The Roku Channel series, an adaptation of George Huang’s 1994 dark comedy film of the same name, doesn't fulfill its potential because of its short run time, a result of it being originally intended for Quibi. Swimming with Sharks comprises six episodes that run just under 30 minutes each. "While Swimming with Sharks is quick to acknowledge that power relations in Tinseltown are a cesspool that poisons everything and everybody that comes through the Dream Factory, that’s not really what the show is about," says Daniel Fienberg. "This is a fact that I confess astounded and distracted me, because when series development was announced, bringing Swimming with Sharks to the Time’s Up/#MeToo era — a moment at which the pathological behavior of notorious figures like Scott Rudin has gone from open secret to the stuff of voluminously researched exposés — actually felt like a really fertile idea. Instead of directly addressing and deconstructing the current cultural landscape, exploring how things got so bad and offering a bleakly satirical look at how things might change, Swimming with Sharks is really a dark comedy about erotic obsession, with an undercurrent about mental illness that gets even shorter shrift than the Hollywood power dynamics."
Swimming with Sharks has little to offer: The Roku series "doesn’t have much interesting to say about, say, the dynamic between higher-ups and underlings in Hollywood, its putative topic; its gender-flipping its two leads (the exec is now played by Diane Kruger) seems to have been done solely to generate a sense of scandal in the sexual tension between the two," says Daniel D'Addario. "That gets at just how un-2022 this series feels: It gawks at women in power who are drawn to one another as if that’s the end of a story, not a starting point."
The Roku Channel considers Swimming with Sharks a "watershed" series: “It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before. It’s really well done, high polish, yet very steamy,” says Rob Holmes, Roku's vice president of programming. “I think it is really, truly a watershed moment for us,” he adds. “We have this audience, we’re a top-five channel platform in a world-leading AVOD marketplace. How do you enter that next phase of growth by giving consumers access to premium content they can’t get through other means?”
Diane Kruger and Kiernan Shipka on how they approached their characters: "I think that, to me, the key to understanding and unlocking Lou was in understanding her past," says Shipka. "At the end of the day, what Lou wants in the show is love, and to be seen and understood. She obviously lost her mother, and probably had more traumas that we don’t even know about. But instead of approaching the quest for love and being understood in a way that was kind and grounded, she went to great lengths and disguised her wants with wanting power and aggression and doing anything she could to rise to the top." Kruger says: "I channeled myself and other women that I know, who are in their 40s, who have had a life where they chose their careers for a very long time, and have pushed back their family, home and the struggles that they encounter. The more outrageous I was at work, the more those vulnerable sides at home paid off."
Showrunner Kathleen Robertson was first approached about a TV adaptation in 2016: The following year, the former Beverly Hills, 90210 star pitched the series in wake of the #MeToo movement. “I remember going into meetings and talking about the specificity of what was happening with Harvey and the fact that my husband and producer had worked for Scott Rudin,” says Robertson, who has been acting since age 10 and who recalls working with TV titan Aaron Spelling. “The original movie was kind of inspired by Scott. I thought, if we weren’t making this show now, when are we making it?”