The last few weeks have seen a fresh wave of TV show cancelations from the likes of Netflix, Paramount Plus and Prime Video, and now it’s HBO's turn to ruthlessly cancel a critically acclaimed series.
Deadline (opens in new tab) reports that Gentleman Jack, a co-production between HBO and the BBC, will not be renewed for a third season. The period drama only wrapped up its second season a few weeks ago, but it’s now been confirmed that Gentleman Jack won’t be returning for a third outing.
“HBO will not be moving forward with a third season of Gentleman Jack,” the network announced in a statement. “When we began this journey more than five years ago, we knew the series’ creator Sally Wainwright had a uniquely compelling vision, and it’s been tremendously gratifying to see how Anne Lister’s journey has resonated with viewers.”
The statement also thanked the show's cast and creative team: “We are incredibly grateful to Sally, to the impeccable Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, and to the entire cast and crew for bringing Anne and Ann’s story to life. We’d also like to thank our partners at BBC and Lookout Point for their collaboration on two remarkable seasons.”
What was Gentleman Jack about?
Gentleman Jack is based on the real-life diaries of industrialist Anne Lister in the 1830s. Her journals span over four million words and document a lifetime of lesbian relationships. As homosexuality was deeply frowned upon at the time, most of Lister’s diaries were written in code.
The show begins with Anne (played by Suranne Jones) moving to Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1832. The landowner makes the move from the south coast of England to restore her uncle’s estate that she inherited, and also to escape heartbreak after her lover leaves her to marry a man.
While settling into her family’s ancestral home, Shibden Hall, and surveying the estate she finds an abundance of coal on the property that could be worth a fortune. Although, she has to contend with the opportunistic Rawson brothers who are also looking to make bank in the coal business.
The situation is complicated further when Anne meets the shy but wealthy heiress Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) who lives nearby. The two quickly strike up a forbidden romance and must ensure their relationship remains a secret for fear of the consequences.
What did critics say about Gentleman Jack?
Gentleman Jack was something of a critical darling across its two-season run. Overall the show earned an impressive 92% score on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab), and viewers were equally keen with the period drama pulling a strong 93% audience score.
Metro (opens in new tab)’s Charlotte Manning labeled the show “one of the most beautiful things you’ll watch all year.” Praising the show’s meticulous attention to detail and period-accurate costumes. But the show was more than just a period piece, Joe Clay of The Times (opens in new tab) was quick to point out calling it "not your average period drama.”
Chitra Ramaswamy of The Guardian (opens in new tab) went even further declaring: “Gentleman Jack is disrupting the conventions of one of our most fiercely loved dramatic forms, at a time when we most need them disrupted. It is a masterpiece.”
The commanding central performance from Suranne Jones was also widely praised by reviewers. Although, some did suggest Anne’s financial affairs and business conflict with the Rawson brothers took too much focus in season one. The showrunners obviously took this criticism seriously, and Gentleman Jack’s sophomore season featured less coal and more messy romantic drama.
Analysis: This one hurts
As Deadline points out, Gentleman Jack was one of HBO’s lower-rated original series. Its viewing figures probably weren't helped by the lengthy, pandemic-enforced, gap between seasons one and two. The first collection of eight-episode wrapped up in July 2019, and the show didn’t return until April of this year; that delay likely killed any momentum the series was building.
Nevertheless, while there may have been a degree of inevitability about this cancelation that doesn’t stop it from stinging. By all accounts, Gentleman Jack was a triumph, a show that combined a cozy period-authentic aesthetic with an intense, and very messy, love story. It’s a great shame that Anne Lister’s journey has come to a premature ending after just 16 episodes in total.
At least the show’s whole run can still be enjoyed via HBO Max, in fact, the streamer has even made the first episode completely free to watch (opens in new tab). You don’t even need to sign up for an account to enjoy it.
While we’re disappointed to see it ending after two seasons, quality content like Gentleman Jack is why we continue to rank HBO Max as the best streaming service currently available.
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