HBO, the US premium satellite network playing first-run movies and top-notch series, seems to have struggled getting back its award-winning reputation from the glory days of The Sopranos, The Wire and Sex & the City. But this could all change soon.
Shows like Entourage with Adrian Grenier ( Devil Wears Prada) and Golden Globe winner Jeremy Piven, and In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest and Mia Wasikowska ( Alice in Wonderland), have enjoyed success, but more programs are in development with cachet and star power, designed to get viewers tuned in.
The Oscar-nominated director of Precious, Lee Daniels, whose movie swept the Spirit Awards this past weekend, is turning to HBO for his Selma project, a civil rights drama, starring Robert De Niro and Hugh Jackman. In addition, Daniels is slated for a series on the network about a multiracial family.
Martin Scorsese is producing a drama called Boardwalk Empire, for HBO about the 1920s in the booming resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Based on the book by Nelson Johnson, it centers on the peak period during Prohibition and local politics funded by gambling, bars, and brothels. (Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm30JBh8pnE)
Another high-profile show stars Dustin Hoffman who has signed on to shoot a pilot for Luck, a gambling and horse-racing drama, from Deadwood creator David Milch and Michael Mann. The cast also includes Nick Nolte ( Tropic Thunder) and Dennis Farina ( NYPD Blue).
And Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have partnered again on another war drama, The Pacific, a 10-part series, starting March 14. Similar to the production team's acclaimed 2001 Band of Brothers miniseries about the D-Day invasion, this story follows World War II in the Asian theater.
Also, HBO has also greenlighted the much-anticipated fantasy series, Game of Thrones, a series based on the fantasy novels of George R.R. Martin novels. It's a swords-style mythical land in the land of Westeros, filled with kings, queens, knights, and renegades. Production will begin in Belfast this June for a debut next spring.
Whether they prove to be ground-breaking shows with superior writing of prior programming that won HBO its accolades remains to be seen.