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Though HBO is no longer in a class by itself, it remains the valedictorian of scripted television.
With the addition of Emmy-nominated Veep, Girls and Game of Thrones, the premium cable network is garnering the mix of acclaim and commercial success that it found itself in need of after a fallow period following the conclusion of Sopranos and Sex and the City.
In that time, such networks as AMC, FX and Showtime emerged as competitors, with series efforts including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Damages and Homeland generating attention from fans and awards voters alike.
“There’s plenty of room for quality work,” HBO’s co-president Richard Plepler said of the increasingly crowded field during an appearance before the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour Wednesday, adding: “It’s not a zero sum game.”
Here’s a look at the many other topics that Plepler, along with his programming president Michael Lombardo, tackled during his half-hour before the TV press:
More from Larry David
Plepler acknowledged that David has “carte blanche” at the premium cable network, where the future of Curb Your Enthusiasm is once again being left entirely up to him. While the execs are hopeful that David will have more stories to tell –“I don’t think he’s closed the door on Curb,” Lombardo allowed– they are allowing him to turn his attention to a Greg Mottola-directed film, which would star David, for HBO. The project, which will be improv-based (specific plot points are being kept tightly guarded), was originally set up at Fox Searchlight. “We put our hand up and told Larry that this is the perfect home for it. Larry thought about it and decided it was,” said Lombardo, who noted that the remainder of the cast is “literally being confirmed probably as we speak.”
Drama of Newsroom
“We’re very proud of it,” Plepler insisted of the Aaron Sorkin drama, which has caused a stir in the media since its late June debut. The exec made a subtle nod to the small but vocal outcry in the Twittosphere, noting: “There’s nobody who can resonate and start a conversation like Aaron can.” To date, the series, which has already been renewed for a second season (albeit without some of Sorkin’s former writing staff), is grossing 6.7 million viewers.
Game of Thrones Goes On
Game of Thrones is the first title mentioned when Lombardo is asked to offer an example of a series he’s particularly proud of. In doing so, he notes that the George R. R. Martin adaptation is a prime example of HBO “taking swings.” As for what’s to come for the commercial smash hit, which grosses 8.6 million weekly viewers: “We split the third book into two,” Lombardo confirmed. “Having not read the book, I can’t tell you whether it’s exactly half. But yes, the plan is to do it in two seasons.”
The Scott Rudin Split
Though HBO no longer has a deal with mega-producer Scott Rudin, he will remain attached to Newsroom. In his attempt to explain the parting of ways, Plepler noted that it was a matter of “capacity.” “We have a lot in the hopper,” he explained, adding: “he wanted to move on things that we were not ready to move on… and we wanted to give him the flexibility to do that.”
An Entourage movie remains a real possibility. According to Lombardo, who has heard a general pitch, executive producer Doug Ellin is currently “on page 65” of the film script. HBO execs have not yet made any decisions about whether it’s a project they will move forward with, nor do they have deals in place with any of the cast.
(Still) Bored to Death
Fans could get another shot at Bored to Death, after all. According to Lombardo, creator Jonathan Ames is in the process of writing the script for a film follow-up to the since-canceled comedy. “The challenge for us with films now is that we’re only making three — sometimes four, depending on the budget — a year. Given what’s going on in the studio business, we have an unbelievable slate in development,” Lombardo noted of his network’s famously full slate, adding: “But we love Bored to Death and Jonathan and we’re excited to see what he’s writing.”
The Kids Are All Right on the Small Screen
The net is still developing a series adaptation of the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right, which would take place the week after the movie ends. “I think it’s a perfectly cast film with some of the best performances we’ve seen in a really long time,” said Lombardo of the film, which starred Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. “What she does in the script is she goes a little deeper into the characters… the film is a little like crack. We’ll see.”
Praise for Broadcast Drama
If you’re looking for an executive to knock broadcast dramas, you’ll need to look elsewhere. In this case, Lombardo called the lack of broadcast efforts in this year’s Emmy drama category “an anomaly.” While he stops short of rattling off a lengthy list of quality broadcast examples, he does shower praise on CBS’ The Good Wife and Fox’s upcoming Kevin Bacon drama The Following.
Additional reporting by Lesley Goldberg
E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose
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