While at the HBO portion of the TCA Press Tour, President of Programming Michael Lombardo and co-President Richard Plepler took some time to talk about new and returning programming. During the interview, they spoke about how long Game of Thrones and True Blood could run for, what they have currently in development with both David Chase (The Sopranos) and David Milch (Deadwood), the status of the Criminal Justice pilot and why they think it’s best to recast the role James Gandolfini played, the possibility of a second season for Family Tree and a third season for The Newsroom, the half-hour series about high school life that they’re developing with Danny McBride and Jody Hill, and that they are no longer moving ahead with a Transporter series at Cinemax. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
MICHAEL LOMBARDO: As far as I’m concerned, [Game of Thrones] can go on as long as there are stories to tell. I know there are the issues with the (George R.R. Martin) books and catching up. We certainly haven’t gotten anywhere near that conversation with David and Dan yet. And with True Blood, we’re excited about it. It feels like there’s a new energy this season. We’re talking to Brian [Buckner] about next year. No decisions have been made, at this point, how much longer that show will be running. It continues to have a really engaged fan base, and I think Brian Buckner brought some really great energy in this year, in terms of the storytelling.
You announced a mini-series from David Chase about old Hollywood, back in March of 2009. Is that still happening, or have you passed on that?
RICHARD PLEPLER: I think David is still writing, developing and working. As you can imagine, our door is always wide open to him. He finished his movie and traveled a little bit, but I happen to know he’s working on it. So, we’ll wait to see what he comes back with.
Around when Luck was canceled, there was talk of David Milch doing some William Faulkner made movies for you guys. Where does that project stand?
LOMBARDO: He did write at least one feature-length adaptation of a Faulkner novel, which is still in development. We have a deal with David, and he has been writing very closely with Art Linson, who’s attached as an executive producer, on a pilot that may go into production, and we’re actually talking casting. So, that’s been the focus of all of our energy with David, at this point.
What details, if any, can you give on the David Milch/Art Linson project?
PLEPLER: It’s a look at a dynastic New York media family. It’s a look at the complexity of power in modern urban life. And it is in a classic Milchian voice.
In regards to Criminal Justice, have you firmed up any plans regarding James Gandolfini and whether he’ll still be in the pilot?
LOMBARDO: I can’t imagine airing the pilot with James in it, but we’re having conversations with Steve Zaillian about how to proceed. Jim’s passing took us took the wind out of our sails quite a bit at HBO, so it’s taken some time to even be able to have conversations with Steve about the future of that. We’re talking about it now. He’s obviously a large presence and a fantastic actor, and it’s hard to think about replacing him, but we’re having those conversations. In the meantime, Steve and Richard Price are writing away. But no, we would never air the pilot with James in it. That was just the beginning of a journey. There’s no reason to air that. The conversation would be about re-shooting the portion that Jim had already performed in, and recasting going forward.
LOMBARDO: We’re looking at that, right now. It’s just finished its run. It is a co-production with the BBC, and I think the BBC is interested in doing another season. It’s a show that didn’t find as robust of an audience as we had hoped, but that we’re enormously proud of. So, we’re taking a look at it, but no decision has been made. We’re just starting the conversations about it.
Are you happy with The Newsroom, creatively, and do you think you will renew it for Season 3?
LOMBARDO: I think the odds are excellent. We’re very happy with the show. Honestly, the conversations with Aaron, at this point, are all about schedule. He has some other commitments that he’s trying to figure in. If we can figure out scheduling, in terms of his time and being on the air next year, I would be shocked if you weren’t hearing an announcement soon. We’re very happy with that show. The numbers, this year, are surpassing the numbers last year.
Eastbound & Down is about to wrap production on its final season. What can people expect, when it returns?
LOMBARDO: Eastbound was a slow build for us. It definitely started slowly and built, exponentially. It’s actually not a ratings-challenged show. The decision on that show not to go forward was that Danny [McBride] and Jody [Hill] want to do something new for us. It’s been successful, creatively. And audience wise, it’s been really a great show for us, and a great experience.
LOMBARDO: I don’t think we’ve announced it, but they’re going to take a look at high school life. That’s all I can say. It’s a really great, funny, quintessentially Danny/Jody idea.
Is it also a half-hour?
LOMBARDO: It’s also a half-hour.
What is your goal with the Jonathan Groff series? Do you see it as a “gay series”?
LOMBARDO: Well, there are gay men in it. At the risk of sounding too innocent, we don’t really have a goal for our shows. It came in as a script, and it felt really fresh and powerful. It was less so because there happened to be three gay men living in San Francisco than a really smart, textured look at men at different ages struggling with intimacy in a dramedy sort of way. And then, with Andrew Haigh’s direction, it came in beautifully, and we said, “Let’s do this.” I hope it finds an audience. I think it’s really special. Will the fact that the protagonists are three gay men turn people off? I don’t know. That’s the fortunate aspect of being at HBO. We can try things like that. I hope it finds a passionate audience. It’s a special show. It’s really well done.
PLEPLER: I think the show is as powerful in its statement about relationships and about navigating your way to try to find home, whatever home is.
What’s going on with Transporter series that was being developed at Cinemax?
LOMBARDO: Nothing is going on with Transporter. We have elected not to proceed with our involvement with that project.