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HBO (ended 2007)

We're only six weeks into the new year, and 2014 is already shaping up to be a fascinating one for a number of networks. It's easy to point to CBS scooping up Thursday-night NFL games and speculate over the upheaval that purchase might bring to the Eyeball's successful comedy block, or what it's going to do to NBC's, uh, less successful Thursday comedy block. Or we could look ahead to some of the event series that FX and other networks have planned, as obvious BIG things to come this year. But a slew of recent programming changes and developments at HBO means that the pay cabler, with its ever-increasing subscriber base, could actually have the most interesting road ahead. Change is coming to HBO over the next 12 to 18 months, and it could alter the network forever.


Changes Are Afoot

I don't mean to put HBO on blast or suggest that the network is in any MAJOR TROUBLE. When you've got Game of Thrones, a show that seems to keep growing in popularity and pop culture impact, capital-G Great comedies like Veep and Girls, and then you bring in a cool concept like True Detective that appears to have caught on with audiences, you're not in MAJOR TROUBLE, or even major trouble. Nevertheless, here's what we've learned about HBO since the beginning of 2014:


(1) Boardwalk Empire, a show that's really grown into its own over the past two years, will conclude after five seasons in the fall of this year.

HBO is touting the end date as if it was dictated by showrunner Terence Winter, and while that absolutely may be true, it's difficult not to assume that HBO might be a little disappointed that Boardwalk didn't grow into the post-Sopranos super-show the network hoped it would when it launched back in 2010. Boardwalk's ratings haven't been spectacular, and award shows haven't been all that enamored with it either. With all that in play and a massive cast/huge production budget, HBO had probably had enough—even if HBO says it doesn't care about ratings.


(2) The Newsroom will conclude its relatively brief and pretty bumpy run with a third season slated to air this fall, probably alongside Boardwalk Empire in some fashion.

Although I'd argue that The Newsroom improved in some moderately important ways in Season 2, it's kind of been a disaster from the beginning, hasn't it? The second season had some weird production issues because Aaron Sorkin scrapped a few storylines, and then HBO took a loooong time to commit to the third and ultimately final season. Plus, the ratings weren't that impressive, and outside of Jeff Daniels' troll Emmy win last fall, the accolades weren't exactly pouring in.


(3) Family Tree and Hello Ladies—two less-heralded but pretty solid comedies—are both dunzo.

This news came out long after HBO's sessions at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour had concluded, and near the end of a work week at that. It makes sense that HBO wouldn't want to field questions about canceling two freshman offerings, but these moves were surprising nonetheless. Heck, even Enlightened made it to Season 2.


(4) Looking, the network's brand-spankin'-new comedy about three gay men in San Francisco, debuted to terrible ratings.

Like, Enlightened levels of terrible. That's not necessarily bad news because HBO shows tend to grow their audiences over time, but Looking held onto only half of Girls' already small viewership. It's certainly not good news. 


Supplementing these four developments are some important pieces of news that we already knew: True Blood, HBO's summer staple, is also bowing out this year, and Treme and Eastbound and Down just wrapped up their multi-year runs in the fourth quarter of 2013. 


The Mass Exodus


So, if I'm doing the math correctly, by the end of 2014, HBO will have said goodbye to EIGHT original series that appeared on its schedule at some point in 2013 (this includes Enlightened, which aired early in 2013, but does not include co-productions like Life's Too Short or Ja'mie: Private School Girl). If Looking flails and HBO gets impatient, that number could rise.

Even for a powerhouse like HBO, that's a lot of programming to shuttle off the schedule. Technically, with so many shows on the way out, HBO would only be left with Game of ThronesTrue DetectiveGirls, Looking, and Veep (and I guess Curb Your Enthusiasm, assuming Larry David wants to do more of it at some point in the nebulous future). We also know that three shows—The LeftoversSilicon Valley, and Togetherness—are still to come this year, starting in April when Silicon Valley makes its debut. Three shows replacing eight is quite the difference. This is HBO's biggest mass exodus since the 2006-2007 period, when it said goodbye to The SopranosDeadwoodJohn From CincinnatiExtrasLucky Louie, Tell Me You Love Me, and Rome

