HBO jazzed for ‘Treme’

Cabler renews New Orleans saga after one episode

HBO’s rare decision to reup “Treme” after only a single episode was based on a groundswell of favorable reviews and goodwill for creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer, as well as a solid ratings start.

A year ago, Showtime renewed “Nurse Jackie” only two days after its launch but, in general, it’s unusual for a network to show that much confidence after only a series premiere.

Networks often like to wait a bit. With plenty of publicity and marketing muscle, shows can often start well in the ratings before fading, making the decision to give it another go a bit more reflective. On the other hand, Starz renewed a second season of “Spartacus” in December before the first season even began a month later.

Sunday’s “Treme” premiere garnered 1.1 million viewers for the 10 p.m. telecast. A later rebroadcast drew 300,000, but HBO shows can end up quadrupling viewers over the course of a week of repeat airings and video on demand.

“This was a no-brainer for us,” HBO programming topper Michael Lombardo told Daily Variety . “We say this about ourselves, ‘It’s not always about the ratings.’ If a show is this excellent and the audience so passionate, for us that’s enough.”

Show, about how the citizens of New Orleans deal with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, was co-created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer, who exec produces with Nina K. Noble and Carolyn Strauss. Co-producer David Mills, a longtime Simon collaborator, died two weeks ago on set in the Big Easy.

Cast includes Wendell Pierce, Steve Zahn, Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander, Melissa Leo, Kim Dickens, Rob Brown, Lucia Micarelli and John Goodman. Pierce and Peters worked with Simon on “The Wire,” the exec producer’s opus on how budget cuts and the drug trade affected the government, police, schools and media of Baltimore.

Judging from the opening episode of “Treme,” both shows might have a similar following. “The Wire” also drew 1.1 million for its final episode when it aired in March 2008 and grossed 4.2 million when repeat airings and video on demand were included. That could also be close to what “Treme” draws when all those telecasts are added in.

Lombardo said Simon and Overmyer “are the most cost effective producers we do business with” and the series was “very moderately priced.” Going forward, if the showrunners had storylines they wanted to pursue, Lombardo said it would seem likely that there could be multiple seasons.

Also upcoming on the HBO docket is a decision about the future of “How to Make It in America.” Half-hour skein created by Ian Edelman and exec produced by Stephen Levinson, Rob Weiss, Julian Farino, Jada Miranda, Mark Wahlberg and Edelman just concluded its first season and is waiting to see if it goes forward.

An announcement on the skein, which stars Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk, should arrive in the next week or two.

At Showtime, the first episode of the final season of “The Tudors” drew 883,000 in its 9 p.m. airing Sunday, 22% above the season three premiere. With a later showing, total jumped to 1.1 million.

Cabler is looking to stay with European history after “The Tudors” exits in June. “The Borgias,” about the well-known Italian Renaissance family, is in the pipeline and awaiting an air date.

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