July 17, 2005

HBO plugs ‘Entourage’ posse

By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The "Entourage" crew is
coming back for more adventures in celebrity-dom next year --
many more adventures, if HBO has anything to say about it.

The Emmy-nominated comedy, which stars Adrian Grenier as a
young movie star and Jeremy Piven as his shark-ish agent, has
been renewed for a third season to debut next year. HBO
chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht told reporters that he's
looking to hire more writers for the show in order to produce
more than 13 episodes per season.

"We're certainly going to try to get more than that,"
Albrecht said Friday during HBO's portion of the summer
Television Critics Assn. press tour at the Beverly Hilton.

The renewal of "Entourage" topped a state-of-HBO address
delivered by Albrecht that included updates on such shows as
"The Sopranos" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," as well as news of a
formal green light for the long-gestating "John Adams"

No HBO session at TCA would be complete without the
semiannual speculation on the potential for additional episodes
of "The Sopranos" beyond the sixth season, scheduled to bow in
March. Albrecht offered the series' open-ended fate as a
continuous source of discussion between himself and new
Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey, who formerly
headed the Brad Grey TV banner that produces "Sopranos."

He said the decision to produce more "Sopranos" ultimately
rested with its creator, David Chase, whom Albrecht depicted as
"most concerned with leaving the audience feeling great about
the show."

"Curb Your Enthusiasm," meanwhile, will return for a fifth
season Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. The 10-episode installment will be
paired with "Extras," a similarly themed BBC comedy starring
Ricky Gervais ("The Office").

HBO begins production in the fall on the 10-hour "Adams"
miniseries about one of the nation's founding fathers who also
had the formidable task of following George Washington as the
second president of the United States. Shooting is expected to
continue on sites in Virginia and Europe through next year in
time for a 2007 airdate. Tom Hanks will serve as an executive
producer, and will direct one of the episodes.

Hanks and Steven Spielberg will also produce a miniseries
about World War II battles in the Pacific theater. The World
War II miniseries and "Adams" together will cost HBO about $300
million, according to Albrecht.

Albrecht also offered candid assessments on a range of
current HBO programing, defending the likes of the new Lisa
Kudrow comedy "The Comeback" and "Six Feet Under," which he
admitted was not well served by its brief switch to Monday from
Sunday nights.

He professed awe at the fan support greeting "The Wire" and
the now-canceled "Carnivale," which he deemed ultimately too
expensive to continue given its huge production costs and
ensemble cast. "It's not a big show in the foreign (market),
there's not a lot of investment to recoup from that," he said.

Also in the longform department, HBO has recruited Helen
Mirren and Jeremy Irons for the two-part miniseries "Elizabeth
I," which is filming in Lithuania, in anticipation of airing
next year. Mirren plays the 16th century monarch, with Irons
and Hugh Dancy depicting two of the politically ambitious
lovers she had late in her reign.

In other programing news from the session:

= HBO will introduce a late-night series, "One Night
Stand," beginning Aug. 19, featuring stand-up comedy from the
likes of Earthquake, Louis C.K. and Caroline Rhea. The network
is also producing stand-up specials through the end of the year
for Bill Maher, George Carlin, Dennis Miller and Robert Klein,
who will mark his eighth HBO special. He headlined the first
HBO comedy special 30 years ago.

= HBO also laid out its schedule of documentaries for the
"America Undercover" franchise for the second half of the year,
including "A Father ... A Son ... Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood," an examination of the relationship between movie
stars Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas, directed by Lee Grant.

The elder Douglas, who was present via satellite because of
recent knee surgery, cracked up the room by suggesting he was
eyeing a potential TV project for himself and his son's wife,
Catherine Zeta-Jones. "I want to audition next season for (the
ABC summer hit) 'Dancing With the Stars,"' he joked.

= The original film "Walkout" will air next year. Directed
by Edward James Olmos, it depicts the protest movement in the
East Los Angeles public school system during the civil rights
era. Alexa Vega ("Spy Kids") stars.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter