HBO execs talk Thrones at summer TCA
By Winter Is Coming on in Press.

Today was HBO’s summer Television Critics Association presentation and during the executive session, HBO co-presidents Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo answered some Game of Thrones-related questions. From HitFix’s liveblog of the session:

3:08 p.m. Are they fonder of “the genre” now after the success of “Game of Thrones”? “I think the show was a great surprise to a lot of people who thought it was going to be about fantasy,” Plepler says. Lombardo adds, “I’m still not a fan of the genre, but I love the show. That doesn’t mean I’m going to watch another fantasy show, but I’d certainly be open to another one.”

3:26 p.m. Mo Ryan is concerned by what will happen to “Game of Thrones” in later seasons if they stick to the season-per-book pace. “If we could do 12 episodes of a show like ‘Game of Thrones,’ we would,” Lombardo says. He says that “there is no way they could physically do more than 10,” without sacrificing quality. “I can promise you that we won’t stop it before it’s ready to stop,” Lombardo adds. Lombardo hasn’t read the books and he says he isn’t telling the “Game of Thrones” guys that they need to do a story-per-season. Plepler says that Weiss and Benioff are “the best protection you have” against the fears that the show could become too plot-crammed.

3:32 p.m. “The production challenges for this particular season far exceed even what we looked at last season… I think that’s the beauty of the books,” Lombardo says of “Game of Thrones.” A reporter worries that unlike “Deadwood,” there will be major problems with fans if the story finishes in the middle. “He is linked to everything they’re doing. It’s not like he’s disappeared,” Plepler says of Martin. “I don’t know where the show for us ends as opposed to the books,” Lombardo says carefully. So they’re not committing to running “Game of Thrones” forever. “I think the challenge for us is always, how long do the creators want to stay with the show?” Lombardo ponders. “Dan and David have signed on for a couple years and we’re going to have that conversations with them every couple years,” Lombardo adds. He takes very seriously the relationship the show has with its fanbase, noting the audience’s attention to even the smallest detail. “That’s a relationship that we’re obviously very aware of and respectful of,” Lombardo closes.

Winter Is Coming: Nothing too suprising here. Obviously they don’t want to tie themselves into a long-term commitment right now. A bit disappointing that they won’t go for longer seasons. I guess this means we can expect books three, four and five to probably extend over four, five, maybe even six, seasons. Assuming we get that far, of course.

UPDATE: James Hibberd has some quotes as well. I particularly like this one.

“I hope it lasts for 20 years,” says HBO programming president Michael Lombardo of the show. “I promise you we won’t stop it before it’s ready to stop … there’s a great relationship fans have with the show and we appreciate that. We’ve never seen people get so excited about casting [decisions].”

Sounds like someone has been surfing our site!

UPDATE: Maureen Ryan also has a write-up about the session and she even includes a cool Q&A with George R. R. Martin from last weekends Comic-Con. Here is a snippet:

Maureen Ryan: Were there any divergences from the books that you personally would have loved to have seen and just had to accept that they were just not going to happen? Changes weren’t keen on or things you were sorry to lose or what have you?
George R.R. Martin: Yeah, there were. You know, when they adapted the stuff that’s in the books, I loved it and most of the new scenes that they added that were not in the books, I loved. My only quibble, and it is a quibble, I think, rather than any serious criticism, is there were scenes I missed. [There were] scenes that didn’t make it in at all that were never filmed, that were simply cut in script or never even put in script because we simply did not have the time to include them all. There are a number of little favorite scenes and moments that I would have wanted in the show and was looking forward to. The television viewers, of course, don’t even notice that those scenes are missing because none of them were essential scenes.


38 Comments

  1. GaR
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    So we’re looking good for splitting books into multiple seasons, then?

  2. Michelle
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather have 10 fantastic episodes per season than 12 or 13 moderately less awesome episodes. And personally, if we get through the events of ASoS, then count me as one happy camper. Although I won’t say no to whatever HBO chooses to grace us with. :D

  3. Berndlmeister
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought since day one that the absolute worst thing that HBO could do is NOT finish the story. I’d rather they be cautious about not over reaching themselves to the point where they would need to cancel the show pre-maturely.

  4. Mirri Maz
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Well from what D&D have been saying lately they were really pressed with season 1 and had to cut some stuff because there was no time to get it right and with more cgi more time will be required so maybe 10 episodes isn’t that bad.

    i would like to trust them that they will keep the show going until the books are done but i somehow doubt that. Still 10 episodes per season mean ASOS, AFFC and ADWD will be split between four seasons so that’s a lot of seasons to look forward to.