Now, bidding farewell to The Sopranos and Deadwood within a year is a much bigger challenge to overcome than losing The Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire, and HBO actually did struggle to find itself there for a bit in the mid-aughts. The loss of shows like Family Tree and Treme won't be THAT hard to overcome, because of a perceived lack of audience and age, respectively. Nevertheless, True Blood has done big business for HBO, its fluctuating quality aside, and it won't be immediately replaceable in that plum summer spot. Boardwalk might not be a Sopranos stand-in, but it's a damn good show. And Eastbound and Down happens to be one of the greatest comedy series of the last decade, starring a relatively recognizable leading man. This won't be easy.


A New Class of Showrunner


Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these show departures is who's going with them. Unless something changes quickly, for the first time in a while, we'll be looking at an HBO without a show developed or run by someone affiliated with The Sopranos, DeadwoodThe Wire, or Six Feet Under. People like David Chase, David Simon, David Milch, Alan Ball, and Terence Winter have been making big, "important" dramas for HBO for a long time. And some of them are likely to return to HBO in the very new future—Milch has a pilot in the works that could probably make it to air by 2015. But still, it's weird to think about not having that lineage on HBO's schedule. Those dudes are all part of an era of programming that changed both the network and television forever. 

In their place, HBO has inked deals with folks who could be seen as the next class of high-profile showrunners/producers. Judd Apatow brought the initial name recognition to Girls, but Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner have made the show into something special. D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have pulled off quite a feat with Game of Thrones. And so far, handing over the True Detective reigns to first-time showrunner and novelist Nic Pizzolatto is working out pretty well

Looking at the network's upcoming projects, The Leftovers is adapted from the book of the same name by Lost's Damon Lindelof. Togetherness is from the Duplass brothers. Just yesterday, the network ordered Utopia—an adaptation of a British series from David Fincher and Gone Girl novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn—to series. Clearly impressed by the upcoming TV movie The Normal Heart, HBO is also developing a pilot with Ryan Murphy called Open. And an adaptation of Westworld from J.J. Abrams and Jonah Nolan. There's no guarantee that Open and Westworld will make it to air, of course, and not every upcoming HBO project fits my thesis (Silicon Valley is from Mike Judge) but these projects are still a signal of what HBO is interested in growing into, and who it's interested in associating with. Maybe this means the network wants to get a little younger, or that it hopes to bring in the diehards who love Lindelof, Murphy, Abrams, and Nolan.


What's to Come

A lot of HBO's series are moving out in 2014, many of them with recognizable names attached. The channel is better-equipped to keep things going than it was when The Sopranos left. Yet, the amount of competition is always increasing, with competitors like Netflix putting a whole lot of time and resources into projects that, a decade ago, probably would have at least been in contention at HBO. I don't necessarily think that HBO is in trouble, or that it should be too terrified of what Netflix is trying to do. And I don't want to mythologize the network too much. But HBO got where it is by pushing television in new directions. To stay on top of Netflix or Showtime or whatever other entity puts out original programming in the next few years, HBO will have to continue to do that. And perhaps moving on from good-but-not-great shows like Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, and branching out from the same small group of creative masterminds, is actually the first step in making sure HBO can continue to dominate. 


