‘Obliterated’ Had a Long, ‘Wild’ Journey Before It Topped Netflix’s Most-Watched TV List

The action dramedy from the “Cobra Kai” creators was 15 years in the making and has plans for more seasons

"Obliterated" (Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

There’s a reason why Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald’s specific brand of action and comedy works. From “Cobra Kai” to now “Obliterated,” the trio takes care to pay homage to the genres they love rather than mock them.

“It’s two condiments that we’re combining to create a new sauce,” Hayden Schlossberg, one of the executive producers for “Obliterated,” explained to TheWrap. “There are things that are very familiar in the comedy side of it and the action side.”

“It’s the honey mustard of television,” executive producer Josh Heald joked.

Those are how the trio describe their work. “We don’t want to change the recipe too much,” Heald explained. “We celebrate different genres. We celebrate action movies to the degree that we celebrate R-rated comedy.”

Those are the two genres married in “Obliterated,” the trio’s latest original. The action dramedy follows a team of special forces agents who manage to defuse a bomb in the knick of time and save Las Vegas … or at least that’s what they think. Halfway through their drug and booze-filled celebration over saving the day, the plastered team learns they didn’t defuse the real bomb. They have to sober up and look through their intoxicated differences or risk city-destroying failure.

Based on the performance of “Cobra Kai” and now “Obliterated,” it’s a formula that’s working. According to Nielsen, “Cobra Kai” was watched for over 16.7 billion minutes in 2022 alone. The more mature “Obliterated” is following suit. Over a week after its premiere on Netflix, the action dramedy about an elite joint-special operations team’s wild Vegas night topped Netflix’s list of English language TV shows, securing over 9 million views. But “Obliterated’s” path to the top hasn’t been a painless one.

Hurwitz and Schlossberg first came up with the idea for “Obliterated” as a movie “probably about 15 years ago.” After the “Harold & Kumar” movies, people were asking the duo what was next. It was actually the wrap parties for these movies that would go on to inspire “Obliterated.”

“We had these experiences of wrap parties where people had too much to drink and people who you didn’t realize had beef with one another are suddenly yelling at each other in the middle of the party, or people are hooking up that you never thought would hook up with each other — all sorts of crazy things,” Hurwitz told TheWrap.

Paola Lázaro as Angela Gomez in “Obliterated” (Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

That led Hurwitz and Schlossberg to ask themselves what would special forces teams do after “taking down Osama bin Laden?” “They’re probably celebrating as well,” Hurwitz said.

Thus the idea for “Obliterated” was born, but it wasn’t until the trio worked on “Cobra Kai” — a series that featured a large ensemble cast — that the format for the project took shape. Rather than being a feature as originally envisioned, the idea morphed into a series that could better show the story’s full cast of characters.

“We didn’t want this to be the McKnight [Nick Zano] and Ava [Shelley Hennig] show,” Hurwitz said. “We wanted this to be where each character is the star of their own action adventure. We wanted it to show different types of heroes that you typically see in these action movies.”

Schlossberg noted that “wild things” can happen at a big party and that they wanted to explore what that meant for each character. “It ends up being an inclusive, wild, R-rated orgy,” Schlossberg said.

By 2019, “Obliterated” was set to be a TBS show that would have two different versions: a PG-13 one for the network and an uncensored R-rated cut for HBO Max. “In our world, we were going to kind of have our cake and eat it too,”  Heald said.

But as the notes from CBS came in, the project was steered in a direction that was “not at the heart of the show,” Heald said. “It certainly wasn’t going to look anything like the show looks now.”

That’s when the team was thrown an unexpected curveball: COVID-19. According to Heald, the pandemic “destroyed everything in its wake, including ‘Obliterated.’” Plans for the series to premiere on TBS and HBO Max were halted. But these delays in production gave them the space they needed to reconsider a project that Heald described was once “barreling toward production.”

“That also had an effect on ‘Cobra Kai’ as well. We were moving platforms at the time, and in the back of our brains we felt like, ‘If ‘Cobra Kai’ can move to Netflix and can find the audience it was supposed to have … it really feels like we can have that conversation with this other idea. And things played out exactly like that.”

Though “Obliterated” has yet to be renewed for a second season, the trio sees more unruly partying in their future.

“We conceived of it as a giant action movie — like ‘Die Hard’ — that each season would have its own kind of adventure and location,” Schlossberg said. “With ‘Obliterated,’ you’re coming in for the concept. The hope is that you fall in love with these characters and would love to see them on another adventure because there’s always a new threat out there. And there are other party cities in the world.”

As for “Cobra Kai,” Heald revealed that the team was still writing it in late November. “We are going to begin production after the New Year,” Heald said.


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