Clarice, CBS' ambitious The Silence of the Lambs sequel series, is now on the brink of being canceled thanks to a unique set of events. At one point, it seemed like the show would live on for a second season on Paramount+ after low ratings for its first season. Now, the show's future appears "bleak," according to Deadline, as talks between ViacomCBS' Paramount+ and series co-producer MGM reached a stalemate.
The only definite in this situation is that if Clarice comes back at all, it will not be on CBS. The network's 2021-2022 TV slate is full, even after moving most of SEAL Team Season 5 and all of Evil Season 2 to Paramount+. This means the only avenue for Clarice to stay alive involves streaming. Industry insiders described the situation with Clarice as one of the "craziest" they have ever seen. If the show isn't renewed, 300 people would be out of work. The series also involves producer Alex Kurtzman, who has close ties to ViacomCBS thanks to his work on the Paramount+ Star Trek shows. Amazon is even involved in this after the internet giant agreed to buy MGM. MGM stopped talks with Paramount+ when they were close to reaching an agreement, allegedly being offered a "mediocre" deal it wouldn't accept, reports Deadline.
On May 14, Deadline reported CBS planned to move Clarice and SEAL Team to Paramount+ if either show would be renewed. (In SEAL Team's situation, the show will start its fifth season on CBS before moving to Paramount+.) Sources told Deadline MGM didn't know about this plan until the day Deadline reported it. This led to intense negotiations from May 14 to May 21. By the end of that week - which included Amazon announcing plans to buy MGM, Paramount+ announcing SEAL Team's pickup, and CBS having its upfront presentation - Clarice still wasn't renewed.
Sources close to ViacomCBS, Paramount+, and CBS Studios (which co-produces Clarice with MGM) told Deadline MGM balked even after the three agreed to make concessions. ViacomCBS even agreed to pay $3.8 million per episode in licensing fees, a jump over what CBS was paying. However, MGM sources told Deadline the issue was that the $3.6 million would only cover 78% of the budget per episode (this eventually climbed to 82% of the budget). MGM didn't think this was enough since Paramount+ pays a licensing fee for Evil and SEAL Team that covers 90% of their episodic budget. But those shows are wholly owned by CBS, and Clarice is not. MGM also wanted a 15-episode order, but Paramount+ was looking at a 10-episode order.
MGM sources also disputed the idea that the Amazon deal had anything to do with the talks collapsing. The studio was happy with Kurtzman and co-creator Jenny Lumet's vision for a Silence of the Lambs-inspired series and executives only wanted to keep it in the ViacomCBS fold if it aired on CBS, Deadline reports. They believed that even if it didn't earn good ratings on CBS, the network would be interested in keeping it alive due to foreign sales. MGM chairman Kevin Ulrich also reportedly believed that Clarice would help raise the value of the entire MGM library, which is too much pressure to put on one show. Now, it looks like Clarice Season 2 won't happen at all.