Nellie Andreeva

HBO has picked up talk show Real Time With Bill Maher for a 10th season, the pay cable network announced today at the top of its portion of the summer TCA press tour. Maher recently landed another Emmy nomination for best Variety, Music or Comedy Series, the 27th Emmy nom overall for his HBO series, which is still pursuing its first win. Maher made a brief appearance. “I’m here representing the Hollywood elite,” he said before introducing HBO toppers Co-President Richard Plepler and president of programming Michael Lombardo.

-Lombardo said that Luck, Michael Mann/David Milch’s race track drama, will premiere at the beginning of January and will take over the slot vacated by the departed HBO polygamy drama Big Love. Other premiere date news: Sunday, Sept. 25 (Boardwalk Empire), Oct. 2 (Hung, How to Make It in America), Monday, Oct. 10, (Bored to Death,Enlightened). Lombardo said that HBO brass are “nervously optimistic” about opening a new night of originals on Monday.

-The 2008 drama series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is not dead. Lombardo said that the network has just received a couple of new scripts for the Botswana-set drama and are considering continuing it as 2 or more standalone films.

-Plepler and Lombardo had no ETA on when the network’s popular HBO Go on-demand service will be available on one-time corporate sibling Time Warner Cable. “We wish we had the leverage and power to move TWC,” Plepler said, urging customers to put pressure on the cable company. “We’re working as fast as we can to finish the deal.”

-Plepler called the TV Academy’s recent decision to merge the best original movie and miniseries categories “disappointing for us.” “It prevents some writers, director, producers from being recognized but there is nothing we can do about it.” Added Lombardo, “They are 2 distinct genres. (The TV Academy has) separate categories for different kinds of reality shows and yet there is one combined for movies and miniseries. But it is what it is.”

-Asked why HBO’s hit new series Game of Thrones doesn’t produce more than 10 episodes per season (True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and most other HBO series produce 12 episodes a year), Lombardo said that “we can’t make more than 10 (a season) without us making a decision to dilute the quality.” But there is no limit on how many seasons the show based on George R.R. Martin’s novels will go. “We told George we’d go as long as he kept writing,” Plepler said.

-Plepler and Lombardo reiterated that the recent exit of HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg had nothing to do with HBO losing boxing star Manny Pacquiao to Showtime. “He had an extraordinary run at HBO, and the fact that there is complexity in closing a boxing deal has nothing to do with his decision to leave after 33 years to something he loves doing, which is producing,” Plepler said.

- Asked to point out any weaknesses HBO has at the moment, (or as Plepler rephrased the question, any challenges), Lombardo said that, while the network has “some really strong dramas”, “in half-hour area we have great shows but we want for some of them to pop up more,” a reference to HBO’s lack of best comedy series nominations this year. “It’s frustrating for us.”

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.