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Albrecht Opens Up to GQ — And Disses HBO

Albrecht_bltv The juicy parts in Amy Wallace’s lengthy GQ profile of Chris Albrecht largely have to do with sex and boardroom shenanigans: The former HBO chief talks publicly for the first time about the altercation with his former girlfriend that ultimately cost him his job at the pay channel, and at some length about his engagement, at 58, to 25-year-old Montana Schillo-Coady, an acquaintance of his daughter Kate, who is two years older than her future stepmother.

But hey, that’s Hollywood, right?

The most interesting parts, though, have to do with why Albrecht was cut loose by HBO — namely, bad timing — and what he has to say about his former channel, now that he’s running a competitor, Starz.

I’ve always thought the Albrecht story boiled down to one thing: Jeff Bewkes, his former boss at HBO, who was the heir apparent to Richard Parsons at Time Warner when Albrecht’s blow-up occurred. Albrecht suggests — and I agree with him — that had Bewkes not been in that position, Albrecht probably would have survived the incident. But with Bewkes about to be promoted, the pressure was on to make the problem go away.

As for Albrecht’s veiled slap at the current HBO management team (consisting, mostly, of his former employees), despite his competitive nature he probably should have kept that to himself. “HBO has lost its shrug,” he told Wallace, referring to the service’s willingness under his tenure to take a big shot, uncertain (hence the shrug) what the outcome would be.

He might be right, but the comment looks a little pissy, and comes at a strange time, inasmuch as HBO just sank $200 million or so into “The Pacific,” the latest Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg World War II opus; and has enjoyed a bit of a series comeback with another huge bet, “Boardwalk Empire,” on the heels of “True Blood.”

As Wallace (a former colleague from my Los Angeles Times days) notes, Albrecht is one of the shrewdest execs around, and his creative instincts are described extremely well in the piece. Yet while I might understand his desire to come clean, finally, about the events that precipitated his exit from HBO, he’s better off building Starz into something worth talking about (having inherited the surprise success “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”) than trying to take his old stamping grounds down a peg.

On the plus side, Albrecht looks like he’s on his way to achieving the former, having acquired the BBC’s fabulous “Torchwood” and working on a new version of “Camelot.” The main problem with sniping at HBO is the perception that he’s still pining for his own lost kingdom.

 

 

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