  5. shadallion
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Keep it at 10 episodes, but just have more seasons. No problemo!

  6. sjwenings
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if “it will stop, when it’s ready to stop” means anything at all. Probably not.

    But if I should try to be optimistic about it, I might say that maybe HBO feels confident that as long as we don’t see a surprise drop in viewers or surprisingly low dvd-sales or actors or D&D leaving the show or something, they are prepared to continue with it indefinitely. (until the bookstory ends) That they already consider the success of GOT to be good enough for years if it just lasts. Which i think it will – or more likely it will get bigger.

  7. Jay
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    The fact that they aren’t forcing a book per season goes well with their apparent enthusiasm with the show. It’s nice to hear they aren’t concerned about wrapping things up neatly at each season end and will offer the time to cover everything properly if things go well.

    And I haven’t read Feast or Dance yet, but from what I can gather, it’s likely they’d have to be spliced together regardless of season lengths. The lack of some really big characters in Feast practically forces them to combine the two. In my opinion, at least.

    Storm would be hard pushed to fit a ten episode season, though, and I think is the only viable enough for an extended series because the events are consistent and fast-flowing enough. But, as I say, I haven’t read Feast or Dance yet, so possibly so can they.

  8. Amorin Uzuki
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    If Bran (for example) lives in the end of the story, the actor will be an adult, and this problem will be the same with a lot of actors. I wish they could end the story of the books, but they’ll have a lot of problems to deal with. Anyway, I trust HBO, if they need to change an actor, like Octavio in Rome, they’ll chose the best option…

  9. Julian Walker
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    20 years of Game of Thrones…don’t think I can handle all that!!

    At the most I can see them doing six or seven seasons.

  10. Fog
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    One problem with more seasons is that the production costs go way up, mostly due to salaries. Young actors just out of drama school will be just grateful to be on a hit show the first few seasons. After that they want to get paid more.

  11. Mirri Maz
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    So if we assume they start mixing and matching season 3 will most defenitely end with the Red Wedding (they’d be fools to miss out on such an amazing season closer), S4 will start with Jeoffry’s wedding but then there won’t be enough material to fill a season so stuff from Feast and Dance will be used which is a shame because Tyrion’s last chapter in ASOS is another amazing season closer.

  12. Hostyl
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    My view of what he is getting at is that with the time-frame and budget that season 1 and season 2 are working to, there is no way that they could do more than 10 episodes per season, without sacrificing quality. That suits, as season 2 does not need to be any longer than season 1. But that’s not to say if the DVD/Blu-Rays are a huge success, and season 2 numbers are fantastic, then a significant increase in budget would mean that future seasons could get more episodes. Just my view.

  13. Nuke1096
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Not sure how the last two unreleased books would work, but I can easily see them doing 5 seasons for the first 5 books. They just wouldnt be broken down strictly into 1 season per book. They could easily break it down like this imo.

    Season 3 – First 2/3 of Storm of Swords
    Season 4 – Last 1/3 of Storm of Swords with First 1/2 of Feast and Dance running concurrently
    Season 5 – Last 1/2 of Feast and Dance running concurrently

  14. Tar Kidho
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    20 years? Fine by me :-)

  15. Brad Villane
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    As I see it, the difficulty going forward with only ten episodes a year is this…

    We all agree Storm can’t be only ten episodes, but they can’t do more than ten on a yearly basis. Dan and Dave have said that they know where a potential season split would occur…The Red Wedding. However, it’s kinda hard to imagine another 10 episodes would encapsulate the final third of Storm.

    It’s also hard for me to imagine the end of Storm occurring mid-season of four, as I think it has the strongest ending of any book in the series…Tyrion kills Tywin, Jon becomes Lord Commander, Petyr kills Lysa, and Zombie Catelyn. The ending to Book III should be a season ending occasion.

    The best options for me are that we wait a little longer than a year for Season III and get more episodes or they do a split like they did with the last season of the Sopranos. Maybe do ten in the spring to get us to the Red Wedding, then five later in the year.

    There is some stuff from Feast that could find its way into the latter part of Season III (maybe some Iron Island and Dorne stuff), but the way the book ends just feels right, and I hope they can capture that in the show.

