PASADENA, Calif. – HBO confirmed plans for a significant programming boost, from roughly 100 to 150 hours of original scripted series in 2019, but foremost in fans’ minds is how the premium cable network plans to extend the “Game of Thrones” franchise.
The fantasy series, the most popular in HBO’s history, will come to an end May 19 after six final episodes. But already plans are afoot for a prequel. The network developed five potential spinoffs and will begin shooting a pilot episode for one of them in June, shortly after “Thrones” wraps its eight-season run, said Casey Bloys, HBO’s programming chief, at the Television Critics Association.
It stars Naomi Watts and is set in Westeros, thousands of years before the current series (so don’t look for any current characters), and is being shepherded by Jane Goldman (“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”). If it goes forward (which seems a relatively safe bet), it would begin production in 2020 and air later that year or beyond, Bloys said.
But he’s tabled the other four “Thrones” projects for now, he told USA TODAY. “I don’t know that we’ll do another one; I’m just not sure.” The Watts project “was the one that, for us, rose above the others and made the most sense for us.”
The April 14 “Thrones” return isn’t the only tentpole series for 2019. Before then, Bloys touted “Leaving Neverland,” the buzzy documentary about sexual-abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, to air March 3 and 4; award-winning “Barry” and “Veep,” both returning March 31 for second and final seasons, respectively; and “Big Little Lies,” which is back for a second run in June, with Meryl Streep joining the cast.
For summer, look for “Euphoria,” the network’s first teen drama, to star actress/singer Zendaya, and later this year, a second season of “Succession;” “The Righteous Gemstones,” a comedy with Danny McBride and John Goodman; the third and final season of “The Deuce;” an adaptation of comics-inspired “Watchmen,” from Damon Lindelof (“The Leftovers,” “Lost”), “His Dark Materials,” another fantasy series co-produced with BBC; and a miniseries starring Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great.
HBO in March will also begin shooting a pilot for “Avenue 5,” a potential futuristic space comedy from “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci that stars Hugh Laurie.
But fans of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will have to wait until 2020 to see that’s show’s return, and the upcoming sixth season of “Silicon Valley” may well be its last.
“They’re thinking about it, but they want to get to the writers’ room to see does a natural ending present itself,” Bloys said. Creators Alec Berg and Mike Judge “are working on other things.”
In developing new programming, “we want to put shows on that we’re proud of, not just to fill hours,” Bloys said. “What I’m interested in is curating the slate … as opposed to any one show dominating.”
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