TCA Update: HBO Executive Session

The HBO executive session with Michael Lombardo (President, Programming Group and West Coast Operations) and Richard Plelpler (Co-President) just wrapped up, and here were the highlights:

* Before Plepler and Lombardo took the stage, we were treated to the trailer for the network’s new 10-hour miniseries, “The Pacific,” produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman. Let’s just go ahead and give the Emmy now, shall we?

* “True Blood,” “Hung,” and “Entourage” will all be coming back for new seasons next summer.

* Conversations are underway to potentially bring back “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”

* Neither was willing to offer up any information about how Evan Rachel Wood would look as the vampire queen at the end of the second season of “True Blood,” for fear that they would suffer some horrible fate at the hand of Alan Ball. They did, however, assure us that surprises are in store, and that it totally delivers.

* “Little Britain USA” is not coming back, but they’re talking about bringing creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams back for some specials. It’s still in the development stage, but the intent is to come back with a whole new cast of characters and a whole new approach to their television appearance. In short, they will be back on HBO, though whether it will be at the end of next year or later remains to be seen.

* Season 2 of “Eastbound and Down” will begin shooting it sometime at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, and it will air next year.

* David Simon’s new series, “Treme,” will be on the air next April, fingers crossed. The current intention is for “The Pacific” to premiere mid-March, and, at the end of its run, ‘”Treme” will begin.

* The pilot just wrapped for Martin Scorcese’s “Boardwalk Empire,” and they are anxiously awaiting a cut from Marty so that the series can receive a green light. Provided it’s as good as they’re presuming it will be…and, thus far, “everything we’ve seen is fantastic, big, everything we hoped it could be”…their fingers are crossed that a pick-up is imminent.

* As for Season 3 of “Flight of the Conchords,” the official word is, “When they’re ready, we’re ready.”

* They have begun receiving episodes for Season 2 of “The Life & Times of Tim,” and they describe them as “funnier than the first,” but they haven’t yet figured out where they want schedule the show. They do, however, have an upcoming series that could fit the bill nicely…

* They’ve ordered an animated show from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, based on their long-running series of podcasts. I’m saying it right here: the time is right for Karl Pilkington mania to grip the States!

* Although the histrionics of Jerry Rice probably didn’t help things any, the big reason that the Bengals are the focus of this season of “Hard Knocks” rather than the Cowboys is that the network wanted to open up a new team to the audience and show a different organization and the habits and attitude of that team.

* Season 4 of “Big Love” is scheduled to kick off in January.

* Season 3 of “In Treatment” is something they’re trying to put together, but given that the show was adapted from an Israeli series that only ran for two seasons, they’d have to create all-new scripts for a third season. Still, it’s a good sign that Gabriel Byrne is “very interested” in returning.

* And, lastly, they are forever trying to figure out a way to extend the length of Bill Maher’s seasons, in order to give him more time on the air. Whether that’s a good thing or not, you be the judge.

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”

If you’re not already familiar with Alexander McCall Smith’s series of books about a female private detective in Botswana, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that HBO’s “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” was some sort of premium-cable equivalent of ABC’s defunct “Women’s Murder Club.” It’s actually a rich look into modern day African culture that has as much to do with spotlighting the gorgeous landscape and establishing the personalities and quirks of its characters as it does with solving a mystery.

Fans of McCall Smith’s novels were chomping at the bit to see who would be cast to play the novel’s central figure, Mma Precious Ramotswe. The slightly surprising victor: Jill Scott, a woman known far more for her work as a singer than as an actress. It must be said, however, that Scott does a great job in the role, offering the appropriate notes of both humor and drama throughout the production. For his part, however, McCall Smith couldn’t say whether or not she truly fit his idea of what Precious would look like, if only because it’s something to which he ever gave any thought.

“As a writer, curiously enough — and people sometimes don’t believe me when I say this — but I don’t actually see my characters,” said McCall Smith. “I hear them, but I didn’t have a picture of what Mma Ramotswe would look like. So when Jill came along, I said, ‘That’s fine. That’s perfectly all right by me.’ And indeed, I think you have certainly given me a picture of my characters which I didn’t have before. But when I actually write, I don’t see people. I just hear things. And I see a countryside, but I don’t actually see the characters, which is a strange thing. So that was fine. I thought they were just right.”

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