HBO Execs Talk 'True Detective' Casting, 'Game of Thrones' Future

Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo TCA - H 2013
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Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo TCA - H 2013

Hot off their 99 Emmy nominations, HBO CEO Richard Plepler and his programming president Michael Lombardo took the stage Thursday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour to a barrage of questions.

Among the topics: the future of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the prospects for a Games of Thrones movie and how the red-hot True Detective was able to muscle its way into the Emmys' drama category rather than the lower-profile miniseries one.

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Garnering significantly less airtime during the lower-key half-hour panel was talk of the competition — a shift from last year's session, which devoted heavy focus to the entrance and impact of Netflix. Plepler couldn't come up with anything — genre or otherwise — missing from his schedule, using the platform instead to tout his programs and the competition's, including FX's The Bridge and Fargo as well as AMC's Mad Men.

Here's a look at some of the other topics addressed:

Curb Your Doubts

Don't count Curb Your Enthusiasm out just yet. Lombardo told the roomful of reporters that he ran into Larry David recently and asked the elusive creator and star whether he and his colleagues at HBO should "emotionally" get Curb out of their heads once and for all. David, who famously decides if and when he's ready to continue with his critically adored comedy, responded: "No, no, no." A reporter inquired as to whether Lombardo had ever dealt with anyone who operates like David before, and the HBO programming chief deadpanned: "Nope."

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True Detective's Future

Much to the room's chagrin, the pair had no casting announcements to share. Lombardo promised that those much-speculated-about names will be revealed shortly, perhaps even in the next week. And while he says he hasn't felt obligated to cast more A-list stars — careful to note that, when cast, Matthew McConaughey wasn't the star he became care of his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club — those hired likely will be well-known actors. As for the decision to submit True Detective as a drama rather than a miniseries, Lombardo noted of its move, which netted 12 noms for the network: "Nic [Pizzolatto] pitched an anthology series, we marketed it as an anthology series, and we think about it as an anthology series." What he could reveal from the stage is that he's received the first two scripts and he's ecstatic: "The two scripts we have are  — I hate to jinx it — but they are more exciting than the first season."

Game of Thrones: No Books, No Problem

Fans may be concerned that the HBO drama will outpace the George R.R. Martin book series on which it's based, but the HBO execs insist they're not. Lombardo noted that Martin is an integral piece of the show's creative process, and he'll continue to work closely with the series, whether or not he has source material to offer. As for the rumblings from Martin about a Game of Thrones movie, the execs said that there are no film talks taking place at this time. "In my conversations with George, he's 100 percent focused on the books and the show," said Plepler, who suggested he wouldn't rule out the option of a film project down the road.

Open Still Open

While Ryan Murphy's pilot Open won't be ordered to series as is, Lombardo acknowledged that he's not ready to give up on it just yet. When the pilot actors become available again this fall, he said the hope is to be able to do more shooting on the project. "We'd love nothing more than to make something work," Lombardo said of his collaboration with Murphy, whose The Normal Heart delivered big with 16 Emmy nominations Thursday.

The Comeback's Comeback

Lombardo credited two of his execs for The Comeback's return. Without naming names, he said the employees came to him as fans and said they'd love to revive the Lisa Kudrow comedy about "B-level" TV star Valerie Cherish, known for being a pioneer of reality television. When HBO reached out to Kudrow and creator Michael Patrick King about the idea, the pair came in for a meeting and shared both the execs' desire and enthusiasm. Said Lombardo of the conversations that have occurred in the months since: "It's as if they've been thinking about this for the last 10 years."