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HBO Touts Trio of Pilots, Chris Rock Special at TCA

Jul 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

HBO has greenlit pilots for three new series, working with offscreen talent including network mainstays Sarah Jessica Parker and David Simon as well as Martin Scorsese.
Michael Lombardo, president of the HBO programming group and West Coast operations, announced the pilots Thursday at the network’s executive session during the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles. They are musician-centered “Treme,” set in that New Orleans neighborhood, from “The Wire” creator David Simon and Eric Overmyer; “The Washingtonienne,” executive produced by Ms. Parker; and a one-hour drama set in Atlantic City in the 1920s from “The Sopranos” producer Terry Winter and Mr. Scorsese.
HBO also plans to air Chris Rock’s fifth concert special in the fall.
During the session, top HBO executives were asked about a string of series that have, at best, developed small but enthusiastic audiences, but aren’t replacements for such big hits as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”
Does the network think it can develop another big mass-audience hit?
“The answer to that is you have to listen for excellence and quality first,” said HBO Co-President Richard Plepler. “No one knew when ‘Sopranos’ came in the door it was going to be ‘The Sopranos.’ It’s a fool’s errand to try to find the next big thing.”
Mr. Plepler and Mr. Lombardo are among the HBO executives promoted to senior programming positions last year after the departure of CEO Chris Albrecht and a loss of buzz for the network’s original offerings.
Mr. Lombardo said the network has not made big changes in its development process, but it is more urgently reaching out to let storytellers know it’s open for business.
“It’s always heartening to get a big audience,” Mr. Lombardo said, cautioning, “It would be a mistake to be swinging for home runs.”
Mr. Lombardo said HBO was looking to adjust its mix away from what one critic described as too many somber shows.
He said the upcoming “True Blood” will be “fun to watch” and that “the pilots we’re doing will change that mix a little bit.”
For exclusive video, breaking news and blogs from the TCA summer tour, visit TVWeek.com’s TCA Navigator page.

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