HBO stepped out the other day at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, and the upcoming Game of Thrones series finale was on everyone’s mind. “I think any time you end a show this important and this big, a lot of people project onto a finale what they want it to be, what fans think it should be, hope it will be,” said HBO programming president Casey Bloys. “The only thing I will say as a fan of the show is that I think [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have done a brilliant job of ending the show in a dramatically satisfying and emotionally satisfying way. I do believe that fans are going to be really really happy with how it all wraps up.”
As with all things Game of Thrones, there is a lot of speculation. All I can tell you as part of this season, is it is all spectacular.
This probably isn’t anything that’s going to get the Game of Thrones nation on its feet — it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, and of course the top network exec is going to speak well of his headlining event for the year — but we’re on the hype train now, and it needs fuel. Plus, Bloys is one of the few people to have seen the final six episodes, albeit without all the special effects, so if you’re gonna take someone’s word, take his.
More interesting to me were Bloys’ comments about HBO’s plans for after Thrones is over. Most relevantly, the network has a Game of Thrones prequel series from screenwriter Jane Goldman in active development. “All I’m telling you now is that we are shooting the pilot in early summer, so I would not even hazard a guess as to when it would end up on air,” Bloys said.
He also confirmed that the still untitled show would film at least partially in Northern Ireland like Game of Thrones before it, but we should expect to see some new locations, too. “[Pilot director S.J. Clarkson] just came on at the top of the New Year so they are going through locations and they are working that out,” he said. “They’re will be some based in Belfast but beyond that, they are still scouting.”
Goldman’s prequel is set during the Age of Heroes, thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones. Bloys stressed that there would be absolutely no crossover with GoT proper, but didn’t rule out the possibility of more shows set in George R.R. Martin’s world down the line:
I don’t want to build a programming lineup that is dependent on the next Game of Thrones franchise coming. That said, it’s an incredibly rich world that George has created. So, I think we’d be crazy not to take a shot, but it’s not going to be the sole focus of our programming efforts. We’re going to continue that franchise only if it’s good.
Hear, hear. In an industry prone to bandwagoning (every studio seems to have an “expanded universe” saga these days), it’s nice to see a network explore its options without going crazy…although we’ll see if anything changing when Game of Thrones is gone and HBO is missing all those eyeballs.
For now, Bloys isn’t worried. Thanks to a recent influx of cash from new owner AT&T, the network has the wherewithal to expand, but according to Bloys, it’s keeping a level head. “When AT&T gave us the money to invest it was not with the caveat that it was all Game of Thrones,” he explained. “It was for more programming, more of what we do.”
I think 2019 is a pretty good example of that. It is the most programming that we’ve ever done, none of it is programming that we would not have done two years ago or five years ago. It’s all high-quality, really well done programming. So the money was not contingent on here’s more money but make it all Game of Thrones all the time. I don’t think that would be smart for us. I don’t think fans of the Game of Thrones franchise would want that.
I know I wouldn’t want that. I want more Game of Thrones, of course, but I’d prefer HBO focus on making one follow-up series as good as it can be rather than spreading itself thin over a bunch of series. And in the meantime, HBO has a lot of cool genre offerings on the way, including a show based on Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Jordan Peele’s Lovecraft Country, a Deadwood movie, and more. 2019 is looking like a great year for TV.