial time (which is dictated by the number of folks watching). It is not as if people are cancelling their subscription just because they are not watching Enlightened. Also, it is not as if Enlightened is a really expensive show like Deadwood. I am just so confused about why they did this.

  21. Lars
    March 20, 2013

    Menyc, definitely one of the best seasons and series finales on TV! I really don’t agree with someone above saying that the characters didn’t change. Did you watch the show at all? The finale=”Agent of Change”!! Even Dougie got a softer side to him. One of the themes of the show is about how hard it is to change and sometimes we are tempted back into our old selves. That’s the central conflict in the series. AND, the second season also has a central driving plot really gives this show momentum and goal. Also, the writing is fantastic, so Nic V, don’t bash the show just because it’s not your cup of tea.

  22. March 20, 2013

    Sasha, have you turned the worm on Lena Dunham?

    Isn’t it sexist to arbitrarily pit one woman against another?

    Can Girls not enjoy its success even as Enlightenment faces cancellation?

    I’d argue, if anything, premium cable in the last couple of years has been better for women than men when it comes to variety in roles and subject matter.

  23. March 20, 2013

    Don’t you think it’s possible to admire Lena Dunham and enjoy the hell out of Girls at the same time recognize that it’s one of the most bluntly sexual series in the history of television?

    Surely you’re not thinking Sasha has anything against nudity or sex onscreen. But there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that one series is overtly sexualized while another series is not, and then realizing which one got cancelled.

    Yes yes, it’s about ratings. Obviously.

    I hope it’s just as obvious that Enlightened’s ratings would have been higher if Mike White had written more scenes where Laura Dern got to bounce up and down on dicks.

    How is this in doubt?

  24. March 20, 2013

    Isn’t it sexist to arbitrarily pit one woman against another?

    To answer your question. No.

    Unless you’re now saying women’s gymnastics is sexist. Doesn’t the Oscar for Best Actress “pit one woman against another” ? Eek! Sexist!!

    But what Sasha is saying has nothing to do with pitting women against women. The parallel being drawn is TV series against TV series.

    I’m so frickin’ sick of people trying to twist things Sasha says into into halfassed ‘evidence’ that she’s racist or sexist. It’s a grotesque distortion of the terms.

  25. Zach
    March 20, 2013

    I thought Sasha loved Girls. Maybe she still does. I didn’t watch Enlightened, though Laura Dern is a terrific actor. As far as the ratings go, she just doesn’t have that star pull, and the show seemed like a downer without enough of a hook. It was also poorly marketed even if slotted after Girls.

  26. Kane
    March 20, 2013

    @Jeff, true indeed but that’s very beside the point. Rome and Carnivale lasted only two seasons. The whole point was that even something as great as Enlightened can succumb to few viewers. As a matter of fact I’m eating lunch at my favorite cafe, I go there 3 times a week. The one drink I always get is this raspberry iced tea. Not 15 minutes ago the waitress said they no longer serve it because nobody, other than me and a few others, were buying it and it wasn’t worth making it and letting it sit around. I know it’s apples and oranges but something as flavorful as that raspberry iced tea, or Enlightened, can go away if nobody’s paying attention to its greatness. I won’t blame the cafe on this one.

  27. Kane
    March 20, 2013

    Big whoops on my end!!! Jeff didn’t write the above post, it was me. @Ryan, help me out pal!

  28. March 20, 2013

    got ya covered, Kane.

  29. March 20, 2013

    Sex and the City was much more graphic its first season, and got more chaste as the series ran on. And it lasted longer than it should have while producing those two awful features.

    Hung, which concerned a gigolo, only lasted three seasons.

    Sasha’s reaction seems knee-jerk. It sucks that a show she (and others) really liked got canceled. But, her argument that adding more blunt sex would have preserved it for another go-around doesn’t have much substance.

  30. March 20, 2013

    Sex and the City was much more graphic its first season

    no way. wrong.

    Which episodes of Sex and the City showed pubic hair and cum shots or any “sex scenes” that lasted more than a few seconds.

    Which character on Sex and the City ever even showed her nipples beside Miranda?

  31. March 20, 2013

    Hung, which concerned a gigolo, only lasted three seasons.

    gosh, turns out not a lot of men tune in to watch a show about a guy who has a bigger cock that the men expected to return every week to watch him swing it around. Now we know. Experiment gone awry.

    Besides, the sex in Hung was never sexy. It was usually depicted as a chore.

  32. March 20, 2013

    I thought they all showed their nipples (except for Sarah Jessica Parker) in the beginning. Perhaps my memory fails me.

  33. March 20, 2013

    good grief, Vince. Sex and the City was 15 years ago. 15 years ago it was wildly risqué to hear somebody say the word ‘orgasm’ on TV.

