Amazon Studios has canceled three critically acclaimed comedies: “One Mississippi,” “I Love Dick” and “Jean-Claude Van Johnson.” The decision continues a roller-coaster stretch for the studio, which recently lost its president, Roy Price, following sexual harassment allegations; scored a “Lord of the Rings” adaptation; and picked up wins at the Golden Globes.
The cancellations signal a recalibration for Amazon, which has taken a middle path in output compared to Netflix — which plans to flood the market with new shows and movies, estimating to spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on original content in 2018 — and HBO, which has devoted its resources to a few cultural juggernauts like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld.”
Amazon spent an estimated $4.5 billion in 2017 and tried to reach an array of audiences. “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” was an action comedy starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a washed-up version of himself, while “One Mississippi,” created by Tig Notaro, and “I Love Dick,” by Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins, explored sickness, sexuality and gender roles with a frank honesty. All three received strong reviews, but they mostly failed to break into award races or generate mainstream attention.
The studio is not abandoning female-led comedies altogether: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will move forward after winning best television comedy series at the Golden Globes this month; and the studio just inked a two-year deal with Sharon Horgan, the creator of “Catastrophe.” But the move does indicate a scaling back of smaller projects in favor of landing a mainstream hit. The studio passed on three comedy pilots in December — including the Bridget Everett vehicle “Love You More” — and canceled the feminist show “Good Girls Revolt,” set in 1969 and ‘70.
The studio will now turn its attention toward larger projects, including its $200 million prize acquisition: an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” an action series starring John Krasinski, will arrive this year, while “The Romanoffs,” a new show from “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, is in development.
Amazon also announced Thursday that “The Tick” was picked up for a second season. The future of “Transparent,” Jill Soloway’s critically beloved show, remains in limbo following sexual harassment allegations against its star Jeffrey Tambor.