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July 25, 2013

Gandolfini Still Looms Large at HBO

The legacy of James Gandolfini continues at HBO. TCA critics wasted little time in questioning the net’s chief Richard Plepler and programming head Michael Lombardo about HBO series “Criminal Justice,” which was to be the return to episodic TV of Gandolfini. “I can’t imagine us showing the pilot with James Gandolfini in it,” Plepler told the critics. Gandolfini filmed the pilot of the seven-ep series. “There’s nothing in production [on the series] now, we’ll re-engage in a conversation [about a new pilot]...Jim’s passing took the wind out of our sails at HBO…it’s hard to think about it,” Plepler said. Gandolfini was working on several other projects with both HBO and HBO Films. Those projects weren’t discussed.

Critics also wanted to know about perhaps HBO going it alone, distributing its content without cable or satellite providers. The execs said the existing distribution model is “the best at the moment.” Yet Plepler compared HBO Go to a BMW Series 5. It’s a great model right now, but it could be improved over time, he said. Critics also wanted to get the duo’s reaction to fledgling premium content provider Netflix. Would you ever pick up “House of Cards” they were asked. “Plepler scotched that notion quickly. “No… it’s too closely branded with Netflix.” But he and Lombardo couldn’t help commenting about Netflix’s refusal to release ratings. ”It’s curious that they don’t release ratings,” Lombardo said. “It’s their business, but its seems they’re saying ‘We’re not in the advertising business.’

Regarding ratings, the two said HBO looks at audience growth year to year and what they called “passionate engagement.” In other HBO developments, Lombardo said there are no plans to end “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire” or “Game of Thrones.” The series about post-Katrina New Orleans, “Treme,” will return for its final season of five eps Dec. 1. Both said “The Newsroom” is outperforming expectations and very likely will return for a third season and that comedy “Veep” will feature Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selena Mayer character running for President in 2016.







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