HBO makes waves with TCA session


PASADENA -- HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht -- somewhat less expansive in his remarks than usual during HBO's portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour -- confirmed that "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" will return with new episodes on April 8, with "Sopranos" launching its sixth and final season of nine installments.

"Sopranos" creator and executive producer David Chase will write and direct the finale of the seminal mob series that has grown to define HBO since its premiere in 1999.

Albrecht also revealed during the HBO sessions on Friday that "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini is executive producing and conducting interviews for a documentary special that has the working title "Alive Day: Home From Iraq," featuring the stories of wounded servicemen, that is slated to premiere on July 4. And he said that production begins in February on HBO Films' seven-hour historical miniseries "John Adams," starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.

HBO's lineup at TCA included panels for the forthcoming original made-for-TV movies "Longford," "Life Support" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," as well as those promoting the fifth season of "Real Time With Bill Maher" (premiering Feb. 16) and the original drama series "John From Cincinnati" from "Deadwood" creator David Milch, which is pegged for a surfing-friendly summertime debut.

"Wounded Knee" is based on the classic 1971 book by Dee Brown that documents the subjugation of Native Americans during the latter half of the 19th century. It's executive produced by "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf, his first project for HBO and, as he noted Friday, hopefully not his last.

"I'd do anything that HBO wanted me to do given the strictures that I'm under contractually," Wolf said. "They are both famous and notorious for taking a great deal of time ... but the reality is they end up doing it right."

Milch's appearance before critics gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel proved to be something of a surreal experience, with the producer in an unusually chatty, stream-of-consciousness mood while extolling the virtues of "Cincinnati," his paranormal surfing series. It left all who witnessed it feeling bemused and somewhat overwhelmed.

"To my mind, reality is a shifting and elusive condition," Milch said during one of expansive oral adventures. "It redefines itself constantly. ... When I was saying that this is a story that takes place on the margins of things, the attempt to identify the coordinates of reality is itself a kind of problematic and conditional effort. It's changing all the time. ... As time goes on, you come to realize what seemed to be chasms of difference which cannot be bridged turn out not even to exist."

Ah yes, surfing. In Milch's interpretation, it's when you catch an alpha wave that you're sittin' on top of the world.