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Eighteen months ago, Casey Bloys’ biggest concern was the future of Game of Thrones.
Now, the HBO and HBO Max programming chief is in the midst of getting a new corporate parent, busy overseeing a sprawling content portfolio that includes revivals of some of HBO’s most iconic shows for the years-old streamer, navigating the complex world of DC’s film and TV slates and blowback from the NBA.
While Marvel and Star Wars fare from Disney+ continues to dominate pop culture, Bloys remains focused on HBO and HBO Max’s recent hot streak. The streamer ended 2021 with nearly 74 million global subscribers, Mare of Easttown led all HBO series in total viewers, Mike White’s solution to filming during the pandemic, The White Lotus, became a critical breakout and Succession a frontrunner to win Emmy gold (again). Meanwhile, HBO Max delivered its most watched month ever in December thanks to the combination of Sex and the City follow-up And Just Like That and the Mindy Kaling-produced comedy Sex Lives of College Girls.
What’s more, 2022 has started strong with the long-awaited return of Euphoria continuing to add viewers, The Gilded Age opening to strong reviews (and a speedy renewal) and James Gunn’s Suicide Squad spinoff Peacemaker growing into a certified hit at the streamer.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Bloys via WebEx as part of his semi-annual TCA pitstops for a round of 20 questions including if House of the Dragon could go head-to-head with Paramount+’s Halo or Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings, the future of And Just Like That, the status of True Detective, Westworld and The Last of Us, and the state of all things DC (and J.J. Abrams).
I couldn’t help but wonder… knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently on And Just Like That? It clearly was a big driver to HBO Max.
(Laughs.) No. What’s most important when you do a show like that is Michael Patrick King and Sarah Jessica’s vision is executed. They’re thrilled — I’m thrilled — with the performance. I’m really happy.
Where are you in conversations with MPK and Sarah Jessica Parker on doing more?
They came to us with this big idea of having Big die. That was a way to open up a conversation about a specific time in your life. They know that we would be thrilled to do more with them. They have to decide: do they have a story they want to tell? I think they do, but they’re thinking about it and want to make sure. It’s a lot of time, it’s a big endeavor; they want to make sure they feel good about where they’re headed and hopefully we will hear what they’re thinking soon. I feel good about the chances of doing more. But we’re waiting to hear from them and what they’re thinking.
So, a Che spinoff?
(Laughs.) No! I don’t know where the Che-Miranda love story goes, if anywhere. I have no idea.
On another note, has David Chase shown you anything about The Sopranos prequel series?
You’re asking the question as if there is one in existence. (Laughs.) I don’t think David has any interest in revisiting The Sopranos. And I would agree with him. It’s a perfect series that I don’t think needs revisiting. But we’ll see what he wants to do next. If your question is about if the Super Bowl ad is some sort of precursor or anything like that, I don’t think so.
What about the rumblings of a Sopranos prequel series for HBO Max. Is there any more to come from The Sopranos or Many Saints of Newark?
Series-wise, not that I’m talking to David about. I don’t know where they left off, whether there were going to be more movies or what, so to your larger question about a Sopranos series, there’s nothing there. And with The Many Saints, there hadn’t been any conversations about it.
With And Just Like That and Many Saints both successful, where are you with other announced revivals of iconic HBO shows like Six Feet Under and True Blood? Now that you can see what HBO library content is clicking with Max subscribers, how much does that play a role in what you revive next?
Believe it or not, I don’t spend my time thinking about what shows to reboot. I just want to point out that if you look at the last year, between Mare of Easttown, The White Lotus and Succession and Insecure and now Euphoria and Gilded Age and going into Winning Time, there’s no reboots. In most of those cases, they weren’t based on existing IP. I do want to take a moment to make clear that we don’t spend our days thinking about what to reboot because it’s a tricky business bringing a show back. But to your question, True Blood, there were a couple ideas in development but nothing has really come to the fore. As far as Six Feet Under, I personally don’t think that’s a good idea. I think there are some shows that are better left, in Six Feet Under’s case, dead — or finished. So no other news on that front.
Lena Dunham revealed in a recent Hollywood Reporter cover that she’s had informal talks with HBO about an older/wiser version of Girls. Is that of interest?
No. I think Lena was half-joking about that. There are no real discussions about revisiting it. I would put Girls in with Sopranos and Six Feet Under as not something I’m thinking about bringing back.
Let’s shift to Game of Thrones. Can we get a status update on the Game of Thrones spinoffs? Are 10,000 Ships (Nymeria), 9 Voyages, Dunk and Egg and the animated YiTi series all still active? The Flea Bottom one died, as we reported.
Right now, there’s one Game of Thrones series, which is House of the Dragon. Nothing else has been greenlit. There’s various other projects in development but nothing else is greenlit, and right now we’re focused on House of the Dragon. I don’t believe we’ve passed on any others.
