HBO News Blog

Development Slate: Kushner; Oprah; CRUSHED Comedy & More

By Jef Dinsmore on Oct 5, 2013 to HBO News

dev-logoI don’t have an overload of development news this round. Not to diminish the potential for any of the projects mentioned below, but HBOWatch has already reported some pretty big news. We were surprised by De Niro and  THE LEFTOVERS recently and both GETTING ON and JAM’IE coming out of the blue. All that proves that it is fun and exciting checking what HBO is developing including the information below.  


  •  Tony Kushner Returning to HBO?

PEOPLE_TonyKushnerTony Kushner, in my opinion, is a master storyteller; even though he has written only a couple of acclaimed screenplays through the years both on the big screen and the home one.  For example, he wrote the script for both Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the HBO miniseries ANGELS IN AMERICA. Now, though he is rather tight-lipped about, he returns to HBO in what I can only call a “Kushner project.”

 Here is a recent quote I found from him via  Broadway World: 

BW: Where does television fit into all this? It’s a visual medium, like film, but especially in recent years, it’s a place where writers call the shots.


TK: It’s the age of David Chase. He showed with THE SOPRANOS that you could make a serious work of art [on television] with as much depth and power as any [other medium]. You then had this succession of intensely talented people — David Simon with THE WIRE,  Matt Weiner with Mad Men, Vince Gilligan with Breaking Bad, Lena Dunham with GIRLS. It’s enormously exciting. It’s the first time in the history of the human race that people who make kinetic representations of reality are not bound by an audience’s attention span. With these shows coming out on DVD, you can basically treat them like books. You can carry them around on your iPad, watch them whenever you have a chance


BW: Does it interest you?


TK: I’m working on a series for HBO. It’s a contemporary story set in New York. I’m not able to say more. I’m working on the pilot and what they call “the bible,” which is a projection of the plot. It’s a lot of fun to play around with it. I hope I can do it.

It’s a form I don’t know very well, but I tend to think in epic structure. ANGELS IN AMERICA is a very long play. The first draft of the Lincoln screenplay was 500 pages long. So length is not usually a terrible problem for me!

That is all we got to go on. But, man I find it interesting already. HBOWatch will keep a track of this project because the eloquent writing of Kushner belongs on HBO.


  • CRUSHED Comedy

 Tina GordonPEOPLE_chism Chism (pictured) is writing a work with HBO in mind and will also be executive producing it. It is called CRUSHED. You might not be familiar with her but you might have seen one of her pervious projects without knowing it was hers.

 She wrote the screenplays for ATL, DRUMLINE and Tyler Perry’s PEEPLES and also directed that last one. So, what is CRUSHED? It is a fish-out-of-water story that follows a family’s unorthodox approach to wine making when an African American stumbles upon a successful wine business in the Napa Valley.

 The Hollywood Reporter  was the only source that mentioned this news and it is scant info at best and vague. Is this comedy going to be a series? An African American cast comedy belongs on HBO to be sure. Or, continuing her track record, is this one shaping up as another movie? We will wait and see.     


  • Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo to Produce for HBO

DEV_ThesethingshappenJust put into development with HBO is a half-hour comedy that is the first deal the network has with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

The work in question is THESE THINGS HAPPEN which is set in present day Manhattan and focuses on two couples – one gay, one straight. They share a 15-year-old son, who lives on the upper-East Side with his mother and doctor stepfather. Trying to get to know his impressive, distant father better, he moves in for a semester with him and his long-time partner who forms an instant friendship with the boy.

The project is based on the first-time novel by Richard Kramer who is a writer and producer for such TV fare as Thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. He will be the head writer for THESE THINGS HAPPEN as well as executive produce it. Harpo Productions has had a development deal over the past year.


  • HBO’s Benghazi Movie

 This one is targeted to be one hell of a movie based on source material alone, at least that is what I think. Mega-producer Jerry Weintraub, right off his work DEV_UnderFireon award-winning HBO Films: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, is developing another HBO Films production.

The optioned book is entitled “Under Fire: the Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi” by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz. For those unfamiliar with the scenario here is a look at the premise gleaned from the non-fiction tome.

 “On the night of September 11, 2012, the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya, came under ferocious attack by a heavily armed group of Islamic terrorists. The prolonged firefight, and the attack hours later on a nearby CIA outpost, resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, the Information Officer, Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

After the fall of Qaddafi, Benghazi was transformed into a hotbed of fundamentalist fervor and a den of spies for the northern half of the African continent. Moreover, it became the center of gravity for terrorist groups strategically situated in the violent whirlwinds of the Arab Spring. On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States, a group of heavily armed Islamic terrorists had their sights set on the U.S. diplomatic and intelligence presence in the city.