  16. AlecTrev
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Dear god, I hope season 3 does not end with rw. That was so shocking, we were 2/3 of the way through, we didn’t expect it. If it’s the finale episode, everybody will see it coming. I propose Episode 7 or 8 is RW, Episode 10 is Joffrey’s wedding. Or something. Anything but RW ending..

  17. Sam's pink mast
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the season ending points; I don’t think they’re going to be shifting entire chunks of books around. I think what they will end up doing is condensing storylines so that things from feast can be going on at the same time as events in SoS are wrapping up. The things going on at the end of SoS are so obviously season finale fodder, I don’t see them dropping the season ending stuff from storm and just tacking on the first quarter of feast.
    We already have a hint of how they’ll do this with the Jaime/Brienne storyline being advanced to the second season. The timeline of events in the books are fairly ambiguous, and the show timeline is muddy as the fuck. I’m thinking they’re gonna be picking and choosing stories that can safely be shifted forward to happen alongside events from previous books without threatening the structure of the overall story. That seems more logical to me than cut/pasting in such a linear fashion.

  18. More Rice Cooks
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m quite curious about the statement it’s impossible to film more than 10 episodes without losing quality. Is that a reference to the budget only being able to meet 10 episodes? I realize they don’t have long to film the show on location, but I’m still rather baffled that even 11 episodes is out of the question.

  19. Paco
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    “I think the show was a great surprise to a lot of people who thought it was going to be about fantasy”

    That comment bothered me, for some reason. /unnecessaryfanrage

  20. NewJeffCT
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    More Rice Cooks,

    I’m guessing it has to do with budgeting, so unless HBO gets a wave of new subscribers, they simply won’t have the money to make 13-15 episode seasons. Hopefully, they can make Storm of Swords into two seasons and Feast/Dance into two or three more seasons.

    That makes it six-seven years and hopefully book 6 will already be out by that time, and GRRM will be well into book 7, if not almost done. Assuming Winds of Winter is another 1,000+ page book, that could be worthy of two seasons as well… so, you could be into season 8 or 9 by that time, and 10-11 seasons by book 7.

    That would be a big commitment to ask of any actor or actress, so I would expect some turnover there as well.

  21. PersonalJustice
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I know everybody is anxious to see the RW on screen (D&D included), but personally that’s pushing too far into book three for an even split.

    Book 3 Spoilers:

    I’d end the first half with Stannis casting leeches into the fire and calling for the Deaths of Balon, Jofferey and Robb. Then open season 4 with Balon’s death and then Arya’s 2nd, iirc, visit to High Heart and the dwarf seer.

    Now obviously some chapters from book 3 may make it into season 2, and some from books 4&5 into season 4, but that can probably be worked around well. Basically I’d use season 3 to set up an absolutely insane season 4 which would finish out book 3.

  22. Epic Awesomesauce
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Paco: That comment bothered me, for some reason. /unnecessaryfanrage

    Not totally unnecessary. By the natural order of things, everything Lombardo says to media is a selling point to the largest group of customers. It ain’t Sci-B.O. yet.

    Meanwhile, all entertainment press releases are advertisements. Yep, even interviews (with planned answers to respond to online-at-large nerdrage).

    666

  23. Ser Duck
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    20 years bring it on!! We just need a way to put the excellent child actors Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams & Isaac Hempstead Wright into suspended animation between seasons

    Regarding moving things around from the books. They are doing that because some major characters are out of the story for huge amounts of time or they don’t do very much. Also George’s timelines are in a tangle on TV they can switch between stories more smoothly than in the books.

  24. spacechampion
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Hostyl:
    My view of what he is getting at is that with the time-frame and budget that season 1 and season 2 are working to, there is no way that they could do more than 10 episodes per season, without sacrificing quality. That suits, as season 2 does not need to be any longer than season 1. But that’s not to say if the DVD/Blu-Rays are a huge success, and season 2 numbers are fantastic, then a significant increase in budget would mean that future seasons could get more episodes. Just my view.

    No, I disagree. He is not talking about budget, but the amount of time it takes to make a season is not going to change. It seems to me D&D are constantly working on the show. They spend a couple months writing scripts, casting, doing pre-production, then start in late July to film, production last until December, then after a quick holiday break it is editing, scoring, CGI work and VFX compositing, and then it premiers in April. There is not PHYSICALLY enough time to add another episode (without reducing the amount of time per episode, therefore lowering the quality). The number of episodes is not a budget issue.

