“George hasn’t finished the next book – any concerns about that?” a TV critic asked HBO execs this afternoon at TCA, referring to Game Of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Bleary-eyed TV critics, who gotten up pre-dawn to cover this morning’s Primetime Emmy nominations unveiling, understandably had the series very much on their minds, what with the show clocking a pack-leading 19 noms. “His book’s not finished at this point, but we’re not concerned about it,” HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo said of the writer’s progress on his most recent book in the series. “We’re not losing sleep,” chimed in HBO CEO Richard Plepler, dismissing the critics’ suggestion that Martin was leaving the premium network hanging.
Related: DeadlineNow: Emmy Noms – HBO Scores, Other Hits And Misses (Video)
Another critic tried baiting the execs to confirm speculation that next season of anthology series True Detective would star two men and one woman — seriously, just the gender, no names. “We’re going to do the next season with puppets,” Lombardo snarked. “They’re being built right now.” Look for the tweets.
Related: EMMYS: Overall Nominations By Network
Not that the two guys onstage sent critics away empty-handed. They did reveal that the first two scripts of the second season of True Detective are “more exciting than the first season.” They also announced the show’s casting — is likely to be announced in the coming week. “Is it two lead actors and one actress?” the intrepid journalist with no name persevered. “We’ll let you know,” Plepler joshed. Read More »
More than a week after HBO announced that its buzzy True Detective will compete as a drama series at the Emmys, shaking up the drama race as a potential frontrunner, the decision is still a hot topic of conversation, with pundits debating whether the eight-episode series, created by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, belongs in the drama or miniseries category. The latest to weigh in was Mad Men creator Matt Weiner. “I was surprised they did it but I bet that everyone who is in that Drama category said ‘oh s***’,” he told Deadline‘s Pete Hammond. “That makes me think HBO did the right thing.”
HBO had not commented on its Emmy category choice for True Detective until now. Here is what the network’s programming president Michael Lombardo had to say about it. “This project was pitched to us, it was produced by us and marketed by us as a series. Nic never thought of this as a miniseries, and we always treated him as a creator of a series. In our minds this is a series, and the only reason to enter it as a miniseries was a cynical reason that didn’t feel like the right thing to do.”
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President Obama has just named HBO programming president Michael Lombardo an appointee for General Trustee, Board of Trustees at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an administration post. Lombardo, who has been at HBO since 1983, has been a regular fixture on Obama’s fundraiser trips to LA for both his 2012 re-election and to stump for funds for the Democratic Party. In 2012, Lombardo and partner Sonny Ward held an Obama fundraiser at their home, and among his efforts last year he lunched with the president at a DNC event at Peter Chernin’s home, where tickets went for $10,000-$32,400. Lombardo already serves on the boards of The Paley Center, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, Film Independent, and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Last month he was appointed to the TV Academy’s executive committee.
Once upon a time, the entire TV industry took the afternoon off to attend the Hollywood Radio and TV Society season-kickoff lunch and watch their bosses admit which competitor’s show they most wished they had on their schedule and answer other similarly adorable questions. It was a simpler time. These days, the mood onstage is much darker. One exec makes some all-flesh-is-as-grass observation about the state of the industry; another agrees there is a resemblance. And then, there’s the traffic. In case you missed it, here are the quotes to note from today’s lunch:
*Good time to be a comedy producer: “There are 168 dramas in production. Anybody who knows how to run a [drama] show is employed. There isn’t anybody left in development. … It’s fully cooked.” — FX Networks CEO John Landgraf
*Netflix: “I didn’t know there was an option for not reporting ratings.” — HBO programming president Michael Lombardo
*Why NBC is dumping Jay Leno: “Jay is going out on top, and we think that’s the right thing to do.” — NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert
*Anti-hero dramas are so over: “A show can’t just rest on an anti-hero premise anymore. … A pitch that’s ‘this guy is the most fucked-up guy’ is not good enough.” — Lombardo
*Kevin Spacey should shove a sock in it: “[House Of Cards] had a star and a director and scripts for the first two episodes, and they had a show that they were basing it on. … I understand why artists don’t want to audition with a plot…[but, unless you're "House of Cards," minus a pilot] good shows could be prevented from being great shows — Lombardo Read More »
Eastbound & Down may be ending its run with its upcoming fourth season, but co-creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill are staying in business with HBO on a potential new comedy series. “They’re going to take a look at high school,” HBO’s Michael Lombardo said, declining further details about the project. He was effusive in his praise for Eastbound & Bound, though. “It was a slow build for us — started slow and built exponentially,” he said about the offbeat baseball comedy starring McBride whose fourth and final season premieres in September.
