Even as the TV turf quakes and shifts, HBO stays steady. It keeps turning out top-quality shows.
Now, however, those shows are spread over two spots: Some start on HBO, then slide to the HBO Max streaming service; others (including John Cena’s upcoming “Peacemaker,” shown here) are Max-only.
Either way, the quality persists. That was clear this week with:
– The Emmy awards. Yes, Netflix dominated with 44 wins, but HBO was second with 19 – more than all the broadcast networks combined. It won for best variety talk show (“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”) and two best actresses (Jean Smart in “Hacks,” Kate Winslett in “Mare of Easttown”).
– Press conferences (done virtually) with the Television Critics Association. A six-show sampling offered quality and variety, including some HBO staples – sex, sci-fi and “Succession.”
The second season of “Succession” won seven Emmys in the 2019-20 season, including best drama series. It ended when, as writer-producer Jesse Armstrong put it, “Kendall dropped that narrative bomb,” accusing his media-mogul father of crimes and abuse.
And then … there was a long pause.
HBO fans are accustomed to huge waits between seasons of “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones,” but this one was extended by COVID. The third season will finally start Oct. 17, two years and four days after the second ended.
It’s an opener worth waiting for – rippling with rage, schemes, humor and blistering dialog. “It’s the kind of drama I’ve always wanted to do,” said Brian Cox, who stars as the mogul.
That will be on HBO, alongside two personal series that were previewed for the TCA.
“Nuclear Family” (debuting at 10:02 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26) is an involving, three-week documentary. Ry Russo-Young, 39, recalls growing up with lesbian mothers, at a time when that was a rarity.
“Somebody Somewhere” is a drama-comedy. Bridget Everett – now a brash comedian and cabaret star – imagines remaining in her Kansas home town. “I always struggled to fit in there,” she said, “because I was a bit of a wild child.”
Those three shows will also go to HBO Max, but the TCA was shown three Max-only series:
– “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (debuting Nov. 18). Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, who went to Dartmouth and Yale, focus on four freshmen who are bright, funny and ambitious. They are also “sex positive,” Noble said, which was the opposite of his own college experience.
– “Station Eleven” (this fall). Based on a graphic novel, it tells of the survivors of a flu that killed most people. The project began before the real-life pandemic; then fact and fiction both proved a key point, said Jennifer Holland, who stars: “The best and worst of human nature will show up” in a crisis.
– “Peacemaker” (January). James Gunn, who wrote and directed the “Suicide Squad” movie, also wrote all eight of these episodes. He focuses on John Cena’s character from the movie – large, lethal, enthusiastic and immensely naive.
“Peacemaker is almost every guy I grew up with in Missouri,” Gunn said. He’s also the sort of guy who can propel interest in a streaming service.