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Chris Albrecht was the genius who made HBO the awe evoking name it is today. There are plenty of brilliantly strong and edgy writers out there. But the ability to acknowledge raw talent and cultivate it requires an equally brilliant executive. Albrecht was that guy. And thanks to him, Starz is going to be the new HBO. For example: If Albrect was still running HBO, he would've never let something like "American Gods" go. Never!!! Which is exactly why Starz is producing it now :) Versus HBO's upcoming Bergdorf Goodman series... It's like HBO's turning into ABC...
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HBO still puts out many shows that I consider to be the best on TV or among the best. True Detective, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, etc... But the lineup overall is never as strong as it was in the golden days. The days of Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome, Deadwood, Carnivale, The Wire, etc...Those were the days when HBO really was miles beyond everything else on TV. I mean MILES. Now they are still at the top but are joined by great shows on other networks. Still, an HBO show always has this quality that shows on other networks don't have for some reason. It sucks you into another world and you become immersed in it. Probably because HBO (far as I can tell) invests in their shows. They put the right amount of money into their productions and they are better for it. I wish HBO would do more period pieces though. With Boardwalk ending and Game of Thrones being fictional. Deadwood, Carnivale, Rome, These shows were what I refer to when I say that they take you to another world. I would love to see another western on HBO. Hell, Milch needs to just quit messing around and get on a Deadwood project. Why not finish the thing that you are most known and praised for? I don't understand it. Plus, Look at his track record with HBO since Deadwood. John from Cincinnati and luck were both cancelled and were no where near the magic of Deadwood. Someone should tell Milch and HBO that Deadwood is one of the greatest things they have done in their entire existence and that leaving it unfinished is a sin.
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The only 2 shows on this list I personally have experienced is True Blood, and Boardwalk Empire. I'm really sad that both of these shows are going. I understand True Blood's ending as I think they've made the show incredibly rediculous over the past few seasons. Soon you're going to start seeing unicorns and goblins, on the show... Perhaps a leprechaun or two. I'll still be sad however knowing the show has ended. Boardwalk Empire on the other hand is a very acquired taste in my opinion. So many people I know find it incredibly boring, but I don't feel they are able to sink into the depth and awesomeness this show has. I guess I can relate however, as many of my friends are Arrested Development fans, and that was a show I could not seem to get myself into.

Anyways, I really do hope that HBO gets a variety of new original series that will bring back quality shows. With HBO's ability to have more control over the content, I've really enjoyed a lot of their shows.
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"Boardwalk's ratings haven't been spectacular, and award shows haven't been all that enamored with it either."

Yeah, it won only 17 Emmys.
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but all in technical aspects of the show like sound mixing
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I just hope we don't have to relive another John From Cincinnati *shudder*, those were dark times indeed..
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I think Newsroom is one of the most underrated shows ever.

It is a simple concept, written and played out extremely well. It's a story about people that does not rely on forced action or drama.

It seems the overload of action and drama that most TV shows try to include has dulled our senses.
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HBO has survived the loss of shows before and I'm confident they'll come up with a new crop before too long. It's quite good that they tend to end their shows after a reasonable run rather than pumelling them for numerous seasons until they're drained of all their fun. Most shows have a limited lifespan as the writers usually don't want to repeat themselves and the pool of original storylines start to dry up. Even the great shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Six Feet Under were just on the borders of running out of steam when they decided to wrap them up - and all three finished with sublime finales and will remain perfect in their entirety. You only need to look at the disasterous dragging final few seasons of Dexter to see how not to do it.

I'm sad to see Boardwalk Empire go and I'm a little disappointed that it never capitalised on the potential promised by the first season - but I think it's time to put it out to pasture. Ditto True Blood. However, I truly hope they could find some way to put together an Al Capone spin-off with Stephen Graham in the lead. He was always the best thing in it and lit up the screen every time he was on it. We've only just been introduced to the character and we all know how great a show it would be if we could follow his continued rise to power. Please HBO, make it happen.
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I really hope Looking's ratings will increase. It had a slow start, but the last couple of episodes have been amazing. Trucker 'Stach and Hipster Beard has gotten a lot more interesting too.
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Never watched and Dont care....
Treme and Eastbound and Down
Family Tree and Hello Ladies
The Newsroom and Looking.