    This show will NEVER get more than 10 episodes per seaosn. To do so would make the show take more than 12 months every year to produce, so it would shift the premiere date later and later in the year, like we are on Martian time or something. That would screw with the ratings and audience would be superannoyed, and might lose people. HBO won’t mess with that just to pointlessly have one book per season.

  25. Tywin's Bastard
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    It’s odd that there’s so much talk about the fact that GoT is a fantasy show. HBO already had fantasy amongst their programming since unless you think that vampires, werewolves etc actually exist True Blood is a fantasy show. The pseudo medieval thing is not the limits of the fantasy genre.

  26. Cookie
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    spacechampion: No, I disagree.He is not talking about budget, but the amount of time it takes to make a season is not going to change.It seems to me D&D are constantly working on the show.They spend a couple months writing scripts, casting, doing pre-production, then start in late July to film, production last until December, then after a quick holiday break it is editing, scoring, CGI work and VFX compositing, and then it premiers in April.There is not PHYSICALLY enough time to add another episode (without reducing the amount of time per episode, therefore lowering the quality).The number of episodes is not a budget issue.

    This show will NEVER get more than 10 episodes per seaosn.To do so would make the show take more than 12 months every year to produce, so it would shift the premiere date later and later in the year, like we are on Martian time or something.That would screw with the ratings and audience would be superannoyed, and might lose people.HBO won’t mess with that just to pointlessly have one book per season.

    That´s also my impression from Lombardo´s statement. But i think that Budget is also a factor in this decision.

    I´m a bit conflicted about this. In the past, it was not unheard of that HBO would take as long as 1 1/2 – 2 years for a new Season of The Wire or The Sopranos, which didn´t seem to hurt the ratings of The Sopranos at least. An approach, from which GoT would possibly benefit, with more time for big scenes, polishing scripts, planning ahead, and – of course – for more Episodes per Season.

    But since HBO clearly has completly changed their modus operandi in this (as iirc Lombardo stated in an interview a few months back), we´re stuck with 10 Episodes per year.

    On the other hand, for Season 1 it was IMO sufficient to tell a pretty good story with a couple of very cinematic scenes. Therefore i think it´s not that big of a deal, as long as the Series stays succesfull and they – due to this – get as many Seasons as they need to tell the whole story.

  27. clemintine
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    AlecTrev: Dear god, I hope season 3 does not end with rw. That was so shocking, we were 2/3 of the way through, we didn’t expect it. If it’s the finale episode, everybody will see it coming. I propose Episode 7 or 8 is RW, Episode 10 is Joffrey’s wedding. Or something. Anything but RW ending..

    Yeah, people expect a climax at the end, but not 2/3 way through, so there are things to be said for its placement. And *at least* in SoS (okay made the reading easier the 2nd time through) we get the bones of Joffrey and Tywin’s deaths thrown at us in the end to ease the pain. Plus (minor Dance spoiler) we get Frey Pie FTW! Back to non-Dance spoilers: I agree, Episode 7 or 8 would be best. With Ned’s beheading falling in Ep9 fans might expect someone to happen in Ep9 of SoS too. So I agree with you RW near the end, but before Ep9. Probably Ep8 would take everyone off their seats. And with D&D putting some Storm content into season 2, this more likely to happen and move up events.

    Amorin Uzuki: If Bran (for example) lives in the end of the story, the actor will be an adult, and this problem will be the same with a lot of actors. I wish they could end the story of the books, but they’ll have a lot of problems to deal with. Anyway, I trust HBO, if they need to change an actor, like Octavio in Rome, they’ll chose the best option…

    This would be the inverse of Rome though. There they needed a boy to become a man (though I liked boy Octavion better, I never warmed up to the new one), here they need a man to become a boy :p I guess HBO will keep the same and adjust the story their growth accordingly. I look forwards to seeing Sansa tower over Joff.

  28. The_Rabbit01
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    It is politics. And politics is a whore!

  29. dhuske
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    A climax at 2/3 in a story actually could be considered better from a storytelling perspective than near the end. Of course, if you have it at the very end, you leave a cliffhanger for viewers to come back and be excited about the next season. But then, in my opinion, it should be at the very end.

    However, a climax at around 9/10 of a season, like Ned’s beheading in Season 1, isn’t necessarily that good. It can lead to some awkwardness around the last episode and people struggling to remember that it happened when they turn up for Season 2. Luckily, it turned out pretty memorable in my opinion, and they had another good cliffhanger (dragons).

