Our Flag Means Death and 10 other great original shows Max has brutally canceled

The cancelation of shows like Rap Sh!t, Our Flag Means Death and Julia are only the most recent executions made by Max. Max arguably has the best library of original scripted shows of any streaming service, and it seems determined to destroy all of it.
Leslie Jones, Nathan Foad, and Rhys Darby in Our Flag Means Death - Photograph by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max
Leslie Jones, Nathan Foad, and Rhys Darby in Our Flag Means Death - Photograph by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max /
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Movies and TV shows today are mostly dominated by franchises. Netflix is working on a Stranger Things spinoff. Amazon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its Lord of the Rings TV show. Every other thing Disney makes is either Marvel or Star Wars, and so on. Where's the originality? Where's the creativity? Where are the new ideas getting people excited?

That's what we critic types like to say when we feel boxed in by too much of the same. But there are lots of good original shows being made, but many of them are getting canceled just as quickly, before they get a chance to become the next big thing.

Netflix has gained a reputation over the years for canceling way too many shows; just look at the cancelation of Shadow and Bone, a series Netflix was once contemplating building into a franchise, as evidence of that. But lately, Max — formerly HBO Max — has been uprooting a lot of shows before they have the chance to bloom. And not just any shows; good ones that had passionate followings and unique perspectives. Max may not be the streaming service that's canceled the most shows overall, but it's the one that's canceled the most shows I've been watching, which is far more concerning.

So let's go over some of the shows that Max has killed before their time, try to figure out why it's happening, and hope it'll never happen again. First on the chopping block is...

Our Flag Means Death Image by Nicola Dove
Our Flag Means Death Image by Nicola Dove /

Our Flag Means Death (Time of Death: January 2024)

Our Flag Means Death is one of the latest shows for Max to cut off at the knees. This quirky pirate comedy started in 2022, and soon established that there was nothing else quite like it on TV. On one level it's a sitcom, as foppish dandy Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) tries to make it as a cutthroat pirate. On another it's an unabashedly heartfelt romance, as the fearsome pirate Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) meets and falls for Stede; it quickly becomes clear that they're the loves of each others lives. It's also a period piece, complete with costumes, sets and intermittent respect for actual history.

Speaking honestly, sometimes the cocktail didn't go down easy for me. I wasn't always sure when to laugh, cry, or swoon. But that's part of what made Our Flag Means Death different. It didn't stick to a formula, and that was exciting. Plus, the show was stacked front to back with queer actors and characters, still a novelty on TV; that gained it a passionate following online, all of whom were devastated when Max sentence it to death.

Creator David Jenkins had plans for a third and final season fans will never get to see. Maybe the price tag was too high given the returns, or maybe producers were confused over what the show was trying to do. I would have loved for the series to at least finish what it had planned.

Our Flag Means Death is only our first stop on this grim march. Click the button below to continue: