'Swamp Thing,' Canceled at DC Universe, Coming to The CW

Swamp Thing-Publicity Still 2-H 2019
DC Universe/WBTV

The CW continues to add to its acquired series roster.

Fresh off of adding the first two seasons of the CBS All Access anthology Tell Me a Story, the younger-skewing broadcaster has licensed DC Universe's Swamp Thing and picked up the Canadian drama Coroner and the U.K. comedy Dead Pixels. It's unclear when any of the four shows will make their debut on The CW's linear network (and its ad-supported free streaming service, CW Seed). News of premiere dates could come later this week when The CW is expected to announce its fall schedule.

Swamp Thing, starring Crystal Reed and based on the DC title of the same name, will become the second DC Universe series to air on The CW, joining Stargirl, whose episodes will debut on the linear network a day after they launch on the streamer. The network is a joint venture between DC Universe backers Warner Bros. TV and CBS TV Studios, with the latter behind Tell Me a Story. The decision to pick up one show from each company's streamer is in line with The CW's history of splitting new series orders evenly between both studios.

Swamp Thing was a buzzy pickup for Warner Bros. TV-backed streamer DC Universe. The series, executive produced by James Wan, was the third scripted original picked up for the comic book-focused subscription video platform. Based on the Alan Moore comics, trouble began with the series in April 2019, when the show's initial 13-episode order was reduced to 10 as the future of DC Universe amid parent company WarnerMedia's plan for a broad-skewing streamer (HBO Max) emerged.

In June, a mere five days after the first of the weekly episodes premiered on DC Universe, the platform — whose role within WarnerMedia and HBO Max remains unclear — canceled Swamp Thing. Despite promising reviews, insiders believed that they had a dud on their hands and, rather than pull the plug on the project and lose millions already invested with nothing to show for it, the studio opted instead to complete work on the series and use it to bolster the library content on the DC Universe platform that serves as a value-add to its massive digital comic book library. Sources at the time said the timing of the cancellation was spurred by the studio's decision to bypass paying millions to store the show's physical sets in North Carolina. That decision led to the cancellation leak.

Coroner, meanwhile, stars Serinda Swan as a coroner who explores unnatural or sudden deaths in Toronto. Morwyn Brebner (Rookie Blue), Adrienne Mitchell, Jonas Prupas, Brett Burlock and Peter Emerson exec produce the CBC original series from Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios.

The comedy Dead Pixels, meanwhile, stars Alexa Davies (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and is a half-hour that follows a woman and her friends who are obsessed with an online fantasy game called "Kingdom Scrolls." The show follows their tragicomic real lives and their computer-animated misadventures in the game. Dead Pixels is produced by Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and was produced by Various Artists Limited for Channel 4. The series airs on E4 in the U.K. and is distributed by BBC Studios.

The CW already is home to imported series including summer staple Burden of Truth and The Outpost.

The news comes as licensed content that has already completed production on a complete season is in high demand as The CW, like other broadcast networks, is facing an uncertain fall as TV and film production enters its third month amid the coronavirus pandemic. Production on new and returning scripted series typically resumes after the July Fourth holiday. Conversations are currently underway about safety methods for how production could potentially start up again, though a date is considered a long ways off. Sources say network and studio execs are optimistic for a July return to work.

For its part, Fox on Monday set its fall schedule with the unscripted hit The Masked Singer serving as the only show that could be impacted if production is unable to resume. The network licensed the first two seasons of Spectrum's Sony TV-produced Bad Boys spinoff L.A.'s Finest, with the freshman run set to air Monday nights come fall alongside fellow dramas Next and Filthy Rich. The latter two projects were picked up to series last year and held over from their planned summer launches.

Picking up already completed streaming programming from within the corporate ecosystem (and licensing others from third-parties, like L.A.'s Finest) is but one of the strategies networks are exploring as they face an uncertain future with hours of scheduling left to program and previously completed episodes beginning to run out.