Amazon Studios has cancelled I Love Dick, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, and One Mississippi, Variety reports. The cancellations are part of a larger strategy coming from the top: Jeff Bezos has ordered the studio to back away from the kind of niche-y original programming they built their name on in search of broader material that performs better internationally.
One Mississippi was a semiautobiographical show from Tig Notaro and Diablo Cody about Notaro’s return to her hometown that adroitly mixed comedy and tragedy. I Love Dick, Jill Soloway’s follow-up to Transparent, was an adaptation of Chris Kraus’ novel about a female filmmaker’s infatuation with a male artist, relocated to Marfa, Texas. Jean-Claude Van Johnson was an action series from David Callaham—released just over a month ago—in which Jean-Claude Van Damme played an action star named “Jean-Claude Van Damme” who also works as an undercover agent. All three shows were developed under Roy Price, the disgraced studio head fired after allegations of sexual harassment, but this isn’t a case of sweeping out an old regime: Price had begun implementing Bezos’ strategy before his abrupt departure.
On its face, this is terrible news: there’s not exactly a surfeit of distinctive, critically-acclaimed female-developed television series, and Amazon just cancelled two in one day. But looking more closely, it’s even worse news: Amazon is consciously following the same international-led strategy that turned the major studios into superhero movie factories over the last decade. In that spirit—and in hopes of scoring their own Game of Thrones-size hit—the studio is developing a series based on The Lord of the Rings. (Peter Jackson’s six-film series ran to a paltry 22 hours in the extended editions; thank God the Tolkien universe will finally get the broader canvas of television!) We all know how this is going to play out: like Lord of the Rings, everybody already saw it at the movies.