HBO News Blog


By Jef Dinsmore on Mar 20, 2014 to HBO News

dev-logoA real interesting bit of news comes up this time around. Just when I thought a couple of projects had been passed over by HBO they resurface again. Plus, there are some other little tidbits that prove that HBO is always looking for the right content to make the premium channel more than just the usual TV fare.  

  •  HBO Considers Given Up For Dead Concept LAUGHS UNLIMITED

 Out of the blue an announcement came forth that actress Melonie Diaz (pictured) has been cast as the lead in a dramatic work called LAUGHS UNLIMITED. Now we hear casting buzz all the time; the clinch here is that we haven’t even heard anything about this potential series since 2012.  The exact date we had any news was 12.16.12. The title, LAUGHS UNLIMITED, needs to be seen as sarcastic because the plot centers on a war veteran’s battle with post traumatic stress disorder. Yep, sounds like a real laugh riot. Actually it sounds like it could be an interesting draPeople_MelonieDiazma. Here is what we said about the premise back then.

 It is about Billie Crown, an Army medic who returns from serving a tour in Afghanistan only to find that her husband is divorcing her and taking custody of their daughter. The medic hides her PTSD from family and colleagues so she can be reinstated as a Sacramento police officer, and so she can reconnect with her daughter. Her attempts in navigating the pressurized world of a beat cop while trying to assimilate back into normal society could turn Billie into a walking time bomb. At any moment, if the stresses get to her, they could jeopardize her career, family and life. The title is ironic military slang, and refers to a comedy club where Billie and her fellow cops hang out to relax and blow off steam.

Deadline states that “It has not been picked up to pilot yet, with HBO doing preliminary casting and working on the budget as it does on most scripts it is high on before making a formal pilot order.” So now we will have to pay more attention to this project from Oren Moverman and Anthony Swofford as it moves forward.


  • HBO Films Picks Up MADAME ROSE Biopic People_MadameRose

Another HBO Films presentation is under development and it is a biopic about Mama Rose Hovick. It is entitled MADAME ROSE and will tell the story of the dame who personified the classic image of the domineering “stage mother.” It is a character you may already be familiar with as a classic Broadway musical, Gypsy, has been staged for years by professional and amateur theaters alike. Such greats in the role have included Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Bette Midler.

This show biz story will once again focus on the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famed burlesque stripper, and actress June Havoc and how she relentlessly would stop at nothing to make her daughters famous even to the brink of their unhappiness. The movie will be directed and produced by Adam Shankman (Rock of Ages & Hairspray) working a script written by Tristine Skyler (Innocence). This work is not a remake of the musical but an HBO-quality biographical treatment of the title character. It should be a role to be yearned for by actresses eager to add their name to the list of the ladies who have played Madame Rose before her. Check back with HBOWatch to find out who gets the role.


  •  Ryan Murphy’s OPEN Still A Go

People_WesBentlyExcept for the fact that Ryan Murphy is a busy guy with works like Glee, American Horror Story and HBO Films: NORMAL HEART I don’t know why OPEN is not on a faster track. But it is finally in production after adding two more ladies to its cast. 

Lina Esco will play Gina, a smoking hot and extremely ambitious employee at Jonathan’s sports management agency (and the object of his sexting and extra-curricular exploits) who will stop at nothing to get the job promotion AND her man and Jaimie Alexander will play Claire, the postpartum-suffering, pill-popping “Stepford” wife of Evan(played by Wes Bentley, pictured).

 More importantly we had news right off of our own site that verifies that production is underway on a pilot episode. Remember, there is been no series commitment yet and HBO will decide based upon that pilot episode, but come on, Mr. Murphy’s track record speaks for itself. Credit goes to Pam Hall for commenting on HBOWatch with the following –

Pam Hall: – I saw Scott Speedman on Chelsea Lately this week (of February 17th) and he actually mentioned OPEN and that they were starting filming this week, in fact the very next morning. Yea!!!

So that pilot could be in front of executives eyes soon and later this year we should have a more definitive answer of OPEN’s status.


  • LOOKAWAY, LOOKAWAY Novel Being Developed Lookaway_Dev.

Former HBO entertainment president Sue Naegle is now a producer on the search for content to strike her interest and possibly HBO and other places. Well, she has found LOOKAWAY, LOOKAWAY by Wilton Barnhardt and she will develop it as an HBO comedy with producer David Miner of 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine fame.

 To find out a bit about to the source material I traveled to Amazon, in case you wanted to purchase the book, and found the “Kirkus Review” which states –

 Wilton Barnhardt has written a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.

 Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpet-bagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy. As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap she is determined to stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?


 Since Sue Naegle is a former head at HBO you’d think she would have a good chance of getting this comedy project green-lit. We will see what happens, but for now HBO is just entertaining the notion.


  • Independent Film A TEACHER May Become A SeriesATeacher_Movie

An Independent film called  A TEACHER is being developed as a potential HBO series by Jay and Mark Duplass who are already working on TOGETHERNESS  for the pay channel. The Sundance Film Festival fave offers a dramatic plot that appears a simple one, but packs a strong emotional tug.  The film and the series both center on a high school teacher in her late 20’s in the midst of a torrid affair with one of her students.

 The film’s writer/director Hannah Fidell would be onboard for the series. According to Deadline she would rewrite her work with British writer Daniel Brocklehurst (of U. K.’s Shameless) with Fidell also set to direct the potential pilot. Michael Costigan and his Cota Films will house the project with the Duplass brothers and Fidell sharing producing chores. Again, another developing project to keep our eye on.


  • Will Smith and Jay-Z May Assist with a New HBO Comedy

 People_CalvinHarrisHBO seems interested as of late of looking at the music industry and will consider developing not only Martin Scorsese’s Rock-n-Roll drama but a show about the world of electronic music as well. Will Smith and Jay-Z just might be the biggest named bandied about for a new project, but the head of the concept is top U. K. DJ Calvin Harris (pictured) is working with Smith & Jay-Z in creating HIGHER.

HIGHER is set in the world of electronic music and will be about the artists that keep the party moving at all the hit clubs. If this concept is a go, and it certainly isn’t based on the flimsy one sentence premise we have so far, DJ Harris a Grammy winning songwriter and producer will surely have many an industry connection to keep the potential hip, hot and current with all the latest electronica out there.

That is quite a bit of development data for now. Let us leave it at that, but you know I’ll be back with more. And what the hell, let’s go out with some electronic from DJ Calvin Harris!


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