The series of animated shorts Jon Stewart has been developing for HBO has been canceled, The New York Times reports. The project was first announced in 2015, when Stewart signed a four-year contract with HBO after leaving The Daily Show. HBO told the Times that the problems were mostly technical:
We all thought the project had great potential, but there were technical issues in terms of production and distribution that proved too difficult given the quick turnaround and topical nature of the material. We’re excited to report that we have some future projects together, which you will be hearing about in the near future.
Besides the unexpected echoes of Criswell (“future Jon Stewart projects such as these will be announced in the future!”), the news isn’t too surprising, given the way the project has mutated since Stewart arrived at HBO. Originally, he was planning to make several animated shorts per day for HBO Now. A year later, the project had become even more ambitious: Now he would make short videos for HBO Now while simultaneously producing 30 minute episodes of “an animated parody of a cable news network with an Onion-like portal,” all in time to cover the election. The project depended on animation technology belonging to graphics company Otoy, designed to allow Stewart to produce animation quickly enough to comment on the news while it was still news. No one could have anticipated the way Donald Trump would warp the very fabric of space-time to increase the pace of the news cycle, but this seems like a production challenge even under a sedate, competent president.
It will be interesting to see what Stewart tries next—there’s not exactly a shortage of late-night hosts with humorous takes on current events these days, and John Oliver has HBO’s Daily Show–style news slot already locked up. Perhaps Stewart can finally return to his first love: infecting high schoolers with alien parasites.