UPDATED: So much for Jon Stewart’s long-in-the-works big return to television. The former Daily Show host and HBO have agreed to scrap his planned digital animated series for the premium cabler.
“HBO and Jon Stewart have decided not to proceed with a short form digital animated project,” the parties said in a joint statement tonight. “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.”
The project, which initially was eyed to roll out before the November presidential election, was to be an Onion-like sendup of a cable news network. The animation was to be done in a way that “allows [Stewart] to comment on events in real time,” HBO’s programming chief Casey Bloys said at TCA last summer. Stewart was set to do the voices.
The show was to air on HBO’s digital platform and also had been eyed to air on the linear channel, probably in a half-hour format.
While progress on shortening the animation turnaround time was made, with writers and animators getting close to the one-day goal, churning out videos multiple times a day every day at a high creative level proved a challenge. That, coupled with logistical difficulties of distributing that content on the various HBO platforms in a timely fashion led to the decision not to go further.
A major investment of time and money was made in the now-defunct series, with HBO owning the technology developed for it that could be used in the future for other animated projects.
As for what Stewart’s next project will be for HBO, information on that is expected in a couple of weeks. There had been a lot of fan support for a Stewart return to the topical comedy arena, which he dominated or a long time with The Daily Show.
The animated show was part of the four-year deal Stewart and HBO inked in November 2015, under then-HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo, just three months after his 16-year stint on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show ended. The deal’s initial focus was to be on the digital side.
“Jon Stewart led a revolution that changed the face of TV comedy on the Daily Show,” Lombardo said when the deal was announced. “He graced our network nearly 20 years ago, so we’re thrilled to welcome back his immense talents in this next chapter of his career.”
Stewart’s HBO deal came less than four months after the premium channel had signed an exclusive multiyear pact with former longtime ESPN personality Bill Simmons. His weekly HBO show was canceled after a short run.
The New York Times was first to report Stewart’s scrapped HBO project.