After two seasons, HBO has canceled “Winning Time,” a sports drama that chronicled the Showtime era of the 1980s LA Lakers.
The show aired its Season 2 finale Sunday evening and that episode will serve as its last, an HBO spokeswoman confirmed to The Times on Monday, declining to comment further on the reason for the cancellation.
However, Kevin Messick, an executive producer on the series, cited the show’s second season’s decline in ratings as well as the actors’ inability to promote the show amid ongoing strikes by members of SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America. America, according to Vulture, which spoke with Messick and reported the end of the show on Sunday evening.
Messick, who executive produced the Emmy-winning “Legacy,” told Vulture that HBO offered showrunners an option to end early in January, before the strike began.
The Season 2 finale (Warning: Spoilers Ahead) was supposed to show Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) grieving the loss against the Boston Celtics after the 1984 NBA Finals. Instead, the backup ending was shown, with owner Jerry Bass (John C. Reilly) talking to his daughter Jenny Bass (Hadley Robinson), about one day taking over the team, as well as a montage of real-life characters and what they went on to do with their careers.
“It’s not the ending we had in mind,” the show co-creator Max Borenstein tweeted on Sunday evening. “But nothing but gratitude and love.”
“9.5 years. We did my dream show,” co-producer Jim Hecht said in a separate tweet. “It’s not the ending we hoped for but so grateful to everyone who watched and @JeffPearlman for trusting me with his genius book.”
The show’s impending demise was teased by Perlman, whose book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” was based on the series. Over the past several months, Perlman has been vocal about struggling ratings and encouraging viewers to tune in to the Sunday evening show on HBO.
“I’m telling you — the future of ‘Winning Time’ hangs in the balance,” Perlman tweeted in mid-August. “We need an audience. The strike is crippling. Please help spread the word. Season 2 is amazing. But… HBO is big (numbers).
he Added later In a separate tweet, he was concerned “there won’t be a season three” and said he wanted the show to survive “because of the cast of amazing young actors who inhabit it.”
And behind the scenes, HBO has been transparent with its showrunners, Messick told Vulture. He said that the channel was clear that due to the show’s expensive budget, “we always knew that a certain level had to be achieved to understand the ratings.”
The first season, which ran alongside the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament in 2022, did well, but ratings dropped nearly 50% in the second season, which debuted on August 6. Shortly thereafter, Messick said that HBO chief executive Casey Bloys told him the writing was on the wall for the series.
“Casey called me two weeks into the season as a friend and just said, ‘It doesn’t feel good,'” Messick said. “So it was no surprise for the final decision to be made based on how it was performing.”
Asked if the show’s run during the strike was a factor in the ratings drop, Messick said, “One hundred percent,” citing its “large ensemble cast,” which includes Oscar winner Sally Field as Jesse Bass and Adrien Brody as Pat Riley. .
“We have a lot of resources to help promote the show, and we haven’t been able to hire any of them,” he added. “Yes, it was definitely a disappointment for us.”
The show also ran into controversy for its dramatization of Lakers legends, with former NBA player and Lakers executive Jerry West calling for a cancellation in April 2022. West’s attorney called the show “an intentional false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family.” Lakers Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also blasted the show on his Substack blog, calling it “deliberately dishonest” and “extremely dull.”