Welcome to my first live-blog for the July 2014 Television Critics Association press tour!
Up first, HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo take the stage to discuss “True Detective,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Leftovers” and whatever else we feel like we want to talk about.
That's Richard Plepler above. He looks like a character on “Mad Men,” doesn't he?
2:01 p.m. We may be delayed a few minutes by rumors of an ice cream bar. Ladies and gentlemen… HBO! Today's panels include “The Knick,” “The Comeback,” “Getting On,” the Foo Fighters docu-series and “Olive Kitteridge.”
2:05 p.m. HBO's first announcement is that HBO will be filming the last two nights of Beyonce & Jay-Z's concert tour in September. Those shows will be in Paris.
2:05 p.m. As was previously rumored, Meryl Streep will win an Emmy for Mike Nichols' adaptation of “Master Class.”
2:05 p.m. Apologies if I confuse Plepler and Lombardo in this live-blog. Lombardo has glasses. They're really easy to tell apart. But sometimes you look down when live-blogging.
2:07 p.m. We're starting with “Game of Thrones.” Are there concerns about George finishing the next book, blah blah. “We're not off on our own,” Lombardo insists, saying that at least for next season, every move is being choreographed with George. “After next year, we will have to figure it out with George,” Lombardo says. Plepler emphasizes that the showrunners are also in conversations.
2:08 p.m. The first two “True Detectives” are in. “We're gonna do the next season with puppets,” Lombardo jokes. “The two scripts we have are… Again, I hate to promise… I hate to jinx it, but are more exciting than the first season,” he says. He expects announcements coming in the next week maybe. They won't confirm rumors about the gender makeups. “I promise it will not be that long before it's all coming out. I think you'll be pleased with the show,” Lombardo says.
2:10 p.m. “I think we decided early on to free ourselves from the idea of 'star' and lean into the idea of 'great acting,'” Lombardo says. “I think the people we will cast will be well-known names, but that wasn't our ambition and I don't use that as a challenge,” he says. “Great writing draws great actors,” Lombardo says, insisting that people didn't watch just for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
2:11 p.m. Back to George R.R. Martin. He's said he wants to end with a movie. Is that something HBO is in talks on. “He is 100 percent focused on his books and his series and has only held out the movie concept as something way down the road,” Plepler says. “There's no conversations going on about a movie,” Lombardo adds.
2:12 p.m. Would anything prevent the full run of the story? “No,” Plepler says. “No. Look, I mean we're committed to it and Dan and Dave are committed to it,” Lombardo says. “Our line to George as always been, 'You keep writing and we'll keep making the show,'” Plepler says.
2:13 p.m. What is HBO strategy for Drama with “Boardwalk” and “True Blood” going away? “The truth is that we respond to quality,” Lombardo says. Sometimes it comes in different forms. “When quality comes, don't worry about the package that it's in,” Lombardo says, but they want to have a mix. He says they're about to pilot a show that will be “a franchise show,” that being “Westworld.” They have other “more traditional” projects that he calls “grounded dramas.” “What we've always bet on is variety and quality,” Lombardo says.
2:15 p.m. How should we define shows for Emmy purposes? Lombardo says that it's hard to have rules in a shifting landscape. “To me I think it's all about intention. For me. If something comes in and it's pitched to us and presented as a miniseries… that's how we think about it and that's how we market it,” Lombardo says. But he notes that when writers come in and describe it as an ongoing anthology or series, that's a drama. Take that, “AHS.” “I think the rules work. I think people find the category that fit their intention,” he says. What does he think about “True Detective” and “Fargo,” specifically. “Nic pitched a series to us, an anthology series. We marketed it as an anthology series,” Lombardo says. “I understand that the rules would have permitted us to enter it as a miniseries. I'm glad there's that flexibility,” Lombardo says, while noting that's just not what they did.
2:18 p.m. Why does HBO try to make sure not to end shows abruptly and to lead creators have warnings of ends? “We believe our agreement with our viewer is to try not to do that, particularly if there's a narrative. I think we feel that the right thing to do is always to end with some creative integrity, so that the viewer feels satisfied and the creator feels satisfied,” Lombardo says. He says that they learned from viewer dissatisfaction with the end of “Deadwood.” He closes, “We're in a different business than the networks… in terms of their advertising dollars, so it affords us that luxury and that responsibility, I think.”
2:20 p.m. How do they feel about “Silicon Valley” and “The Leftovers” are going? “We're really pleased with both of them,” Lombardo says. He calls “Silicon Valley” a “happy experience.” On “Leftovers,” he says that he knows the whole season and he calls it “a terrific show.” He says that the first episode is up around 7 million viewers. “It's a tough show in the sense that it deals with some painful and challenging human emotions,” Lombardo says. “I think we're in conversations now,” Lombardo says of the future of “Leftovers.”
2:21 p.m. On “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Lombardo says that he just saw Larry David at an event recently and David was talking about his plans for the rest of they ear and Lombardo and asked David if he should get “Curb” out of his head and Larry said, “No no no,” so “Curb” isn't out of the picture. It's just not coming back any time soon.
2:24 p.m. Let's talk about “Westworld.” They're planning on shooting this summer and they're casting now. Announcements are coming. “It's similar only in construct. Obviously it takes place some time in the unspecified future in an amusement park populated by robots. Beyond that, I think it's its own thing,” Lombardo says. There's no Yul Bryner. He calls it one of the most exciting scripts they've seen in some time.
2:25 p.m. What's up with Ryan Murphy's “Open”? Lombardo hopes that in the fall, the actors will become available to do more shooting. They're trying to find the pilot. “We both agree it's some stuff that needs to be done in the fall,” Lombardo says.
2:26 p.m. How did “The Comeback” comeback? Lombardo says two men who work for him asked to bring it back and they called Michael Patrick King and Lisa Kudrow. “They came in for a meeting and it was so exciting, funny and it just happened,” Lombardo says. “It's as if they'd been thinking about this for the last 10 years,” he claims.
2:27 p.m. What shows on other networks do they wish they had developed? Plepler doesn't wish he had anything on another network, but he likes “Fargo,” “Mad Men” and “The Bridge” a lot.
2:28 p.m. What's up with David Chase's Early Hollywood miniseries thing? Is it dead? “It's not dead at all. In fact he is working on it,” Plepler says. “When he's ready to come in, we'll be ready to talk,” Plepler insists. That project was announced four years ago.
2:29 p.m. Plepler says not to come in with pitches that are derivative of other HBO shows. OK. I won't!
2:30 p.m. What do they make of the “Game of Thrones” cultural phenomenon? Why has it become more than a TV show? “What we knew is that it was a great series of books in the hands of two superb writers who were great showrunners,” Plepler says. “The notion that people can shoehorn the zeitgeist is a foolish one,” Plepler says. “It's a magic that happens with certain shows,” Lombardo agrees.
2:32 p.m. Last question: Is there a type of show that they want and don't have in development yet? “No, is the answer,” Lombardo says. “I think our job is to respond to fresh ideas and fresh voices,” Lombardo says. He tells people that what HBO is looking for is “great shows.” “I want writers coming in with something they *have* to do,” he says.