I’m not sure what’s worse: that Cinemax cancelled the two best series they’ve ever put on the air or that the news was so low-key most fans of the series (like myself) didn’t even know they had been cancelled. Although I think there might be something even worse: Cinemax’s casual mentioning that they would no longer even try to match the quality of these shows. Or as they put it “blah blah blah we’re focusing more on ‘high octane action’ blah blah blah.”
Well that’s too bad because I don’t usually (or ever) flip over to Cinemax to watch “Strike Back”-esque bullshit or movies no one else wants to air. And even though I loved “Banshee” when it was on—despite the final season—I don’t think Cinemax’s announcement means they’re even going to be putting on shows of that quality either. I think when a network talks candidly, or as candidly as they ever talk, about “scaling back costs” or “getting back to basics” they’re really saying that it was an ambitious fluke Steven Soderbergh could get a moody, cerebral 1900’s medical drama on their network in the first place.
And I think that’s very bad news since just last year—when it still seemed conceivable “The Knick” may get a third season despite the long hiatus and loss of its star—I was calling Cinemax “the most quality network you’re not watching.” I actually enjoyed “The Knick” and the underrated, virtually-ignored “Quarry” more than just about any series on AMC, Showtime, FX, or even Netflix. “Quarry” was my pick for the best Drama of 2016 and “The Knick”‘s second season was so-named for 2015.
“Quarry” is a 1970’s set Memphis crime thriller in which a disgraced Vietnam vet returns home after a civilian-killing operation has ruined his name. He’s offered a way out by The Broker, working on behalf of a criminal enterprise that wants him to become a hitman. The action is tense and expertly staged, and the mood of existential dread increases with each episode. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and seek it out.
I’m sad to see “The Knick” and “Quarry” go, and I’m even sadder to hear Cinemax won’t join the ranks of the other prestige-seeking streamers, cable channels, and premium networks. Even worse is with Netflix now more conscious of its bottom-line, we may be seeing the end of TV’s Golden Age of ambitious dramas. And it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that this century’s best TV network HBO (Cinemax’s parent channel) may have been swallowed up by the Comic-Conization of America. It currently doesn’t have a single drama on its roster that isn’t SciFi, Fantasy, or with fantastical elements (“The Young Pope,” “The Leftovers,” “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones”). And that means the real-world “The Knick” and “Quarry” lived in isn’t coming to a screen near you anytime soon.