TV CRITICS WATCH
BACK TO THE BLACK HILLS
“Deadwood” fans can exhale.
HBO says it’s greenlighted a long-discussed movie based on the Western drama that ended a dozen years ago.
HBO programming chief Casey Bloys said that production is scheduled to begin in October. An air date has yet to be set but it could debut in spring 2019, he said.
Bloys told a TV critics’ meeting it was a logistical “nightmare” getting the ensemble cast’s schedules to align, but it finally worked out.
The critically acclaimed, award-winning “Deadwood” was set in the rough-and-tumble South Dakota mining town of the title.
The series aired from 2004-06 with stars including Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane and Molly Parker.
It was created by David Milch, known for his work on the contemporary police dramas “NYPD Blue” and “Hill Street Blues.”
UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP
HBO’s programming chief pushed back against the possibility that the cable channel will suffer under new owner AT&T.
Casey Bloys, speaking to a meeting of TV critics, said there are no plans to choose volume over quality for its shows.
“No one is asking us to take pitches of a ‘Love Boat’ reboot or anything like that,” he said.
As support, Bloys cited comments made during an earnings call by John Stankey, who manages the new AT&T division that includes HBO and other Time Warner media assets. AT&T acquired Time Warner in an $85 billion deal.
Stankey said that the aim was to invest more in premium content at HBO, home to “Game of Thrones,” ”Big Little Lies” and “Westworld.” In contrast, he reportedly told HBO staff recently to prepare for a difficult year.
Bloys called remarks “music to our ears.”
Time Warner had curtailed programming investment as it readied itself for sale “so this is the first time in a long time we’ve heard anybody talking about investing in programming,” he said.
HBO has long held the high ground in acclaimed shows but is facing challenges from big-spending newcomers including streaming services Netflix and Amazon. In the recently announced Emmy nominations, Netflix ended HBO’s 17-year streak as the most-nominated outlet by snagging 112 bids to HBO’s 108.
The outcome was unsurprising given the overall volume of programming, Bloys said, a reference to the phenomenon dubbed “peak TV” that has given viewers nearly 500 series.
Getting four fewer nominations “is not going to change the type of programs that we develop and produce at all,” he said, but added that HBO does face the challenge of creating more programming without changing its approach.
“So that’s what we’re in discussion now. What’s the right level for us with this increased funding?” he said.
FONDA STILL HEARS FROM CRITICS
Jane Fonda says she’s still confronted by Vietnam War veterans over her 1970s anti-war activism and welcomes the encounters.
Such moments provide an opportunity to talk, she said, which needs to be done with what Fonda called “an open mind and a soft heart.”
The actress drew bitter criticism after being photographed atop an anti-aircraft gun during a controversial 1972 visit to North Vietnam. Meeting with TV critics to discuss a new HBO documentary on her life, she expressed regret for that moment.
She said it was thoughtless to perch on the gun and called it “horrible” to think about the message her action sent to soldiers and their families, she said.
It was an earlier meeting with U.S. soldiers in Paris that sparked her activism, Fonda said. Her belief that America always fought on “the side of the angels” was shaken by what she heard and later read.
Her late father, the famed actor Henry Fonda, was a World War II veteran and Jane Fonda had served as “Miss Army Recruiter” in 1954.
She felt betrayed and lied to by America’s leadership over the war and decided she would do everything possible to help stop it as part of a movement, Fonda said.
At age 80, Fonda looks back at her life in HBO’s “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” from director-producer Susan Lacy and debuting this fall. Fonda continues to work, starring opposite Lily Tomlin on the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie” and working with Tomlin and Dolly Parton on a sequel to their hit 1980 movie “9 to 5.”