2023 has seen over 10 TV series from Black creators get canceled despite loyal fanbases and high Rotten Tomatoes scores- a notoriously challenging status to achieve. Many TV shows are getting chopped since Warner Bros, the parent company of HBO Max, have decided to conglomerate the network with Discovery in a merged channel called “Max”. Unfortunately, Issa Rae‘s Rap Sh!t has just made the list of canceled shows after just two seasons.
The cancellation of Rap Sh!t poses similarities to HBO Max’s cancelation of Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle‘s South Side in early 2023 , which spent three seasons following a duo of entrepreneurs in Chicago’s south side neighborhoods. Fans were both upset and heartbroken after losing both shows, especially given they both have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
What’s more devastating for many is that this isn’t the first series Rae has had canceled, as the creation of Max resulted in the cancelation of her two-season show, Sweet Life, back in 2022. Following the success of Rae’s five-season series Insecure, Sweet Life was expected to follow a similar popularity. The show, which followed a group of Black friends navigating life in bustling Los Angeles, offered a fresh perspective on what it means to be a young, Black 20-something.
After the cancelation of Sweet Life, fans were excited to hear Rae was returning with a new show surrounding an aspiring duo of two female rappers played by Aida Osman and musician KaMillion. Sadly, they were met with another two-season halt, leaving behind yet another endearing, powerful and comedic narrative of Black voices.
In a statement to Variety Magazine, Rae expressed gratitude towards her cast and crew.
“I’m so proud of and grateful for Syreeta, our cast, writers and crew that made this show possible,” she said. “Thanks to Sarah Aubrey and Suzanna Makkos for championing the show, and much love to the fans that tuned in weekly to root for our girls.”
She also voiced her disappointment towards the cancellation of Black TV shows.
“You’re seeing so many Black shows get canceled, you’re seeing so many executives — especially on the DEI side — get canned. You’re seeing very clearly now that our stories are less of a priority,” Rae said to the digital publication Porter.
Fans of Rap Sh!t haven’t taken the hit well, taking to Twitter to express frustration over the pattern of growing cancelations of TV shows from Black creators. One user tweeted a GIF of Real Housewives of Atlanta star Nene Leakes with an annoyed facial expression and the caption, “HBO canceled Winning Time and Rap Sh!t. They definitely racist atp [at this point].”
Others aren’t so sure racial bias is the case, citing low viewership as the sole explanation. In response to the above tweet, another person commented, “Bring a show that brings viewership and the show will stick around.”
It’s hard to pinpoint why TV series are chopped, but the cancelation of multiple Black-led shows is still upsetting nonetheless for viewers who feel represented and heard through these narratives. It raises questions about how genuine diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are for popular streaming platforms as well. Though Warner Bros. commits to inclusion on their website, the majority of their leadership employees are white, according to their website.
Despite Rae’s double set-back with Sweet Life and Rap Sh!t, fans have voiced immense support for the multi-talented maven. Many have expressed their desire for Rap Sh!t to find a new platform, with one user commenting on an Instagram post from Rae,
“What can we do as fans to advocate for Rap Sh!t? That show was so good and I’m so sorry it was cancelled.”
Another fan posted on TikTok support for other networks such as VH1 to pick up the show, citing the need for easily accessible media catered for Black viewers.
“We show our love at these streaming services,” the user stated. “And when they’re canceled, we’re left wondering what Black show is next on the chopping block.”
Many speculate that the show might have been cancelled due to its extremely niche audience, as many TV shows targeting ethnic audiences may risk less viewership. The road to finding shows such as Rap Sh!t that cater to different voices without being deemed too niche seems to be a long one with many routes to be explored.
Fortunately for Rae, her journey in film appears to be flourishing with new endeavors nonetheless. She has been rocking pink on the red carpet, celebrating her role as President Barbie in Greta Gerwig‘s Golden Globe-winning Barbie. Rae was also recently named the Creative Director for the 2024 American Black Film Festival, an annual film festival hosted by entertainment company Nice Crowd.
She also says she is working on new projects outside of HBO Max, both independently and collaboratively.
In her interview with Porter, she said, “I’m writing a couple of different projects — one for myself and one to produce and create with others — and I’ve been feeling so inspired and excited to get back at it.”
Rae herself is beloved by a loyal fanbase, specifically the podcast Chat Sh!t: The Official Rap Sh!t Podcast, hosted by musician Zach Campbell and TV personality Jessie Woo, chronicling each episode of the show. In an exclusive Just N Life interview with Campbell and Woo, the duo had many positive things to say about Rae’s career and work ethic.
“She’s a good person,” Woo said. “She’s such a good creator, and everybody on her team follows suit… it’s just a great environment.”
It’s unknown what specific future film projects Rae has planned, but hopefully fans can relish her for more than two seasons, as her work deserves a space to shine brightly on the big screen.
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