  34. March 20, 2013

    I thought they all showed their nipples (except for Sarah Jessica Parker) in the beginning. Perhaps my memory fails me

    dunno. Luckily, my entire argument does not hang on the tips of nipples. The fact that the nipples aren’t poking up my memory verifies to me that the sex in Sex and the City was mostly all talk. Just dumb double entendres.

  35. Kane
    March 20, 2013

    I know I would’ve tuned in if Mike White showed some nips…no? Just me?

  36. CMG
    March 20, 2013

    I’m just glad it existed, frankly.

    And Girls is great. To me they are different shows but do feel like kindred spirits in many ways. Had it not been for Girls and Enlightened back to back, I would not have discovered the latter. So credit where credit is due.

  37. Jason B
    March 20, 2013

    “It was never going to be the one people talked about at the water cooler the day after”

    That might have been its problem. At least HBO isn’t as trigger happy as Fox to cancel shows.

    Personally, many network should take a more BBC approach with shows that might not have the lifespan, but have a strong, passionate following. Eight or so episodes, self-standing plot, and shorter lifespans for the series. If it gets renewed then it’s pleasant, but if not, it was a finished story anyway that people can continue to enjoy without feelings of “Why did this get canceled?” or “It was canceled so it must have sucked.”

    There just seems to be a 1-size fits all model (i.e. 24 episodes, seven-year series) to TV, unless it’s a mini-series.

  38. Jim
    March 20, 2013

    “Surely you’re not thinking Sasha has anything against nudity or sex onscreen. But there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that one series is overtly sexualized while another series is not, and then realizing which one got cancelled.”

    Ryan, you can’t be this disingenuous, can you? Sasha immediately goes from saying that it didn’t work because it’s not about women naked and fucking to, in the very next line, saying that the smarter the show about women, the more likely it gets cancelled. While she never mentions Girls by name, the entire post reads like a slam of it, implying that it’s just a show about fucking that works because ladies are naked.

    The entire post reeks of hostility and sour grapes in a really ugly way. Par for the course here, and that’s part of what keeps the site interesting, frankly, but don’t pretend it’s the clearminded statement about gender that you reformatted it as in the comments.

  39. March 20, 2013

    Ryan, you can’t be this disingenuous, can you?

    If you think Sasha is slamming Girls, if you think Sasha resents the use of sex and nudity onscreen, please consider the possibility that I know Sasha better than you do. Or else maybe just follow her on twitter or something. It’s no secret that Sasha is a huge fan of Girls. And nudity. And sex.

  40. March 20, 2013

    Whether or not Sasha intended this post to stir up a tempest in a teacup and generate a little traffic, it was brilliantly played. And, perhaps by adding nudity, HBO may have renewed Enlightened for one more order of episodes. Buy, hey, The C Word added nudity and all it got was three seasons. Your turn.

  41. March 20, 2013

    Sorry, The Big C. Not The C Word (which was the original title).

  42. March 20, 2013

    Nurse Jackie: No nude Edie Falco, four seasons. Weeds? Maybe Sasha should switch over to Showtime on her cable package.

  43. brian
    March 20, 2013

    I only watch shows that have nudity

  44. Kane
    March 21, 2013

    I know ratings SPIKED when Dennis Franz showed his ass on NYPD Blue

  45. himynameiscole
    March 21, 2013

    almost all of the sex and nudity in girls is intensely awkward and sometimes terrifying. when they cut to a sex scene in the show, i’m usually cringing. even though i don’t really like the show or the characters, i admire it in the way that hbo has given dunham the freedom to do what she wants, and i like seeing what she does with it. she is showing sex between pretty narcissistic and self-indulged characters, and it is usually very ugly. when i talk to friends or read comments about the show and the sex scenes, people are usually talking about how uncomfortable it was. my point is i’m not sure anyone really tunes in to girls for the sex and nudity. if anything, people have stopped watching because of it.

  46. Ruth
    March 22, 2013

    Sorry Sasha, but imo you are blinded by your feminist-type rants. It’s becoming a bit like the boy who cried wolf. I have always come to this site for movie news and movie pieces. There are other well-known feminists who I love to read, but sadly I find your analysis half-baked. Sadly, it is beginning to flood all your pieces on this site.

    Im a transwoman, and I adored Hit&Miss, which was cancelled after 1 (very good) season. Was I disappointed? Yes, a little. Was I going to blame its cancellation on viewers being transphobic? Hell no!

    HBO also has a proven track record of challenging its viewers with new and interesting material. HBO gave this show a chance, and the show failed to deliver to boardroom expectations. Simple as that. Just cherish the 2 Seasons this show has, instead of complaining about its cancellation.

  47. March 29, 2013

    Sorry, but I don’t watch Game of Thrones to see tits. And I missed where Claire Danes is always fucking in the major hit Homeland. Shows don’t succeed or fail depending on how much nudity there is. I am not going out on a limb to assume that the majority of viewers who watch Girls are female. So the nudity isn’t really there to turn them on either. This is another misguided feminist rant.

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