Just as Ian Jones-Quartey’s OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes really began to hit its stride and shift into darker story arcs, the series was rather unceremoniously cancelled. At the time, it felt like yet another instance of a beloved cartoon getting the ax even though there was likely more to the story that could have been told. But Jones-Quartey has some thoughts on the main cause.
Between the actual complexities behind shows’ cancellations and the way that modern, hyper-focused fandoms spend time paying attention to behind-the-scenes production developments, a number of different narratives about OK K.O.’s demise emerged online. Though Jones-Quartey had spoken about the cancellation in the past, in a recent interview with the Creative Talent Network, he went into a bit more detail sharing his perspective on the larger situation that couldn’t really fit into concise social media posts.
According to Jones-Quartey, while OK K.O. premiered in the summer of 2017, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. initially planned for the series to launch earlier as part of a new online platform where a series’ success wouldn’t be tied to traditional TV ratings. “K.O. was sort of supposed to be like one of the first shows that wasn’t relying on TV ratings as much as it was going to rely on views on apps and stuff like that,” Jones-Quartey said. “And there was going to be this huge like kind of over-the-top app for Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers and all of those properties, because AT&T, who had just been trying to buy Warner Brothers, was going to basically use all their skills, as is the telecom, to create like an all in one streaming service that was like all Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers, HBO, yada, yada, yada.”
Eventually, that final yada would go on to become HBO Max, where OK K.O.’s three seasons are currently streaming, albeit with some of the same issues that plagued it while it was airing on Cartoon Network, like casual discoverability. Like other cartoons on HBO Max that received the official branding after beginning on other networks, OK. K.O. doesn’t exactly have high visibility on the platform, and the only surefire way to find it is to specifically go searching for it.
One of the major problems that befell K.O. and a number of other series meant to live on the proto-HBO Max, Jones-Quartey recalled, was the Trump administration’s push back against AT&T’s plan to acquire Time Warner.
“Donald Trump specifically hated Warner Brothers because they own CNN, so he wouldn’t let that merger go through,” Jones-Quartey reasoned. “And so basically what happened is the studio and like all the Warner and studios, basically got stuck in a holding pattern while they were waiting for this merger to go through.”
It’s very possible that there’s some degree of truth to the idea that Trump’s vendetta with CNN over the network’s coverage of his historically disastrous presidency informed the Department of Justice’s response to AT&T and Time Warner’s fusion. It’s very important to bear in mind, though, there are many legitimate reasons that massive media/telecom mergers are not inherently good beyond excellent cartoons being harmed in the merging process.
Ultimately, AT&T and Time Warner were able to merge, HBO Max was unleashed upon the world, and the platform has become very much the sort of place that one could imagine OK K.O. actually thriving and finding a larger audience had the program had a chance to launch there. The whole experience was obviously bittersweet for Jones-Quartey but this, he said, is what he’s been trying to convey to fans of the show.
“That’s what I mean when I say it’s very complicated,” he added, “It doesn’t really come down to, like, one thing you did or one messed up. You know, these companies are just like massive behemoths. They do these huge things, and there’s always consequences no matter how small they are, and in this case, the consequence was my show.”
OK K.O. Let’s Be Heroes is currently streaming on Stan in Australia.