    Anyways, my point was: I would prefer if Red Wedding happened at around 2/3 of Season 3, as others have suggested. Preferably episode 7, if that’s not possible then episode 6 or 8.

  30. coltaine777
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    More Rice Cooks:
    I’m quite curious about the statement it’s impossible to film more than 10 episodes without losing quality. Is that a reference to the budget only being able to meet 10 episodes? I realize they don’t have long to film the show on location, but I’m still rather baffled that even 11 episodes is out of the question.

    That how I interpreted the statement …surprised they are so hesitant to increase the budget…Also not sure how long D/D will want to do this….it seems like once they get to RW they’ll be happy…this show must keep them busy 365 days a yr…like Frank Darabont leaving Walking Dead. I think the same will happen here with D/D…they’ll just pass the baton to someone else…though I hope I’m wrong…

  31. Jordan Healey
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    The_Rabbit01:
    It is politics. And politics is a whore!

    or rather, like a tryst.

  32. K-dog
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink
  33. Eleanor
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “I hope it lasts for 20 years,” says HBO programming president Michael Lombardo of the show.

    OK, the concept of GoT still being on when I’ve hit menopause is rather alarming…

  34. loco73
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t mind at all that the show will only have 10 episodes per season. I’d rather have 10 good quality episodes than an extended season with watered down quality. That will make me savour each episode that much more. I found it encouraging that HBO seems, at least for now, to see this show run through and do a full story-arch, rather than just coping out like in some other shows…ahem, cough….”Carnivale”…”Deadwood”… Still compared to other networks HBO has a pretty good track record when it comes to seeing their shows get a full run. After all they stuck with “The Wire” through its 5-season run, and it was mostly a commitement to the show’s quality and the loyalty of its small but fierce fanbase. So I hope they really mean it! As to where the show ends, what is there to ponder, while I’m aware that the show cannot follow the books through each plot point, character, action etc., that has never been a probem for me, but as to where it should end…it should end where “A Song Of Ice And Fire” ends!?!?!?!?

    The rest, well I hope D&D and the whole team stay put, because they are integral to the success of this show. I am also glad that the fanbase of the show, does seem to have some influence on this whole process. It is also up to us to ensure the continued success and long-term viability of this show, and for now judging by what I have seen here on this site, that will continue from both newbies and old-timers…

  35. Elena Amici
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Nuke1096: Season 3 – First 2/3 of Storm of Swords
    Season 4 – Last 1/3 of Storm of Swords with First 1/2 of Feast and Dance running concurrently
    Season 5 – Last 1/2 of Feast and Dance running concurrently

    Mhhh.. i don’t think Feast AND Dance will be enough for two seasons. I liked them both, but they are just tooooo slow to make a good season. (yes, i liked feast. And i’m starting to think feast was slighty better than dance, in which all those Northern Chapters Of Awesome are just not enough to balance the Boring Eastern Crap)… I can totally see season 5 as a crazy feast-dance-winds hybrid :D

  36. Doughnut Hole
    Posted July 30, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Tywin’s Bastard:
    It’s odd that there’s so much talk about the fact that GoT is a fantasy show. HBO already had fantasy amongst their programming since unless you think that vampires, werewolves etc actually exist True Blood is a fantasy show. The pseudo medieval thing is not the limits of the fantasy genre.

    You’re right, of course, and you probably know this, but when they say ‘fantasy’ they mean Tolkien, elves, magic, orcs, wizards, hobbits, etc. So yeah: literally they are arguing that werewolves, witches, and vampires aren’t fantasy, because of assumptions dumb people have about genre conventions.

  37. loco73
    Posted July 31, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Doughnut Hole,

    Plus let’s not forget “Carnivale”, which had supernatural/fantastical elements in it, while it had its animation division, HBO also produced together with Todd McFarlane its award winning series “Spawn”. So its not like HBO had never ventured before into the realm of fantasy.

    To me “True Blood” is a full-blown fantasy show, I mean this new season has fairies in it! You add that to all the other fantastical creatures…unless I missed something, that is a freaking fantasy show!

    Thus, its not like “Game Of Thrones” is so out of HBO’s comfort zone…

  1. [...] HBO execs talked about Game of Thrones in a reasonably interesting fashion recently: They’re standing very firm on the 10-episodes-per-season issue, which is unfortunate, but [...]

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