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Game Of Thrones Showrunners Get Turned Down By HBO

HBO has said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to a new series from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

Confederate, which had been in development at the cabler for a number of years, will not be moving forward, according to HBO programming chief Casey Bloys (via TV Line). The alt-history drama was first announced way back in July 2017.

The very premise of the would-be series made it a lightning rod for controversy, which we'll discuss shortly. At the time it was announced, Benioff and Weiss were riding high on the success of Game of Thrones, which had just begun airing its seventh season. It probably seemed like a no-brainer to commission another serial from the guys who had given HBO the most popular, culture-saturating series in its history (which is saying something), but things started to go wrong in 2018.

In February of that year, it was announced that the duo had been hired to field a trilogy of Star Wars films, which would have been the first movies in the franchise to debut after the completion of the Skywalker Saga, which wrapped up with the recent Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The fact that they were undertaking this gargantuan task while also attempting to deliver a satisfying eighth and final season of Thrones apparently set off some alarm bells at HBO, as the project was immediately moved to the back burner, where it had remained ever since.

It may very well be for the best that the series is officially dead in the water; while it sported an intriguing premise and may have made for a fascinating and provocative story, the controversy surrounding it was in part due to the conception that Benioff and Weiss might not have been the right guys to tell it.

Why was Confederate so controversial?

Confederate would have explored an alternate history in which the American Civil War ended with no clear victory by either side. As such, the Confederate States of America would have remained an independent nation, and the brutal and despicable institution of slavery would have remained legal, surviving into the modern day.

The series would have followed events leading up to another Civil War, and while this all sounds intriguing in a Man in the High Castle sort of way, it's safe to say that the series might have provoked discussion of a decidedly unhealthy type in an America in which race is still a contentious topic, the Confederate battle flag is still a persistent symbol of division, and white nationalist groups have made a troubling resurgence. One could also make the case that Benioff and Weiss — who, the last time we checked, were a couple of staggeringly rich white guys — might have done well to allow this particular type of story to be told by another creator, perhaps one of color.

The series' announcement was met by a storm of outrage on social media, expressing just those points in far less diplomatic terms than we just did. A grassroots movement formed on Twitter which aimed to torpedo the series, and the backlash reached the mainstream in no time flat. Summing up the feelings of those less than enamored with the idea of exploring how slavery would look in modern times, MSNBC analyst Joy Reid tweeted, "[Confederate] plays to a rather concrete American fantasy: slavery that never ends, becoming a permanent state for black people. Repugnant."

Did David Benioff and D.B. Weiss sink their own fortunes?

The activists taking aim at Confederate were likely mighty pleased, then, when Benioff and Weiss essentially sunk it themselves by way of a) apparently biting off way more than they could chew career-wise, and b) making some extremely ill-advised public comments. Their mad rush to finish off the final season of Game of Thrones so that they could move on to Star Wars resulted in a slapdash, unsatisfying last outing for the venerable series; as fans were still in the midst of complaining about it, the pair signed a massive, $200 million overall deal with Netflix, which immediately threw into question their ability to fulfill their commitment to Lucasfilm.

Then, in October 2019, the pair spoke at the Austin Film Festival, where they regaled the audience with the tale of how they basically had no idea what they were doing on Game of Thrones and had apparently just lucked their way into the gig. The remarks went over like a lead balloon, and it probably wasn't a coincidence that they parted ways with Lucasfilm just two days later.

The pair's reputation still hasn't quite recovered from their terrible, no-good 2019, and given the huge backlash to Confederate, the only surprising thing about HBO officially killing the series is that it took this long. So far, the pair have directed exactly one project for Netflix: Time Machine, a standup comedy set from the very funny Leslie Jones. Whatever might be coming next from the duo is anybody's guess, but we do know one thing: it won't be Confederate.