Sunday, 5 February 2023

The CW will not develop any pilots for 2023-24, likely ending BABYLON 5 reboot development

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the American channel CW has effectively abandoned the development of new, original drama programming. It will not pick up any new pilots for the 2023-24 season and may only renew three of its existing shows for next year (only one, All American, has been announced). For genre fans, this likely means the end of any chances for the Babylon 5 reboot project to move ahead at the channel.

The CW has spent many years as a relatively scrappy underdog, putting out a number of successful mid-budget shows like Supernatural and The 100 and a whole slate of DC Comics-adjacent shows like The Flash, Arrow, Superman & Lois and Legends of Tomorrow. These shows failed to turn a profit in first run, but did form a highly attractive package that was re-sold to streamers like Netflix for huge sums of money. Ill-advisedly, the CW terminated this deal to try to use its shows to push out its own streaming options as part of HBO Max. However, it was nowhere near as successful as the Netflix deal, putting the CW on the back foot. In early 2022, the CW was sold to Nexstar Media Group who immediately pivoted hard towards cheap reality programming and overseas imports. Ten CW scripted originals were cancelled immediately, with more following since.

The CW had previously picked up development rights to classic space opera series Babylon 5. The original series had run from 1993 to 1998, in first-run syndication and then on the TNT channel. 110 episodes were produced across five seasons, also generating six TV movies and a spin-off show, Crusade, that was cancelled after half a season. The show had not garnered a massive audience, but it had done solidly and turned an immense profit given its very low production costs (achieved through pioneering the use of CGI). The show had also picked up significant critical acclaim and multiple awards, as well as an enthusiastic cult audience. The show had pioneered serialised storytelling in dramas in an age of stand-alones and reset buttons, with writers including Damon Lindelof, the Wachowskis and George R.R. Martin citing it as an influential work. A partial HD remaster of Babylon 5 generated positive press coverage in early 2021 and introduced a new audience to the series.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski confirmed that a Babylon 5 reboot was in development at the CW in September 2021. Due to the changes at the CW, the show's development was unusually put on hiatus for a year after it was not picked up in the previous renewal window in February 2022. However, the latest news seems to make the reboot an even more unlikely project then it already was.

The project may not be entirely dead. The new CW is looking for more adult shows to appeal to older viewers, especially if they can be delivered for under $5 million per episode. A legacy show with name value aimed at adult viewers with a reasonable overseas resale potential might still interest the new regime, but it would now appear to be a slim shot indeed, and almost certainly not happening this year.

Additionally, it's possible another streamer or channel takes on the project, although it is unclear which ones would be interested.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe the fan base for this amazing show has been let down again. I'm hoping that one of the for mentioned streaming services will pick up the gauntlet and continue making more episodes.

Anonymous said...

I am so disappointed The CW is dropping the ball on a huge the community for Babylon 5 fans is massive and we adore the series if done properly people would go nuts