Amazon showed the first footage of its Lord of the Rings series during the Super Bowl, and we’ve already seen the Halo trailer. When can we expect the House of the Dragon trailer? Will the show go to San Diego Comic-Con?
I don’t know about Comic-Con; we haven’t announced any of our plans yet. I don’t even want to say “soon,” but you’ll start to see material … if I say “soon,” I’ll leave that vague. So maybe soon.
It’s been in the works for a few years. Can we expect an early renewal? Both Halo and LOTR have already been formally greenlit for second seasons.
Typically speaking, I like to take an approach where we will talk about what a second season might look like and talk about scripts. But we tend to like to see how a show performs. That said, if I were betting, I’d say there’s a pretty good shot that House of the Dragon will get a season two. But we tend to like things to air and give it some time. That said, on most shows, we’ll do preparation and put ourselves in a good position to move forward.
House of the Dragon doesn’t have a premiere date yet. Halo is coming in late March, with LOTR in early September. Is there a chance that Dragon will go head-to-head with either?
A good operating principle is not to worry too much about what other people have airing and to keep your eyes on your own work. I feel very good about House of the Dragon, and we’ll premiere it when we premiere it.
What’s the status of Contraband, the J.J. Abrams show formerly known as Demimonde? It was picked up in February 2018 and has already changed showrunners …
J.J. and his team are hard at work writing Contraband. We have great scripts and they’re thinking about production plans. But it’s a massive show, so it takes a lot of thought around how to build it.
J.J. is doing another Star Trek for Paramount and is busy with Justice League Dark, Subject to Change (an original), Duster and has a new show for Apple. What’s the priority, and how are you managing him at this point considering he’s doing stuff for your competitor (though it may be a Warners show)?
Bad Robot is a big producer. It’s not like they can only do one thing at a time. I don’t want to call out what their priority is — I wouldn’t speak for them — but I feel like everything we’re working on with them feels like priority number one to us. That’s what you want in a producer. You don’t want to feel that your show is second fiddle to something else. They certainly make it feel like every show is top priority.
Peacemaker, meanwhile, seems like it’s broken through, and James Gunn has said he’s already got other ideas for spinoffs. How is all the DC stuff being managed over there since you’ve also got Berlanti’s Green Lantern plus other stuff that isn’t tied into the feature films?
One of the things that Ann Sarnoff has been big on is trying to make DC work in a more organized and integrated way. I wasn’t there before, so I don’t know how things were done, but since I started at HBO Max a year and a half ago, we spend a lot of time talking with Toby [Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures chair] and Walter [Hamada, president of DC Films] and Jim Lee at DC, and we’re trying to be mindful about how all the pieces work together. In my estimation, it feels very well organized. That’s something that was very important to Ann when she started a few years ago.
Speaking of Berlanti, could some of his The CW DC shows move to Max as originals if the Nexstar sale of the network does go through?
We’ll see what happens. I don’t know, in that sale, what they’re looking to do or not do, but those shows do really well when they come to HBO Max in a window deal. They’re really well done and valuable shows to us. I’m not involved in the Nexstar or the CW negotiations or anything like that so I don’t really know, but generally speaking, the shows that Greg does for The CW are very valuable and perform well on HBO Max.
Westworld is close to coming back for season four. Is that still a franchise that will go the planned six seasons at this point considering the challenging timeline and Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan’s growing slate at Amazon?
I don’t know if it’s going to be six seasons. It’s up to Jonah and Lisa. I don’t know what their current thinking is, whether it’s five, six or seven, I’m not exactly sure.
When can we expect The Last of Us, this year or 2023?
The Last of Us is shooting right now in Canada. We haven’t announced an air date yet. But it’s not 2022. They’re still shooting in Calgary.
I have to ask, even though I know the answer: Why isn’t the Lakers show called Showtime? I just want to hear you say it.
I think it’s fair to say there would be some marketplace confusion having a show called Showtime on HBO. The book obviously has it in the title. If there were not a pay cable or streaming platform called Showtime, maybe it was a different conversation. But I will say that Winning Time is a Magic Johnson phrase.
At the same time, Magic and a lot of the Lakers depicted in the show have very strong feelings against the show. Do you have a message for them and the NBA?
We’ve been in this situation before where you’re depicting real characters, and luckily we’re dealing with public figures who have every right to do their own version of a show and are doing their own versions of a show. With this, you can read the book that it’s based on. I don’t think there are any surprises or anything that wasn’t in the book. But I know they just said in the TCA panel — and it is true — this is not a show that’s looking to take anybody down. It’s a celebration of a team that went from last place to first place and everybody loves that journey.
Any status update on Watchmen and True Detective?
No status update on Watchmen. On True Detective, we’ve been developing various ideas. Stay tuned on that one.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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