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HBO Chief Talks Violence Against Women, ‘Game of Thrones,’ Jon Stewart and ‘Vinyl’

HBO Chief on 'Westworld,' 'Game of
Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

New HBO programming president Casey Bloys’ first Television Critics Association press tour executive session saw him field several questions about violence against women in his network’s shows — including “Game of Thrones,” “The Night Of” and the upcoming “Westworld.”

“I’d like to not think so,” Bloys said when asked whether HBO and other premium-cable networks in general relied too often on violence against women as a narrative crutch. “I can tell you violence, it’s not just specific to women. It’s indiscriminate,” he said of the series on HBO. “Plenty of men are killed as well,” he added.

Critics have in the past singled out “Game of Thrones” for its frequent depiction of the rape of female characters, and the first episode of “Westworld” features the implied rape of a main female character. One reporter asked Bloys about the complaints that such depictions “normalize” sexual violence against women. “I think the criticism is valid,” said Bloys. “I think it’s something we take into account. It’s not something we want to highlight or are trying to highlight.”

One reporter asked about “The Night Of” and a specific shot that featured the body of the female victim covered in blood. Bloys was asked whether the network would ever show a male victim displayed in the same way. “One of the executive producers is a woman, so they’re not unrepresented,” he said of “The Night Of.” He added that because the series is based on the U.K.’s “Criminal Justice,” such a plot point would not have been changed.

Bloys also talked about “Vinyl,” the expensive Martin Scorsese-produced drama series that was canceled after being initially renewed. Canceling the show was one of Bloys’ first major decisions after being promoted to programming president in May.

“The tough decision is are we going to get this from good to great?” Bloys said of the show. “I didn’t know, quite frankly, and I’ve got limited resources. I’ve got other things I want to do.”

Regarding the network’s forthcoming multi-platform project with former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, Bloys dropped hints about the nature of the project, which he described as “an animated parody of a cable news network with an Onion-like portal.” He said that he hopes that the project “will be up and running by September, October.” It is being designed for Stewart to be able to release multiple pieces of shortform content throughout the day, with a half-hour program element appearing on the linear television channel.

Among the other points Bloys addressed:

• The future of “Game of Thrones”: Bloys confirmed that the eighth season will be last. “I would take 10 seasons,” he said, “but we want to take their lead with what they can do and what the best version of the show is.”

• A “Deadwood” film is still a possibility, but creator David Milch has still not yet turned in a script. “I’m sure it will be very good.”

• The network has not ruled out a third season of anthology season “True Detective,” but no story is in the works. If a third season were to happen, it would not necessarily be written by creator Nic Pizzolatto. “We’re open to someone else writing it and Nick supervising it,” Bloys said.

• Bloys predicted that a new season of Larry David’s comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” could begin shooting this fall and premiere in 2017.

• The network is open to adding a female host to a talk-show stable that includes Bill Maher, John Oliver and Bill Simmons. “I think it would be nice to have someone other than white men in late night,” Bloys said

• Bloys denied the idea that HBO had any influence in the decision to fire three longtime cast members from “Sesame Street.” “I will tell you our deal with Sesame Workshop, we don’t have any creative involvement with the show,” he said.