HBO high on fantasy 'Game of Thrones'

Michael Lombardo says project is likely to get a series pickup

HBO's fantasy pilot "Game of Thrones" is marching toward a series order.

Following HBO's portion of TV Critics Assn.'s winter press tour Thursday, the HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo said the dailies for the pilot look "fantastic" and that the project looks very strong for a series pickup.

"I would be surprised if it doesn't (get a green light)," Lombardo said. "It has everything going for it."

If all goes well, "Thrones" will be on HBO in March or April 2011.

The topic du jour, the late-night turmoil at NBC, found its way to the HBO panels.

Rosie O'Donnell, on hand to present her documentary "A Family Is a Family Is a Family," about the diversity of modern partnerships, was asked if she would be interested in a spot in NBC's late-night lineup.

"That question today is like asking if I'd like to vacation in Haiti -- I hear it's nice but not right now," she deadpanned.

O'Donnell also directly addressed NBC's plan to reinstate Jay Leno at 11:35 p.m. by pushing "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" to 12:05 a.m.

"If you're privileged enough to be asked enough to drive the bus you should say, 'Thank you,' " she said. "And when you're done, you say, 'thank you,' and you should pass the keys to the new guy -- with red hair -- and not try to flatten the tires."

HBO's upcoming miniseries "The Pacific" caused some creative friction between the network and producers, executive producer Tom Hanks said.

Asked why "Pacific" -- unlike HBO's 2001 mini "Band of Brothers" -- opens each episode with a brief documentary-style history lesson, he answered with what he said was "a sarcastic complaint."

"There was a thought that it was hard to get people excited about a battle in a place like Guadalcanal without context," Hanks said. "There were those of us on the producing team that thought context was a waste of time once we got involved in the characters and story."

HBO showed a lengthy trailer for "Wire" creator David Simon's new series, "Treme," which is set in a post-Katrina New Orleans. The clip suggested that the show is a collection of intertwined character studies more than a narrative-driven series.

" 'The Wire' implied what was at stake in the American city," Simon said. "But 'Treme' shows it."

HBO also screened a compelling trailer for "Temple Grandin," a film starring Claire Danes about an autistic woman who creates a behavioral tool that revolutionizes the cattle industry. While the subject might sound like a tough slog, the film's bright palette and inventive direction had critics buzzing.
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