The renewals are a welcome relief for HBO and its new programming president, Casey Bloys, after a tough year in which HBO suffered a big miss with the period drama “Vinyl,” amid internal changes. “Westworld” in particular had a lot riding on its success as HBO looks to restock its drama series bench with its tentpole original “Game of Thrones” now heading into its final two seasons, starting next summer.
“It’s fantastic to have a broad-based cultural and ratings hit to build from,” Bloys said of “Westworld.” “That’s a great, great luxury.”
“Westworld” has quickly developed a fanatical following among viewers who parse every detail of the show described as a puzzle-within-a-puzzle set in a resort where humanized robots cater to the out-there whims of high-end patrons. Bloys said the fan obsession that “Westworld” has generated organically through social media and podcasts has been a pleasant surprise. He makes a point of scrolling through Twitter when the show airs live on Sunday nights. Bloys admits he’s gained insights about the show’s many mysteries by following the real-time detective work of fans.
“The level of detail that people devote to thinking about it is impressive,” he said, citing the intricate mythology crafted by “Westworld” creators/showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.
For all three shows, Bloys said the HBO creative team is gratified that the new offerings have found their niche with fans and critics. “Westworld” has been an unqualified success, averaging 11.7 million viewers per episode to date when reruns, VOD and streaming airings are factored in. “Divorce” has averaged 4.4 million viewers by the same measure while “Insecure” has averaged 3.2 million.
“All three (series) have done exactly what I’d hoped in terms of connecting with audiences and raising the questions the creators set out to raise,” said Bloys.
Each of the trio were renewed for 10 episodes. Bloys said there are no plans for major casting moves or showrunner changes — another welcome sign of stability.
“Westworld” is produced by Kilter Films, Bad Robot Productions and Jerry Weintraub Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Along with Nolan and Joy, executive producers are J.J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub and Bryan Burk.
“We’re thrilled that the saga of ‘Westworld’ will continue for another season,” said Nolan and Joy. “During the lengthy journey to the screen, our incredibly talented actors, staff and crew became a family, and we look forward to the privilege of continuing this experience with them.”
After “Westworld” wraps, HBO will field two new limited series — “The Young Pope,” starting Jan. 15, and the Reese Witherspoon-Nicole Kidman starrer “Big Little Lies,” which is targeted for February. After that, the next new drama series on deck will be David Simon’s period piece “The Deuce.”
Bloys called “Insecure” and “Divorce” two “great building blocks” for HBO’s comedy slate anchored by “Veep,” “Silicon Valley” and the upcoming final season of “Girls.” “Divorce” was a win for HBO in bringing “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker back to its air. “Insecure’s” Issa Rae has won raves for tackling the thorny issues of race and gender relations at a time when both subjects are much in the headlines. “The social interaction on ‘Insecure’ is really strong,” Bloys said.
Parker serves as executive producer on “Divorce,” along with Paul Simms, Sharon Horgan, Alison Benson and Aaron Kaplan. Rae and Larry Wilmore co-created “Insecure” and serve as exec producers along with showrunner Prentice Penny. “Insecure” is also exec produced by Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky and Jonathan Berry.
Other HBO programming questions Bloys addressed:
Jon Stewart: The former “Daily Show” host is still working on an effort to produce short-form animated content on topical issues for HBO’s various platforms. Stewart had been expected to have a presence on HBO during the 2016 presidential race. Bloys said his “hope” is that some material will be ready by the first quarter of next year. “He is really putting together a whole animation studio. It’s not a small endeavor,” he said.
“The Night Of” and “True Detective”: The creators of both limited series continue to bat around ideas for new installments but there’s nothing firm yet for either show. “When they get something that’s exciting to them, we will happily do another season,” Bloys said.