Treme blended drama with musical performances in a very bad way. The music generally sucked.
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Treme was great. the rest I agree. Although i haven't seen Looking yet. Treme was not for everyone. It was more of an "everyday real life problems" type of show. The complete opposite of the major shows of recent memory (Breaking Bad, True Detective, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, etc.) It wasn't about some dramatic and life threatening situation. Just the problems normal people face. Losing your business, getting by, finding something that you are passionate about, etc..I thought it was great. At times I enjoyed it more than I did The Wire.
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Eastbound and Down...the season in Mexico! Awesomely weird and funny!
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Wow. So excellent jazz and soul sucks, does it? Glad I don't have your taste.
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excellent jazz and soul rocks and ive listened to both all my life. tremes music generally sucked and i am glad i dont have your inability to live with opinions other than your own.
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i couldn't get into Treme either...uh,,,but...you said you never watched it...????
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I saw almost every episode of treme, but I didnt care when it was canceled. The other shows I never watched.
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HBO has that brand new show coming up this Fall ''The Running Dead'' which will be in direct competition with TWD. I predict it will be a hit not as big as TWD since HBO is a paid channel but nonetheless a hit. Can't wait for it.
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It sounds like The Walking Dead ripoff ! Surprise HBO would do something like that.
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Yep, they passed on the show now that it is a Mega Hit, they wanna get their share. The 28 Days guy is the maker of TRD!
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sure
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NO ! They can't end True Blood. We just have 12 episodes per year and now they want to take them from us =(
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I have never understood that people are THRILLED by trilogies when it comes to movies...which adds up to about 6 to 9 hours of entertainment....but cancel their favorite show after 70 hours!!! Outrageous?
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True Blood was pretty entertaining mostly, but it ran off the rails.
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it needs to die.
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The show has to end at some point, so better end it while it's still good.
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IMO it only got good again last season. The seasons before that were tame at best
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Didn't they say something about a new show with the Carver twins?
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The Carvers will be in Lindelof's The Leftovers
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HBO also has this new show coming -
And it airs in the UK first on Sky Living, February 18th.

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do people really like Girls this much? it's an alright show, it CAN be good, but I find 8 times out of 10 it's average or even subpar.. so far, I've enjoyed Looking more than Girls.
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I admit I can't stand Looking.

But to say Girls is average or subpar is silly.

For me, I've seen my quota of fat girl boobs...but it's an excellent show that clearly does not appeal to most people.

I don't expect any People's Choice Awards any time soon.
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Are you sure you don't believe HBO is in danger? You said so many times that you don't believe it is that i have to wonder.
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you're a comedic genius deserving of three ha ha ha s
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calling veep and girls great and hello ladies solid... but I digress.

next up the comcast acquisition and NBC treatment!
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More Eastbound & Down. All problems solved.
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Didn't HBO have an adaptation of American Gods by Neil Gaiman in the works? What's going on with that? I would love to see one of my favorite books come to life if done well, and it seems like American Gods would be in HBO's wheelhouse.
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wasn't there a news story on this site a few days ago talking about the company behind American Idol getting rights to that?
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Yep, the American Gods deal fell apart at HBO, but it's still possible it sticks at another network.
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What? When did it fall apart, and how? You'd think having Tom Hanks on board would have guaranteed it at HBO/
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Here's a blog post from Neil Gaiman in early February with more details.
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How's the ratings evolution of the four Looking episodes?
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Ep. 1 Demo: 0.31, Viewers: 0.70m
Ep. 2 Demo: 0.37, Viewers: 0.83m
Ep. 3 Demo: 0.06, Viewers: 0.12m - this is shockingly bad!
Ep. 4 Demo: 0.20, Viewers: 0.45m
Averages = 0.24 and 0.52.
Those are bad ratings, especially episode 3, was something big on that night on another channel? I'd be surprised if this gets a second season but you never know with HBO. Hey, that should be their log-line "you never know, with HBO!"
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Episode 3 shouldn't count, I don't know what happened but it's evidently an outlier. Episode 4 had already the Olympics on air so I don't know how HBO would count it. Especially for a show that makes less than one million, even a relative small amount of people shifting to Olympics have a big impact on ratings.
I'm not saying they are good ratings though! Let's see the first couple of weeks after the Olympics however, if it goes back or over the ratings of the beginning.
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Episode 3 aired against the Super Bowl.

HBO actually released it early on HBO Go because of the Super Bowl so no one actually watched it the night it aired.
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You forgot to mention that Philip Seymour Hoffman's death means that Happyish will no longer go ahead, which would be another big loss for them considering they had already ordered the series (and produced the pilot I assume) after several years of development.
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Happyish was supposed to be a showtime series
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My bad... Cory should also do a similar article for Showtime, I think they're in as much as a transition as HBO is.