Related: TCA: HBO Brass On Future Of ‘Game Of Thrones’, Other Series
“The studios are not in brand conversations. It’s not a filmmaker’s medium anymore. We’re in the brand play business,” HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo said today during the Hollywood Radio And Television Society Cable Chiefs lunch in Beverly Hills. Brands and binge viewing were the primary topics of conversation among the panel that featured Lombardo, A+E Networks President, Entertainment and Media Nancy Dubuc and Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin. Ben Silverman was moderator. “You’re seeing a number of storytellers unable to work in the studio system”, Lombardo continued. “The paradigm has shifted; serious adult drama is happening on cable. That’s what people talk about on Monday — it’s the cable show they saw, not the movies anymore”. Said Dubuc, “We each have our own brand fulfillment and it is our jobs to not only manage that but to evolve it.”
Koonin cut to the chase: “Brands are the temple we worship at,” he quipped to laughter as he described the work and metrics that went into developing TNT’s “We Know Drama” tagline. “When you manage a brand you have to be consistent,” he said. “Basic cable has become an oxymoron now, there is nothing basic about it”. He added: We’ve changed our marketing strategy. We’re going to market from green light to finale, though I shouldn’t say that. We have to give people reason after reason after reason, I can go on and on, to get it,” Koonin said. Read More »
True to his neurotic and highly insecure character on the show, Curb Your Enthusiasm creator/star Larry David has been largely puzzled by the ratings resurgence of his HBO series this season, which has been posting seven-year highs for its first three weeks on the air. His response to the weekly congratulatory emails from HBO brass has been: “What does it mean? Is it the lead-in? Is it the show?” It is probably a mix of both, but the long hiatus between Seasons 7 and 8 seems to have helped the show, which is getting some of its best reviews, while whetting viewers’ appetite, which has translated to strong ratings. Now HBO hopes to do it again, but the decision as always is entirely David’s. He is expected to address the future of Curb when he returns from vacation at the end of the summer. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo told me today of the prospects of a ninth season of Curb. There has been an encouraging sign. “For the first time ever after this season, Larry didn’t say ‘I never want to do this again,’ ” Lombardo said. That is a promising start.
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.” Read More »
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
The long-running HBO comedy series Entourage will end its run on the network next summer with 6 episodes. Then showrunner Doug Ellin will consider turning it into a possible film featuring the existing cast. The announcement was made this afternoon at HBO’s TCA executive session by Michael Lombardo, the network’s president of programming. “Doug clearly wants to write a film but wants to do it if it makes sense for the story,” Lombardo said. “We have a long-term relationship with Doug Ellin, and I’m sure you’ll soon see another series from him here. But next summer will definitely be the final season of Entourage.”
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that HBO has just bought a comedy pitch based on the modern day Lucy-&-Ricky 10-year marriage of Brandt and Nikki Joel. Brandt, 45, is head of WME’s talent department, and Nikki, 38, is a former ICM agent. Gilmore Girls and Desperate Housewives writer Jordon Nardino — natch, a WME client — has already been put on the project. The genesis for the show is Nikki Joel’s tell-all blog about her marriage — LifestyleLemonaid.com — where she regularly shares with the Internet her husband’s most intimate details. The time he wanted to have a vasectomy… the time she caught him masturbating in the middle of the night during an earthquake… the time he erased all her Tivo-ed shows because he was pissed she’d gone out 3 nights in a row without him… Both Joels pitched the show in person to HBO along with producer Steve Levinson — “the last guy Nikki blew before she met me”, as Brandt explained to the room. The pay channel’s Sue Naegle and Michael Lombardo bought the pitch right then and there. Plans are to change Brandt’s profession — “there’s only one great agent on TV and that’s Ari Gold,” Brandt told me — but otherwise the couple will be portrayed true to life by Nardino, producers Mark Wahlberg and Levinson, and HBO exec Amy Gravitt. “I just want the show to get on the air,” Brandt said.