This month, HBO confirmed that its now-signature franchise — Game of Thrones — would not be returning until 2019. That immediately raised questions in some circles about the state of the premium cable network's 2018 slate. HBO programming president Casey Bloys, on hand Thursday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, isn't worried about his network's fortunes without the signature drama.
"Everyone wrote last year about how we'd be in trouble without Game of Thrones [at the Emmys] and we did just fine," Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter. "This is an old story because every year, 'Oh, my God! What is HBO going to do?!' Last year, that was it — we were going to die at the Emmys without Game of Thrones. And we had Westworld, which is coming back this spring. And Big Little Lies and True Detective and Alan Ball has a new show, and Succession and Sharp Objects, which is fantastic. And the Watchmen script is fantastic."
Indeed, HBO's 2018 slate includes the second seasons of comedies Divorce and Crashing (both back Sunday); Steve Soderbergh's interactive series Mosaic (Jan. 22); Alan Ball's star-studded family drama Here and Now, starring Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter (Feb. 11); the return of critical favorite Silicon Valley and the debut of Bill Hader vehicle Barry (March); and political drama Succession (June). Marti Noxon's take on Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams, also is due this year, as are the returns of Insecure, Ballers and the final season of Veep. On the movie side, HBO has Fahrenheit 451 starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon and based on Ray Bradbury's classic novel; Al Pacino starrer Paterno; and Peter Dinklage in My Dinner With Herve, among others. The second season of Emmy and Golden Globe winner Big Little Lies and True Detective season three, however, are slated for 2019.
Below, Bloys talks with THR about the state of the Game of Thrones franchise and its potential prequels, Big Little Lies season two, the status of the Deadwood movie and more. (The exec declined to comment about sexual harassment allegations surrounding The Deuce star James Franco.)
Let's start with the Game of Thrones prequels. What's the latest?
There are five of them. If we do a pilot and series, nothing is going to air on HBO until at least a year after the final season. We're not doing a final season and then, "Following it at 11 p.m. … ." I've seen some exciting material. We have really great writers working on these; it's very exciting. But there's no timetable. Not everybody is on the same schedule, so I've seen different versions of different things that are potentially exciting. But there's no timetable about when a decision would be made about any of them.
Can you discuss any of the storylines that are being explored?
In success, do you have an idea of just how many you'd do?
I'll do anywhere from zero to five! (Laughs.) Though probably more likely one. But we'll see.
The final six episodes of Game of Thrones are airing in 2019. Are they all supersized?
It really will be dependent on when the showrunners get the cuts and what they're happy with. Everything on Game of Thrones is driven by their desire to make the best show possible. When we're going to air, how long the episodes are — we're taking their lead on what they need.
Have you read all six episodes? Do you know how it ends?
They're great. It's fantastic. The fans are going to be very, very happy.
In this era of leaving the door open for revivals or undoing finales so you can revive it down the line…
That's not happening. This story, A Song of Fire and Ice, is done. There's no revival, reboot, spinoff talk.
So there's a definitive answer about who winds up on the Iron Throne?
I don't even want to answer that! [Laughs.] But it's exciting.
Would you be open to doing 90-minute or more installments? Will all six air in a row?
It's going to air six in a row. Episode length, I have no idea yet what it's going to be.
Have you thought about how you'll promote the show? Maybe an Imax release?
On the air, for subscribers.
The appetite for details on Game of Thrones is so vast that we're talking about episode length. That's nuts.
I don't mind! I love to have a show that people want to know this much about. It's a high-class problem.
Are you expecting Big Little Lies season two to air in 2018?
No. They start shooting in the spring. It's not going to air in 2018.
Given the Emmys and Globes success of the show, have there been any conversations about a third season or the show's long-term future?
Everybody involved is so busy that it's hard to imagine aligning everybody's schedule again. The fact that we were able to get season two together is a small miracle. Could we do it again? Who knows?! It's a great group. They love working together and they're really fun to work with. But everybody is really busy. So let's see.
How important is it to bring in new faces for season two?
In general, I don't think anybody involved is thinking we're going to do the same thing. In any second season of a show, people want to see growth in the characters and storylines. I don't think anyone involved is trying to do the same thing. We're trying to progress everybody's lives in the storytelling.
Word is you're bringing in actresses to play the mother to Alexander Skarsgard and Zoe Kravitz's characters.
Is True Detective going to air this year?
You have overall deals with Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner — what's next for them?
They have something that they're kicking around that could be interesting, so they're working on that. It's a scripted comedy.
What's the latest on the Deadwood movie?
David Milch is doing a rewrite that he and the producers were talking about. If they can get all the actors together, which they're trying to do — and everybody wants to do it — if they can get everybody back together, we're looking at fall 2018 to shoot something. But a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen. But I'm optimistic.
Westworld had a number of creative production delays ahead of season one. Showrunners Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy have said that they're writing everything before production starts in a bid to avoid that happening again.
They went into production mostly written. But like any production, they go in and rewrite. It was smoother [prepping season two]. It was good. They went in knowing what the show was. They had the benefit of the actors knowing their characters; Jonah and Lisa knew the show. It's what you want a second season to be. Everybody feels more comfortable and they know what they want to say and what they're capable of. It was a more comfortable experience for everybody. It was a big world, and Lisa and Jonah bit off a lot. They have a handle on the world and storytelling.
Nolan has spoken repeatedly about his fear of spoilers and Reddit guessing what the reveals are. Is he trying to go out of his way to make sure season two isn't something people can guess in episode three?
We all have jobs where we can talk about this and speculate. His No. 1 concern is the viewers. People who are watching and genuinely wanting them to be entertained and surprised and not see what's coming. It's called a spoiler for a reason. If you read it, you're going to miss out. I know how Game of Thrones ends and I'm still going to sit through it and think it's the best ride ever. It comes from wanting the fans to have the best ride they can.