HBO’s Lombardo: Don’t Combine Emmy Categories #TCA14

Programming president says he’s not worried about awards categories
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HBO drew 99 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations Thursday — by far the most of any network. For perspective, CBS, the network with second-most nominations, earned 47 nominations.

Among those nominations were 12 for True Detective, which HBO chose to submit in the drama series categories rather than the less competitive miniseries categories. The show earned nods for best drama series and for best drama actor for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Taking questions onstage at HBO’s TCA summer press tour executive session, network programming president Michael Lombardo said, “The truth is, in terms of the Emmys, I think it’s hard for [The Television Academy] in an evolving, organic landscape to have rules that fit every possible permutation.”  

Lombardo spoke with B&C after the session to talk about his Emmy reactions, expectations and competition.

HBO earned more than twice as many nominations as any other network. So what are you doing differently than everyone else?

You know what, we’re just continuing to do our thing, and that’s why every year, before the Emmy nominations, I take a deep breath and go, “Who knows if the Emmy gods are going to smile on us?” I’m just so unbelievable pleased that returning shows, new shows, talk shows — every year it’s exciting and a surprise.

You talked during the executive session about the difficulty that the academy must have with categories. If you ran things, would you merge miniseries and drama?

I guess the question comes down to, “What’s the point of these awards?” In my mind, honestly, the notion of judging one show versus another is always very challenging. The more people that get awards, the better I think it is. So the idea of consolidating categories — there’s so much great work, they’ll start making distinctions and there will be fewer people. My sense is, at the end of the day, it would be great to win, but everything gets nominated and should. The category is less important than the quality of the work. I know there was a flurry of industry chatter online. From a consumer standpoint, from an industry standpoint. I don’t get a sense of a public outcry of, “Why is this in comedy?” And if the Emmy voters, who are in the know here, they’re industry people, disagreed strongly, they would respond accordingly.

Are you worried that Woody or Matthew might be taking an award away from one of your other actors on another show?

That’s always something you think about when you have more than one show or actor in any category. It’s a quality problem. Not gonna worry about it. Can’t worry about that.

Netflix more than doubled their nominations from last year. Are you keeping an eye on them in the same way you do other competitors?

When you say “keep an eye” — I’m aware generally what’s out there, what I like, what I don’t like. From a personal standpoint, I couldn’t live if I was always looking over my shoulder over at what other people do. I look at what we’re doing and I’m hard enough on myself about what we’re doing, whether we can do better. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at other shows. And, you know what, the good news is that Netflix has recently come online both actually and figuratively in the sense of quality shows. I think Amazon will be up there soon. The good news is there seems to be enough quality that we’re not running out of good ideas, good writers.

You talked [in the executive session] about Silicon Valley being a sort of pleasant surprise. Did you not anticipate that a show whose finale was built around a dick joke would get awards recognition?

There are shows that when they’re getting built, they feel like, “I don’t know if this will work with a viewer, but it feels like a show that Emmy voters will like.” Silicon Valley, with an episode of dick jokes, is exactly the sort of show you don’t set out to go, “This is an Emmy Show.” That’s what’s so great about it being recognized for quality. It’s unbelievably funny and it’s also unbelievably good.

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