HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler and its president of programming Michael Lombardo participated in a lively Q&A with the press at TCA today, fielding questions about everything from “Game of Thrones” to Netflix. Here’s a quick overview of some of the points that were raised.
“Game of Thrones.” With regard to how long the series can go on, Lombardo said “as far as I’m concerned it can go on as long as there are stories to tell,” and George R. R. Martin has been told “get busy writing.”
“True Blood.” No decisions have been made about the overall lifespan of the supernatural drama at this point.
“Criminal Justice.” “I can’t imaging us airing the pilot with James [Gandolfini] in it,” said Lombardo of the new miniseries. “We’re having conversations with writer/director] Steve Zaillian on how to perceive.” The conversation would be about reshooting the portion in which Gandolfini appears.
“Treme.” The final five-episode season will air this fall — it’s currently scheduled to air after “Boardwalk Empire,” starting December 1st.
“Witness.” It’s uncertain whether there will be more of Michael Mann’s war photographer doc series. “Michael’s off directing a feature film,” said Lombardo. “He’s currently incommunicado,” but when he’s back from shooting a conversation could happen. “If he finds something exciting and fresh we’ll do it, if not we’ll find something else to do with Michael.”
“A Ribbon of Dreams.” This David Chase miniseries about the birth and growth of Hollywood was announced in 2009. According to Plepler, Chase is still developing it.
The “Untitled Michael Lannan Comedy.” Asked if the San Francisco-set new series is a “gay series,” Lombardo allowed that “there are gay men.” “It came in as a script and it felt really fresh and powerful,” but overall it migth be more fair to look at it as a “smart textured look at men of different ages stuggling with intimacy.” “I hope it finds an audience,” said Lombardo. “I think it’s really special.”
“HBO Go.” No, there are no plans to offer HBO Go as its own subscription service outside of cable at the moment. “Right now, the model that works for us is working for our partners,” said Plepler. “For our satellite partners, it helps them sell their product. We’re constantly improving HBO Go, we look at it we have a BMW 5 Series, we’re building a 7 Series.” In terms of adding extra footage from shows to the service, Lombardo said that “the show creators, they all recognize the import of engaging with fans of the shows, they love the idea of extra material for Go. The issue is time and resources. We don’t want to have material on Go that isn’t the same quality as the shows.”
“Enlightened.” Canceling Mike White’s series was “not just a financial decision,” said Lombardo. The show didn’t grow in its second year in terms of audience, and, he added, “we felt creatively that the story of Amy Jellicoe had come to a natural resting place. It wasn’t a financial decision, per se, it was a creative decision — it had worked beautifully, and I felt it should end where we ended it.”
“Family Tree.” No decision’s been made yet if the Christopher Guest series will be back for a second season. HBO is in discussions with BBC.
“Eastbound and Down.” Lombardo described the returning “Eastbound and Down” as a show that “started slowly” and “built exponentially”: “For us, it was one of the first shows where the off-linear viewing was an important aspect.” He went on to say that “the decision on that show not to go forward — thought Danny and Jody are open to not having the characters go finally into the sunset — is that Danny [McBride] and Jody [Hill] want to do something new for us.” In the new season, he said, “you’ll find Kenny struggling with marriage, suburbia and his continued demons.” As for the new project, it’s a half hour comedy in which Hill and McBride are “going to take a look at high school life.”
“Newsroom.” Renewal odds are “excellent” for the Aaron Sorkin drama, which is currently in its second season. “The conversations with Aaron are all about schedule,” said Lombardo, who added that once that was settled he’d be “shocked” if we didn’t hear a renewal announcement soon.
“Veep.” As to whether Selena Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) will be running for office in the next season, Lombardo said “it certainly seems that way to me — I think next season we’ll see her on a bus a lot out on the campaign trail.”
Netflix. Addressing comparisons between Netflix and HBO, Plepler said “We have been engaged in competition for the whole history of our network — broadcast networks, premium, digital. We think there’s plenty of room for other people to do good work. What we concentrate on is playing our game the best we can play it, on getting the best quality work on TV.”
Regarding Netflix’s refusal to release numbers, Lombardo said “It’s curious — I don’t know what more to make of it.” Added Plepler, “The rationale appears to be ‘we’re not in the advertising business,” pointing out that neither are the premium networks, but in the end “it’s not our business.”
Cinemax: The “Transporter” series is dead — HBO has elected not to proceed. Their coproduction partner on “Hunted” did not want to continue with it, but they’re developing something with creator Frank Spotnitz and the character, possible for another series.
Female-centric series: Lombardo acknowledged that the network’s series were primary male-skewing, though he pointed out that “True Blood” and “Game of Thrones” both have major female followings. Part of it is due to the face that the network is “reactive”: “We wait for writers to pitch shows to us,” and the reason they’re not “telling more stories about adult women” is that “hey haven’t come to the door.” That said, the networks’ “very aware of it.”