Why the troubled production must succeed.
HBO is in need of a new hit. It might not look that way due to their current awards dominance at the Emmy’s, but they need to start developing for their future. While Game of Thrones and Veep took home the top awards in their respective categories, HBO doesn’t have a viable prestige drama on the network when Game of Thrones ends.
Westworld is poised to be the next big thing at HBO. While The Night Of and The Leftovers have their fans, Westworld needs to be a whole lot more. The show has to get award worthy performances from stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, and James Marsden. It also needs to bring in ratings that equal to some of the biggest shows on television. Given the high cost and pressure put on the show, anything less than a spectacular first season would be considered a major disappointment.
Never mind the high pressure that exists before its launch, it wasn’t exactly easy for the Nolan and Joy to bring Westworld to life on HBO. The series has faced plenty of scrutiny and delays bringing the project to fruition.
8/30/2013: HBO gives a pilot commitment to Bad Robot and Warner Bros. TV for a Westworld series, to be helmed and written by Jonathan Nolan. It is to be a new adaptation of the 1973 film written by Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner. The project has had starts and stops for years, but this looks like the big push to finally bring the series back to life. HBO’s vision for the project is “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.”
11/17/2014: The series is given the greenlight by HBO. It is planned to be a one-hour drama that will start airing in 2015. HBO even releases some promotional material for the series, as they are seemingly more hopeful that it will air sooner than later.
9/30/2015: HBO looks to bring plenty of sex into Westworld as extras are reportedly paid $600 for simulated sex acts. Background players are given forms to sign that include agreeing to “graphic sexual situations”, “genital-to-genital touching” and posing “on all fours while others who are fully nude ride on your back”. SAG-AFTRA assigns a representative to the set to monitor the situation and make sure the actors are being treated within their rights.
The union’s contract states that consent to appear in scenes requiring nudity or sex acts may be withdrawn at any time; that the set must be closed to anyone not having business with the production, and that no still photography may be authorized without the consent of the background actor.
Westworld had better earn those sex sequences since accusations already suggest the actual story might be inconsequential if pornography is needed to elevate it.
1/17/2016: Production on Westworld is temporarily shutdown. HBO says it is so Nolan and Joy can catch up on the final four scripts. Production for the first season was supposed to be completed by November 2015 and now the 2016 launch is in jeopardy. Of course, it seems like they have made the target of 2016, but even at the beginning of this year that was not a foregone conclusion.
7/30/2016: HBO comes under fire for depicting violence against women in Westworld. The series premier features a sequence with a lifelike female android (Evan Rachel Wood) is raped by an older man (Ed Harris). HBO’s other hit series, Game of Thrones, has been repeatedly criticized for its continue usage of violence against women throughout its entire run. HBO programming president, Casey Bloys responded with “I can tell you the violence, it’s not just specific to women. It’s indiscriminate, plenty of men are killed as well.” Since the violence happens to men as well doesn’t make it okay.
Thankfully, showrunner Lisa Joy was more adequately able to explain the controversial sequence.
When we were tackling a project about a park with a premise where you can do whatever you want, whatever you desire without impunity or consequence, it seemed like the issue had to be addressed, she said. Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature – paternal love, romantic love, finding oneself – but also the basest parts of human nature – violence and sexual violence.
Violence and sexual violence have been a fact of human history since the beginning,” she continued. “There’s something about us – thankfully not the majority of us – but there are people who have engaged in violence and who are victims of violence.
Even before premiering on HBO, Westworld has certainly faced its fair share of controversy. There was a lot of time and investment in Westworld and HBO is hoping they have a new hit on their hands. They cannot continue to invest huge amounts of money into failures: such as the reported two-hour Vinyl opener said to have cost about $30 million and a first season price tag of $100 million.
There is little doubt of what is expected of Westworld. Not only does it need superb ratings and prestige, the show needs to be their next big thing. HBO is just hoping Westworld can do for Science Fiction and androids, what Game of Thrones did for Fantasy and dragons.