HBO Boss on 'Watchmen's' Uncertain Future, 'Game of Thrones' Prequel Decision

Watchmen S01E09 Still 2 - Publicity - H 2019
Boris Martin/HBO

Damon Lindelof's Watchmen helped provide HBO a speedy heir apparent after the final season of Game of Thrones wrapped as many industry watchdogs questioned the future of the Casey Bloys-led cabler. And now the premium outlet may use a straight-to-series prequel from George R.R. Martin's world to help fill the void of Watchmen's potential short run.

To hear the executive tell it, the status of a second season of Lindelof's graphic novel-inspired Regina King drama may be filed under the limited series category.

"Where we left it with Damon was he's thinking about what he wants to do and I'm taking his lead on that," Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter during a sit-down interview Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "If he has an idea that he's excited about, then I'm excited; if he wants to do something else, then that's what I want to do."

Lindelof has repeatedly been open about the distinct possibility that Watchmen — his take on Alan Moore's beloved graphic novel — could only run for one season. He previously told THR's podcast TV's Top 5 that he would be receptive to a new writer coming in with an idea for season two.

"I don't think I'm interested in, nor do I think the audience is interested in, 'Let's just do more of the same,'" Lindleof told THR's Josh Wigler after the finale. "Because then it wouldn't be Watchmen. It requires a new idea. Maybe that idea is going to come from someone else. I would welcome that, one hundred percent.

Still, the idea of handing Watchmen over to someone who isn't Lindelof is an idea that Bloys, HBO's programming president, would rather not explore.  

"I think Damon did a brilliant job. It is so much from his brain — obviously I know there was the underlying IP — but the reinvention and the world is so much from his brain that it's hard to imagine somebody else doing it," Bloys said Wednesday. "Not to say it can't be done, but right now I'm just giving Damon the time he needs to think about what he wants to do, creatively, next."

One key development to watch for is how HBO submits Watchmen for Emmy consideration with the TV Academy: as a drama series — as Bloys originally hoped it would be — or in the limited series category that signifies a closed-ended story. (HBO previously submitted season one of Big Little Lies as a limited series — it swept awards season in the category — but the show was moved to the drama series category after HBO signed new deals with the cast and renewed the Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman series a second season.

"That's a good question and we're talking about that," Bloys told THR. "Originally, my hope was it would have been an ongoing series, but where Damon is thinking about it, I think maybe it's more like a Fargo, where it comes back completely different."

Bloys remained open to the idea that should Watchmen actually return for a second season, it could morph into an anthology series that returns each season with a completely new story, new characters and a new cast similar to HBO's True Detective and, yes, Noah Hawley's Fargo.

"One of the nice things we learned is Damon has created this giant world," said the exec. "But the answer is, I don't know. A lot of that will depend on what Damon wants to do."

As for the cast, Bloys confirmed that the season one cast — including awards-season hopeful King — did sign the standard multyear deals that actors typically ink when they board what is intended as a renewable drama series.  

"The one thing Damon has been clear about is he doesn't see a continuation of this story," Bloys said. "He has to think about it more and we have to think about, as it relates to Emmys, what the right category is so that we're not misrepresenting where we want it to be or where it should be. A lot of that will depend on Damon's plans for the future and what he's thinking about."

As for the future of the Game of Thrones franchise, HBO sent shock waves through the industry in October when it passed on a prequel pilot from Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts that had been in the works for years. Hours later, the pay cabler stunned the industry yet again with news of a straight-to-series order for the prequel series House of the Dragon, focused on the origin story for the House Targaryen from franchise mastermind Martin and Ryan Condal (Colony) and Thrones director/executive producer Miguel Sapochnik. Perhaps the most surprising fact was that it was picked up straight to series. Thus far in the Peak TV waters, HBO has been reluctant to bypass the traditional development season that sees a script written, pilot produced and then, in success, series ordered. HBO historically has opted instead to focus on getting the development right — a fact that Bloys pointed to many times in the development of the Watts-led pilot.

"One of the things that I think Jane did beautifully — and it was a big challenge that she took on — which was there was a lot of world invention because she set her pilot 8,000 years before the current show," Bloys explained when asked about why he'd go straight to series on House of the Dragon but not Goldman's prequel. "It required a lot of thinking about what would it look like back then — how would people talk and relate to each other and what was the mythology underneath? — it was a really big swing. … I would not point to one thing and say, 'This or that totally missed'; sometimes pilots gel and sometimes they don't and that's just the process. So when we looked at House of the Dragon, one of the advantages it had was it had text from George R.R. Martin and had the Targaryen history. There was a bit more of a roadmap. It was an easier decision to say, 'Alright, let's go straight to series.' It wasn't like there was anything glaringly wrong about the pilot, it's just sometimes these things click and sometimes they don't."

House of the Dragon is expected to debut on HBO in 2022, according to Bloys.