HBO Chief Defends ‘True Detective,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Rape Controversy

HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo defended the second season of “True Detective” in light of critical second-guessing, and expressed support for the network’s hit “Game of Thrones” regarding scenes of sexual violence that have provoked criticism.

Lombardo, in what he billed Thursday as his first solo outing at the TV Critics Assn. tour without network chief Richard Plepler, seemed well-prepared for both questions, given some of the complaining, most recently, about “Detective’s” current run.

The executive joked that he had returned from vacation to learn that some critics had voiced their displeasure with “True Detective,” but he gave a vote of confidence to writer/showrunner Nic Pizzolatto and said he would be eager to hear his plans for a third season. “I think he takes a big swing,” Lombardo said, adding that he has seen the final episodes and “I’m enormously proud of it. … I think he’s a spectacular writer.”

Asked about seeking changes if the show did proceed, Lombardo said he had no interest in “micro-managing the process.” The executive added of Pizzolatto, “I would happily be in business with him for a long time.”

As for “Game of Thrones,” Lombardo said the program’s producers are extremely sensitive about the content of the show, but that the ground rules of a violent, mythical world have been established since the very first episode, when a young boy was pushed off a tower. “Everybody has their own line,” he acknowledged.

Regarding the future of “Game of Thrones,” which has already been renewed through an upcoming sixth season, Lombardo said he was hoping the producers would agree to at least two more, but that the parties have yet to engage in those conversations.

HBO opened the executive session with footage from two eagerly anticipated upcoming dramas, set to premiere next year: an adaptation of “Westworld,” and the reunion of “Boardwalk Empire’s” Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter, joined by Mick Jagger, on the 1970s musical drama “Vinyl.” Lombardo said that a new series featuring “Sex and the City’s” Sarah Jessica Parker would likely premiere next spring or summer, and that he hasn’t given up hope on additional seasons of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” recognizing that creator Larry David works on his own timetable.

Lombardo admitted that he is “not a fantasy guy,” given HBO’s reliance on such fare, but added that the 20 million people watching an average episode of “Game of Thrones” aren’t all committed genre fans. Asked if the character of Jon Snow is dead — the subject of speculation since the season finale — Lombardo said, “Yes. He is indeed dead.”

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