TCA 2011: HBO to get 'Luck'-y in January
Set in the world of horse racing, "Luck" is the brainchild of David Milch, who previously created the western "Deadwood" and the surreal surfing drama "John From Cincinnati" for the pay-cable network. Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman plays a lifetime gambler recently released from prison.
"We’re definitely gonna premiere it in January 2012," HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo revealed to reporters at the TV media tour in Beverly Hills Thursday afternoon. "Luck" will take over the Sunday slot once occupied by the polygamy drama "Big Love," which recently wrapped its run.
As it happens, the big challenge for HBO executives lately has been finding suitable spots for new shows. After a years-long programming drought, the network is enjoying what HBO co-president Richard Plepler described as an "embarrassment of riches," with Emmy-nominated series such as "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire."
In fact, HBO is opening up a new night for original series next season. The offbeat comedy "Bored to Death" will premiere its new season on Mondays, leading into the new Laura Dern comedy "Enlightened," about a woman undergoing a spiritual awakening.
"I think both shows will absolutely find their audience," Lombardo said, even though HBO has always kept series premieres to Sunday in the past.
Meanwhile, the Prohibition crime drama "Boardwalk Empire," fresh from a clutch of Emmy nominations, will return on Sundays starting Sept. 25.
HBO also announced it was picking up its talk show "Real Time With Bill Maher" for a 10th season.
Much of the spotlight at HBO these days, however, is devoted to "Game of Thrones," based on the fantasy novels of George R.R. Martin. After a modest start in the ratings, the series is showing signs of momentum. That's somewhat ironic for HBO, which has shied away from fantasy series in the past as executives there are still getting used to the fanboy genre.
"I think the show is a great surprise to a lot of people, who thought it was going to be about the fantasy," Plepler said. "They saw the great storytelling involved. They stayed with it; the numbers bear that out."
What's unclear is how closely the series will track the books. Martin just published the fifth novel in his "A Song of Ice and Fire" cycle and another two are planned. But for the time being, HBO is ordering only 10 episodes at a time.
"What's exciting is there is so much storytelling," Lombardo said.
And all of it is new to certain HBO executives -- such as Lombardo, who said he had not read the books.
"I'm still not a fan of the genre, but I love this show," he said.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Dustin Hoffman stars in HBO's "Luck." Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press