As a once-critical darling, Homeland has left many viewers sour, as did the end of Dexter. And while Masters of Sex was a success for them, hardly anyone noticed Ray Donovan.

On the comedy side of things they are fairing a bit better is terms of quantity but series like Nurse Jackie, Episodes, and Shameless get little buzz, and Californication is ending this year. I wouldn't say they have a hit comedy on the network.

As for their future series, the aforementioned Happyish is assumedly out of the picture, Penny Dreadful will be an interesting series to follow, but it's a risk for the network, and The Affair, despite boasting an impressive cast, sounds quite boring.
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I love it when you do articles like this Cory, it's a really in-depth summary of HBO's situation at the moment.

While I've been growing hesitant as the number of shows the network is ending/ cancelling (whatever the case might actually be with series like Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom) it's quite obvious that HBO aren't being forced into these decisions, I'm assuming they're being strategically made to make way for what they want their next era of television to be. I personally think they should have started on this early last year though (they haven't got a single show heading into it's second season) which means their last season of television was less successful then they'd probably like to admit.
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At least HBO respects its wievers by giving them a proper ending to each show. THANK YOU, HBO!
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Say that to Carnival...
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and Deadwood :(
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do 3 exceptions prove the rule or only one?? :)
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That certainly hasn't always been the case with every show of theirs.
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Well, at least they respect us more than the major networks.
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I am guessing this just focused on scripted projects? They still have Bill Maher ans John Oliver is coming on soon too. Not sure what else they have, or will, in this area.


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Yeah. I considered talking about late night and even their docs, but that's just too much to cover.
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A new show about three gay men!!! For GOODNESS sake. Why is it that television nowadays always has to focus on homosexuality. It is literally everywhere. You could even watch a random period drama and I guarantee at one point in the show, there will be a storyline or scene that involves homosexuality. It's as if EVERY single writer and producer has conspired to include at least one gay scene/story in their show. It is so unoriginal, it passed the stage of being a cliche about 5 years ago but still, it continues and it's starting to get annoying.
It's the same with ANY show set in the near or distant past, they ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS must include a plot involving racism and womens rights. It's like these writers are incapable of using their imagination to write about something original.

