HBO at the TCA press tour: It’s not TV, it’s good timing

HBO at the TCA press tour: It’s not TV, it’s good timing

HBO executives Richard Plepler (left), Michael Lombardo
HBO executives Richard Plepler (left), Michael Lombardo

HBO’s day at the 2014 Television Critics Association summer press tour was fortuitously timed: Network CEO Richard Plepler and programming president Michael Lombardo arrived at the Beverly Hilton borne on the back of 99 Emmy nominations. (And yet an announcement of a concert special documenting the final nights of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s On The Run tour prompted zero “99 Problems” jokes.) Just prior to the execs’ session with the TV press, the latest scraps of True Detective casting news (four leads! William Friedkin?) broke. Considering the number of questions about that show fielded by Plepler and Lombardo during their session, the whole discussion could’ve passed as a verbal game of #TrueDetectiveSeason2.

On the subject of the new True Detective stars: As the execs told it, “The people we will cast will be well-known names,” and those names will be more well-known as the second cast of True Detective sometime next week. So it went with the news regarding HBO’s big dramas, as the “fuck you” work ethic of George R.R. Martin has Plepler and Lombardo sticking by their previously announced fifth and sixth seasons of Game Of Thrones, allowing for only unofficial assurances that the show will continue after that.

And it’ll need to, since three of HBO’s flagship dramas are closing shop in 2014. Come 2015, there will be no True Blood, no Boardwalk Empire, and no The Newsroomthe third of which went missing from any talk of the network’s concluding series. In another example of HBO’s fortuitous timing, it’s airing its biggest hourlong show ever at a time when its drama cupboards are about to be made bare. Long-gestating drama projects generated a lot of questions during the session: David Chase’s early Hollywood miniseries, first bandied about in 2009, is still in play; Ryan Murphy’s Open pilot has reshoots coming in the fall. And Westworld, announced last summer, is about to go to pilot, with Lombardo calling it “A show that I think would work.” Which is exactly what you want to hear about a story that hinges on everything malfunctioning.  

On the day of the Emmy nominations, HBO’s comedies might be in an even better place than the network’s dramas. Game Of Thrones garnered the most nods of any show this year, but Veep has established a foothold in various comedy categories, and that’s a niche that has enough room for Silicon Valley to fit, too. The network’s two comedy presentations at the 2014 tour were Getting On and The Comeback, neither of which looked like they’d get a season two at this time last year—and one of which was canceled nearly 10 years ago. That year makes a lot of difference: A November premiere date looked like a death sentence for Getting On in 2013; The Comeback returns in November 2014, and TCA members asked today when and if the Lisa Kudrow-Michael Patrick King mockumentary would be coming back for more episodes after its recently announced six-episode second chance .

Such presentations gave the sense that whatever problems HBO has, they’re good problems to have—the network can resurrect long-dead cult favorites and extend a hand to little brother Cinemax, whose panel for The Knick marked what was said to be the network’s first press tour appearance since it picked up SCTV. (It wasn’t—as IGN’s Eric Goldman pointed out on Twitter, Cinemax was here with Hunted in 2012.) Steven Soderbergh, who directed all 10 episodes of The Knick and then commited to a freshly announced second season of the medically themed period piece, apparently agreed to do The Knick only on the condition that it aired on Cinemax. And that might be the surest sign of HBO’s clout in the summer of 2014: It can get the guy who made his name with sex, lies, and videotape to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-delay his retirement for the network that used to only be known for sex (and more sex) captured on videotape.


Stay tuned to The A.V. Club for more updates from the Television Critics Association summer press tour, which lasts through July 23. And be sure to follow TV Clubbers Erik AdamsSonia SaraiyaMyles McNutt, and Will Harris for up-to-the minute commentary on Twitter.

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