Based on the exclusive cooperation of eyewitnesses and confidential sources within the intelligence, diplomatic, and military communities, Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz reveal for the first time the terrifying twelve-hour ordeal confronted by Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, his Diplomatic Security (DS) contingent, and the CIA security specialists who raced to rescue them.

More than just the minute-by-minute narrative of a desperate last stand in the midst of an anarchic rebellion, Under Fire is an inspiring testament to the bravery and selflessness of the men and women who put their country first while serving in one of the most dangerous regions in the world.”

Does this historic incident sound gripping enough to be retold on HBO as UNDER FIRE? No timeline is definite but it is now on our radar and  we will let you know how Weintraub’s latest develops.  


  • THE  BRINK directed by Jay Roach

 PEOPLE_jayRoachJay Roach (pictured), the man behind some big HBO Films of a political nature like RECOUNT and GAME CHANGE is now teaming up with some talent to bring a comedy series to HBO.

 Former Weeds executive producer Roberto Benabib is teaming up with Roach and Jerry Weintraub to develop a show called THE BRINK. The ordered pilot will be written by Benabib and his brother Kim and directed by Roach. THE BRINK is described as an epic dark comedy focusing on a geopolitical crisis and its effect on three disparate and desperate men: U.S. Secretary of State Walter Hollander, lowly Foreign Service officer Alex Coppins and ace Navy fighter pilot Zeke Callahan. These three compromised souls must pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War III.  

 World War III? Those premises sound suspenseful, but remember it is listed as a comedy so it may carry some of the tone of VEEP mixed in with its Homeland. Does it sound intriguing to anyone?


  • More About The RockPEOPLE_Omarbensonmller

 Excuse me, that should be Dwayne Johnson, I guess. At any rate, he is moving ahead with his yet to be titled “ENTOURAGE in Miami sport scene” concept for HBO. We have heard very little but it is going forward with Omar Benson Miller now added to the cast.

 This seems to be a slow forming project as if it is not fully developed. Mark Wahlberg, one of HBO’s go-to producers, is behind the production along with Johnson. Maybe, once casting is complete things will pick up.   


  • More Are In THE MONEY

 Speaking about casting David Milch’s THE MONEY must be on the fast-track because it is lining up a big cast quick. We already know Brendan Gleeson is onboard. Just recently added, however, are Patrick Kennedy, Dominique McElligot, Laila Robins, Andrea Riseborough, David Harewood and Nathan Lane.

 THE MONEY is about wealth and corruption among the super elite, focusing on American mogul and patriarch James Castman (Gleeson), who wields power and influence to expand his media empire and control his family. Here is a breakdown of what we know about each character.

PEOPLE_Patrickkennedy— Patrick Kennedy (BOARDWALK EMPIRE’s Dr. Douglas Mason & PARADE’S END’s McKechnie) plays Castman’s dutiful and ethically strong son, James Castman, who is a key lieutenant in the empire. (kennedy is pictured at left.)

 — Dominique McElligot (Hell on Wheels) plays the elder Castman’s daughter Katherine Castman.

 — Laila Robins (young Livia on THE SOPRANOS and appeared in BORED TO DEATH and IN TREATMENT) plays Ruth Castman the wife of elder Castman and the mother of the three children.

 — Andrea Riseborough (Tom Cruise’s Oblivion) will play Anna Elkin, Oxford educated and a self-made success who is an editor at a top NY newspaper.

 — David Harewood (the CIA boss on Showtime’s Homeland) will play Kurt Corbitt, a grandiose, boisterous and irascible ideologue and the CEO of the parent company to Castman’s empire.PEOPLE_nathanlane

 — Nathan Lane (lately of The Good Wife) will play Gordon McCarren, a reporter for VistaCorp’s New York Herald whose job hangs by a thread. He hasn’t had a byline in weeks, and he’s desperate to garner evidence to support a hot scoop.

 We can guess that that hot scoop will be some scandal in Castman’s empire that will affect the whole family. Keep your eye on THE MONEY.

 Also keep your eye on HBOWatch; we will keep track of the development slate for you. Whenever any one of these projects gets a series order or becomes a movie before the cameras we will give the project its proper stand alone post telling you all about it. For now, they only remain on our wish list. Weigh in below on what you’d like to see go forward.   


  • Hey Jef I’ve been reading some of your old development slates lately as I’ve been wondering what HBO will do to replace BWE, TB and The Newsroom. THE MONEY looks to be almost IN PRODUCTION with this huge, interesting cast. Is it a 2014 thing or what?

    Thanks for doing these. I promise to read them more carefully in the future as a good editor should.

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