Some people will assume I'm a homophobic, racist who has no respect for women for saying this but in fact, the opposite is true, after all, I've had these topics drilled into my head since I was a kid thanks to TV. No, but seriously, there are countless numbers of important philosophical issues and moral dilemmas etc to write about so please, please, enough of the cliche taboos.
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In response to the comments, I TOTALLY agree that the white middle classes are over represented in mainstream television and I would like to see this change. TV does need to diversify and represent every section of society fairly.
However, my opinion on homosexuality stands. I agree that it is an important topic that deserves representation, but, for the last 5 years it has been OVER represented in all genre of tv and it's too much.
It's only in recent years that homosexuality has become mainstream. In the past, homosexuality was a secret taboo activity that involved only a small minority of brave people, it certainly wasn't as open, acceptable, and as widespread as modern day dramas like to depict and portray. In the past it was common for someone who was certain they was homosexual to deny themselves through the fear of persecution. Modern tv shows about the past over-represent homosexuality and portray it similar to how it is viewed today which is ludicrous and inaccurate.
Not too long ago, the idea of homosexuality was similar to the idea of witches in society, basically, most people feared it and avoided talking about it even though they knew it goes on somewhere behind closed doors. Anyone who happened to catch someone in the act would be horrified by it and probably report them to the police. I honestly can't remember a show that accurately portrays homosexuality in the past, instead they just include gay scenes in everything like it was always the norm and as widespread as it is today.
I hope you see my point.
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...and you clearly have no idea how extremely offensive your responses are. But I'll bite. You said there's a "focus" on homosexuality in TV. So to you, if one or maybe two episodes out of hundreds feature a gay storyline, that's too much, yes? Before Looking, the last show that actually focused on gay characters was The L Word and Queer as Folk before that. Correct me if I'm wrong. Two shows in a sea of dozens of shows airing every year. If anything, there's still an underrepresentation of homosexuality in TV. And if a succesful show features a gay storyline, it's usually "a very special" episode, which is still pretty offensive. Note that villains are also quite often gay or bisexual (Skyfall, anyone?). The treatment the lesbian couple got on Person of Interest or Ms. Hudson on Elementary is an absolute rarity. So for you to claim that there is too much focus on gay issues is beyond ridiculous.
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grow up
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What a "mature" response...
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If there are too much gays on TV then what about white middle class families?
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I don't think that showrunners choose gay storylines in a flailing, feeble attempt to stir up drama because they don't have enough imagination to think up other plot lines, I think that they are genuinely trying to be more representative and inclusive of a group that has made up 10% of the population for centuries but has only been recognized for the past 20 years or so. While the gay plotlines might not always be perfectly executed, the intention behind them is to represent the entire audience and not just the straight, middle class white men who have been catered too in the past. Gay representation isn't the only growing trend in tv, there are also more female leads, more characters who belong to racial or religious minorities, who are poor or uneducated or who wouldn't have fit into the mold that existed in tv previously. I personally think that tv becoming more inclusive and diverse is a good trend that I hope continues. These writers aren't lacking in creativity, they're just standing up for story lines that they believe in and are trying to be on the right side of history.
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A fair, very intelligent response. Thank you.
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Nicely done.
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Oh, hey! A TROLL.
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Someone expressing an honest controversial thought/feeling they have is not trolling. I was very careful to point out that I was not being homophobic which in itself kinda goes against the whole definition of trolling. A troll wants to trigger angry responses from a total disregard of other people's feelings.
Oh and BTW, calling someone a TROLL just because they expressed a controversial opinion is such a cliche, it's so 2012.
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Interestingly most homophobic comments start with something like "I'm not homophobic, but..." You're no exemption: "Some people will assume I'm a homophobic,... but..." ROFL!!
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Sorry to break it to you, but claiming not to be homophobic and then writing a highly offensive homophobic post does not make it any less homophobic. And writing something barely related to the original post expressing an opinion in the way you did is the very definition of trolling. What did you expect?
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LOL
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I hope Looking at least gets a second season to grow.
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HBO sucks! It's probably the channel with the least good shows on, and among the most pervy. It's hard to find anything watchable on it.
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NotSureIfFryMeme.jpg
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I was expecting something more interesting than HBO is cancelling all its shows but it was still good to get all this info together.
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Conclusion: If your name is David, you'll make it on HBO.
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also if you're white dude
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I really cannot wrap my head around a world without True Blood.
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George R.R. Martin was contracted to do some other stuff (beside GoT) for HBO. Any news on that?
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He should not do anything for HBO and get on with the next novel!
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I think when all else falls for HBO, as @Taccado said a while back, the network will just decide to become the George R.R. Martin (or Game of Thrones) network.
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He's too busy watching and writing about baseball
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When I read the article I thought this to be related to the recent news that Comcast has purchased Time Warner (which owns HBO).
That aside, I really like the articles about network's operations and plans.
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They purchased Time Warner *Cable* which, as confusing as the names are, is an entirely separate entity to Time Warner.
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I appreciate the correction on this as I should have researched it rather than just assume they are the same company.
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This was a very informative and well written analysis. I read it like a dissertation.

From a layman's perspective, what HBO should lean on is its ability to develop and nurture new ideas so that they are really good once they are finally aired. It has worked before, I don't know why it wouldn't work still.
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With upcoming shows with a lot of potential like Monster, Utopia, Dark Towers and Leftovers I think HBO will continue to dominate.
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have you checked out the british utopia? that show struck me as nothing more than bizarre.
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Yes I watched it and I loved it, the cinematography was the best I have ever seen, great story and characters. Lots of controversy, also some gore (especially the first episode). It has some flaws (like every show) but I can't wait for season 2. And I think HBO will have a hard time making the remake better than the original. Then again it is HBO.
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All I took away from this is The Newsroom apparently sucks, when personally I found it to be a completely amazing and interesting show.
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It doesn't SUCK, but
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go ahead and count this as an anti thumbs up.
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I'd say that the series' that are ending have run their course and the new ones sounds pretty interesting so I'm not worried for HBO, if they stick to quality then new shows are fine by me.
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