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HBO Takes TCA Press Tour Somewhat Laying Down
July 31, 2015  | By Ed Bark

Beverly Hills, CA -- Renowned and even revered for its star-powered TV "press tour" panels, HBO shrunk to something of a Little Dipper with its Thursday afternoon/evening show and tell.

Its biggest attraction, Ballers star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, didn't appear in the flesh but via satellite from his well-appointed Florida gym. Panels for returning series Doll & Em (below left) and The Leftovers lacked sizzle, as did a session for the new David Simon miniseries Show Me A Hero. Its best-known cast members, Winona Ryder and Jim Belushi, were not in attendance. HBO also brought diver Greg Louganis into view to talk about his Back on Board documentary. Not exactly a big splash.

There's a "but" here, though. HBO programming president Michael Lombardo came ready to play and had much to answer for. Jon Snow for instance. Is the gallant Game of Thrones heartthrob really dead?

"Dead is dead is dead is dead. He be dead," Lombardo said with seeming certainty. "Everything I've seen, heard, and read -- Jon Snow is indeed dead."

But there's still ample time for him to be proven wrong, even if it takes a resurrection.

"I think they're feeling like there are probably two more years after (season) six," Lombardo said of GOT's production team. "I'd always love for them to change their minds, but I think that's what we're looking at right now."

Lombardo also is game for a GOT prequel, in which there'd be "enormous storytelling to be mined." But there have been no discussions to date.

Snow's presumed death, the burning at the stake of a young girl and other assorted Season 5 atrocities put some fans of the series off their feed, judging from a growing online uproar. Still, the audience grew by an average of more than one million viewers per episode, Lombardo noted. "This show has had violence as part of one of many of its threads from really the first episode. I can't speak to any single person's particular taste or saturation point . . . But there are no show-runners who are more careful about not overstepping what they think the line is, but also doing things that are critical to the storytelling."

Lombardo also found himself defending Season 2 of True Detective (below right), which has been pummeled throughout its ongoing run. The show's Sunday, Aug. 9 finale "is as satisfying as any show I've seen," he contended. And if writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto wants to do another season, "I told him our door is open. I'd love to do another season with him. I think he's a spectacular writer."

HBO otherwise is playing waiting games with both David Chase and Larry David.

Back in March 2009, the network announced a miniseries on Hollywood's formative years, with Chase as maestro. You might say it's taking him a while. So much so that this became the third straight summer that your tvworthwatching.com correspondent asked about its status.

"I have seen pages," Lombardo said three times in succession. "I think there's something phenomenal there and when it comes we'll all be incredibly excited. Look, it's really challenging to come back to television after having a show like The Sopranos.

But what he showed us, basically two hours worth of material, it's pretty phenomenal. So he's writing, and I trust I'll see something by the end of this year. And we'll go from there."

David's Curb Your Enthusiasm ended its eighth season in 2011. How about the odds of a ninth?

"I don't think it's out of his system," Lombardo said. "I think he's enjoying his life, and I think he'll come back to it. And when he comes back, we'll figure it out . . . I certainly see this as a continuing dialogue with him. A long one, but a continuing one."

Lombardo also introduced extended clips from two new HBO dramas coming early in 2016 -- Vinyl (about the early 1970s record industry) and Westworld, drawn from the 1973 sci-fi film.

Fantasy has been very good to HBO of late, with GOT and True Blood. Lombardo is a fan of those series' popularity, but not really of the genre.

"I'm not a fantasy guy to begin with. It's not my natural inclination," he said. "I've actually struggled with this internally. We probably have inadvertently programmed more otherworld series than we intended to. It surprises me . . . We've consciously amongst ourselves sort of said, 'OK, the bar's gotta be really high for something else to walk in here and have altered reality as a premise.' "

Meanwhile, Jon Snow is still dead. For now. But in the altered reality realm . . . well, let's not count him completely out just yet.

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