Bad news: the best TV show of the last five or so years was cancelled today. Joe Pera announced on Twitter that Adult Swim will not be picking up Joe Pera Talks With You for a fourth season, bringing an end to one of the brightest and most idiosyncratic comedies on TV.
We’ve written extensively about Joe Pera Talks With You here at Paste, but if you haven’t seen the show yet, you need to go log into HBO Max right now and watch the whole run. Most episodes are 12 minutes long, so it won’t take you that much time to plow through it. I’m pretty sure each season is shorter than that last episode of Stranger Things. Set in Michigan’s Upper Pensinula, Pera’s show is easily the warmest, most human, and least cynical thing Adult Swim has ever aired, and that might stand true for all of television. Whether he was putting on a school play about Alberta’s ongoing war against rats, telling his entire church about his new favorite song, or showing us how to build a bean arch, Joe Pera’s show radiated a sense of wonder about the world, without ever getting twee or childish.
Pera discusses the cancellation, eulogizes the show, and talks a bit about where he had hoped to go in future seasons in a statement posted to his website today. It’s easy to read it in Pera’s voice—it has the same basic decency he’s known for, with ample respect paid to his cast mates, co-writers, and fellow creators.
This winter I spent three weeks in Marquette doing research (also drinking beer) and was filled with new ideas. But mostly, it’s a shame that the characters’ stories can’t continue. I knew where things were headed but I won’t say here cause part of me is holding out hope that sometime down the line we can film a proper ending for Joe, Sarah, the Melskys, Gene, Lulu, and most importantly, Fred the Sample Guy…
At the same time, I thought about how lucky we were. The more I learn how TV works, the more I realize that it’s kind of a miracle that our quiet, 11-minute show about rocks, beans, grocery stores, and breakfast crews got on the air and lasted as long as it did.
Throughout its three seasons, Joe Pera Talks With You established a unique, immediately recognizable voice that expanded on Pera’s stand-up persona. “Bittersweet” is a word often used to describe it; Pera centered it with an almost childlike excitement about the world around him, but it regularly dove into heavy topics like mental illness, depression, addiction, the loss of loved ones, and more. It used its small-town setting for laughs, but avoided mocking the people who lived there, not judging them but focusing on mundane and universal details of modern life. I’ve never been to the Upper Peninsula, but I’ve spent a lot of time in small towns, and often recognized the kinds of people, places, and situations found in Joe Pera Talks With You from my own life. The work that Joe Pera most resembled was probably Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts; it had that same combination of innocence, sadness, and pragmatism that defined Charlie Brown’s world for decades.
Pera went on to praise Adult Swim for letting him and his partners make something so unusual.
And it was rare how much creative freedom we were given by the network. An episode where a guy recreates the 2001 film Rat Race with his friends that also realistically depicts the experience of losing a family member? Go for it. Cam, Walter, Mike, Keith and everyone else at Adult Swim supported our ideas and wanted us to make the show we wanted to make.
It felt like we cracked something—a different kind of tone that has now popped up a bit elsewhere. Kinda neat but also frustrating that we won’t be able to continue exploring it (at least with this show). Hey, if I never make anything else, this was the show I always wanted to see and I’m glad it now exists. But hopefully that’s not the case.
The Upper Peninsula will live on, but without Joe Pera, at least for now. Hopefully another network gives him the opportunity to make a show again soon.