HBO to end 'Entourage' next summer
Creator Doug Ellin still might write feature-length film
HBO has made it official: "Entourage" will end next summer.
The network will order a shortened final season of its longest-running series, possibly only six episodes, which will bring the show to a conclusion in 2011.
"Next summer will definitely be the final season," HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told critics Saturday during the final day of the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour.
Lombardo added that creator Doug Ellin still might write a feature-length "Entourage" film, but he also noted that Ellin is pitching new projects to the network and that it's likely the writer-producer soon will be involved in another show.
As for the network's other long-running comedy, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," it has no end in sight. It is expected to return sometime next year.
Another HBO project, "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," is finished as a series, though like "Entourage" it could result in an HBO movie or two.
Executives also confirmed a spring premiere date for its anticipated "Game of Thrones," whose production start was pushed back because of pilot tinkering and recasting.
"It's a ravenous audience," Lombardo said of "Thrones" fans. "They've set a bar that, if you do it, you have to do it right."
The network's upcoming Prohibition-era crime drama "Boardwalk Empire" also was paneled during the session, with the buzz positive from critics who had received advance screeners.
Executive producer and pilot director Martin Scorsese said he "would like very much" to direct more episodes of the series, though he added that scheduling is an issue.
"What's happening the past nine, 10 years was what we had hoped for in the mid-'60s when films were being made for TV," Scorsese said. "We hoped there would be this kind of freedom and ability to create another world and develop long-form characters and story."
Spike Lee didn't disappoint critics hoping for strong opinions during his panel promoting "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," his follow-up to the Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke."
Lee said the production took an unexpected detour after the Gulf Coast oil spill, and that he dedicated the fourth and final hour of the film to examining the disaster.
"BP cut some corners, went around safety regulations, the thing blew up, 11 people died and it changed our whole outlook," Lee said. "We had to rethink everything."
Lee justified the inclusion of material on the oil spill in a documentary about post-Katrina New Orleans, saying "the connective tissue is greed."
"I don't care how many scientists BP buys, that oil is still there," he said.
HBO's burgeoning premium cable rival Starz held panels for three dramas: "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," "Torchwood" and "Camelot." Genre shows are increasingly characterizing the network on the heels of the breakout success of Season 1 of "Spartacus."
During the sessions, the U.S. reboot of "Torchwood" received a new title ("Torchwood: The New World") and critics received a sneak peek at "Camelot."
"Camelot" star Joseph Fiennes, who plays the wizard Merlin, said that though the series will contain magic elements, they won't be a driving element in the story.
"The magic lies in the political essences of the piece," Fiennes said. "Yes, there will be dark arts -- you'll see things disappearing and changing shape -- but it's really about the birth of a legend."
Fiennes said he has pictures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker on the wall of his dressing room to remind him of the relationship between Merlin and young Arthur.
"Merlin is a cross between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Donald Rumsfeld," he said.
"Camelot" also had an unintentional casting announcement: "Rome" veteran James Purefoy has joined the series in a nonregular role as villainous King Lot, which Starz confirmed after a critic spotted the actor in a trailer.
Also, "Spartacus" showrunner Steven S. DeKnight said that Lucy Lawless has signed on for a second season despite her character apparently being killed off at the end of Season 1 (she also is in the show's upcoming prequel miniseries).
"Starz called; they wanted her to come back," DeKnight said. "I said, 'Absolutely not, she's gotta die, that's the way the story goes.' " Then he realized "she was still twitching at the end" of the finale and came up with an idea to continue her character.
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