Controversy has surrounded the HBO horse racing drama Luck since production on the show’s first season. Early on, it was reported that two horses died on set. The deaths have been attributed by animal rights activists to negligence on the parts of the network and the crew. Just yesterday, it was reported that a third horse was injured and had to be euthanized during production on a Season Two episode. In light of this, HBO promptly decided to cancel the critically acclaimed (but low rated) series altogether.
Although production for Season Two was already underway, HBO decided that the matter at hand takes precedence, pulling the plug on its newest drama. Although the old maxim says that controversy surrounding a show pulls in viewers, some controversies are big enough to extinguish the programs altogether, including the other defunct series.
As an MTV series about underage teens drinking, doing drugs and having sex, Skins was cursed with controversy from the start. Although the program came from a popular and critically acclaimed British series, the American incarnation was never associated with the same veneration. It reached the point where Skins was under investigation for child pornography laws (which lost it a good deal of its sponsors). Shortly after, MTV canceled Skins, to absolutely no one’s surprise.
I Love Money
Like Luck, VH1’s I Love Money’s controversy concerned the tragic goings on behind the scenes, rather than onscreen. During the third season of I Love Money, contestant Ryan Jenkins was declared the primary suspect in the brutal murder and mutilation of his wife, Jasmine Fiore. Shortly after Fiore’s death, Jenkins himself was found dead in an apparent suicide. Unable to escape these connotations through its fourth season, I Love Money was soon canceled.
The Playboy Club
A recent addition to the list is NBC’s The Playboy Club, a period drama set in Chicago’s Playboy Club in 1961. Well before its series premiere, The Playboy Club was earning a great deal of heat from a variety of interest groups. It was admonished for its “vulgar,” sexual nature, and for its “degrading” portrayal of women. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem, who went undercover in New York’s Playboy Club as an investigative journalist in 1961, spoke out against the series as an unrealistic and exploitative depiction of the setting. NBC canceled The Playboy Club shortly into its first season.
The Smothers Brothers
Controversial television dates back to the 1960s. The comedy duo Tom and Dick Smothers’ CBS variety show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was one of the earliest pieces of satirical comedy, taking shots at issues like the Vietnam War and the government. Not long after musician and activist Joan Baez came on the show to comment on her husband’s imprisonment for refusing to serve in the military, CBS pulled the show abruptly.
As its title would suggest, ABC’s current events talk show Politically Incorrect often treaded the waters of what some might consider appropriate subject matter. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, host Bill Maher and guest Dinesh D’Souza made critical remarks about President George W. Bush’s dubbing of the terrorists as cowards. Maher went on to apply the title of cowardice to the American military, although apologized soon afterward, and specified that he was not referring to the soldiers themselves, but to U.S. military policy. Maher’s inflammatory remarks are often cited as the reason ABC canceled the long-running series the following June.