HBO is going through a big change at the end of 2011. Today the network renewed Laura Dern’s Golden Globe-nominated “comedy” Enlightened for a second season, but more importantly HBO canceled three of its others comedies.

Bored to Death, Hung and How to Make it in America have all been axed by the network, severely lower the network’s roster of returning shows. Bored to Death and Hung recently concluded their third seasons while How to Make it in America‘s just ended its second.

With the upcoming third and final season of Danny McBride’s Eastbound and Down, this leaves a number of very big holes in HBO’s programming lineup. For comedies, HBO only has Curb Your Enthusiasm and the animated shows The Ricky Gervais Show and The Life and Times of Tim. The drama side is also thin, with Game of Thrones, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and Treme.

This week a friend told me she could get HBO or Showtime and asked me for my input. While the answer would’ve been HBO five years ago, the landscape of pay cable has changed dramatically, and Showtime is clearly the superior network.

Since losing a number of its big shows, HBO has been in a tailspin. After losing heavy hitters like The Sopranos and Sex and the City, HBO has had a long series of unsuccessful shows like John from Cincinnati, Tell Me You Love Me, In Treatment and Flight of the Conchords. Sure, they may have one a few awards, but none reached the level of cultural significance HBO is used to.

In 2012, HBO will need to hope that it can score big with some of its new programs. The network already has the new horse racing drama Luck, the Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy Veep and the Sex and the City-esque Girls, but will they do well?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Enlightened‘s recent season 1 finale was watched by just 260,000 people, yet HBO renewed it, most likely due to the surprise showing at the Golden Globe Awards. But if that’s HBO’s definition of success, then it’s a bad sign for viewers, who will undoubtedly follow my friend’s lead and choose Showtime over HBO in the future.

(Image courtesy of HBO)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.