9:57am PT by Michael O'Connell, Lesley Goldberg
HBO's New Chief Talks Jon Stewart, 'Vinyl' Demise, Violence Problems and 'Thrones' End
HBO might have had one of the most-anticipated executive sessions from this summer's gathering of the Television Critics Association. Untimely demises (Vinyl), looming endgames (Game of Thrones) and questions over talent deals (Jon Stewart, True Detective's Nic Pizzolatto) have been sources of industry speculation for months. What's more, newly minted programming chief Casey Bloys would be fielding those questions in his first TCA appearance.
Bloys answered those and more questions Saturday morning during his time in front of the press, which had no shortage of news. The exec also found himself on the defensive, as he was hammered about the pay cable network's inclusion of sexual violence against women in its dramas — specifically Game of Thrones and its upcoming reboot of Westworld. He also offered as much clarity as he currently has about Larry David's revival of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Game of Thrones Will End With Season 8
Bloys confirmed that Game of Thrones would wrap with the yet-to-be-announced eighth season of the show. "They have a very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do," he said, referring to creators/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. "We take their lead." Bloys also said that episode count and production start times were decisions entrusted to the duo. "The exact number for season seven is locked at seven [episodes], the eighth season is not sure yet," he added. "They know we'll take as many as they want to give us." Bloys was quick to note that HBO would still be the network with the most Emmy nominations, even without Game of Thrones — a consolation now that the show is out of the running for the 2017 race.
Jon Stewart Is Getting Animated
Stewart's post-Daily Show move should arrive this fall. Though Bloys would not commit to an official premiere date, he did express a hope for September or October (i.e. before the presidential election). "I talked to Jon before this," said Bloys, confirming he had the comedian's blessing to clarify the plans. "He is establishing an animation studio. He wants to get material out on a daily basis. The idea is that it's an animated parody of a cable news network in an Onion-like portal. It will be his voice, in his actual voice, and his tone." "Onion-like," Bloys later clarified, means that there also will be a written component. And, down the line, a half-hour effort on the linear network.
Violence Is an Equal Opportunity Plot Device
Five reporters pushed Bloys on HBO dramas' penchant for including rape, murder and other violence (particularly against women) as plot devices, as the conversation about an opening scene in Westworld and Thrones' track record nearly hijacked the entire panel. Bloys, who was visibly frustrated by the repetitive line of questioning, pointed to the fact that men are frequently victims of violence on Game of Thrones — but none of his responses seemed to satisfy the crowd. "I think the criticism is valid," he concluded. "It's something that people take into account. It's not something we're wanting to highlight "
Vinyl's Cancellation — Decoded
One of Bloys' first decisions on the job was to reverse course on a second season of 1970s music drama Vinyl. The decision, which came after showrunner Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) was replaced, wasn't an easy one, Bloys said. "It didn't land I think as we would have liked it, as you [critics] would have liked it or as producers would have liked it," he confessed, noting that he didn't think the retooling was worth the producers' time if it would move the needle only a little. "With a little bit of distance, thinking about what we want to do going forward, it really becomes about priorities. … If I have limited resources, there are other things I want to do." Vinyl joined The Brink, Luck and Tell Me You Love Me as other series that HBO ultimately abandoned after announcing a second-season renewal. Bloys noted that the "creative process is a messy one" and said he'd "like to not have to do that again." He added, "If anything, going through this with Vinyl, we will more carefully consider [things] going forward."
Don't Expect Curb Your Enthusiasm Anytime Soon
Larry David has committed to doing another season of his beloved comedy, but that's about all HBO knows at this point. "I think possibly this fall and on air sometime in ," said Bloys of a start date. "That could slide, but he's gearing up for it."
The Deadwood Movie Is (Slowly) Moving Forward
Among the many projects currently gestating at HBO is the long-rumored Deadwood TV movie follow-up. While a high priority under former programming president Michael Lombardo, Bloys could not confirm that it would indeed be moving forward — though he was optimistic. "David [Milch] is writing the script. We haven't read it. I imagine it will be very good but I'll let you know when I see the script. I feel good about it but I can't tell you for sure," he said.
Breaking True Detective Update
After a critically adored freshman run and panned sophomore season, Bloys said that the anthology from creator Nic Pizzolatto "is not dead." With Pizzolatto under an overall deal with HBO through 2018, Bloys remained committed to the franchise. He noted that Pizzolatto does not have an idea for a third season and is busy working on other projects, though it's not imperative for the showrunner to pen the third installment. "We're open to someone else writing it with Nic supervising it; it's a really valuable franchise for us," said Bloys, noting the show's average viewership of 11 million viewers. "It's not dead; I'm just not sure we have the right take for a third season — yet."