It’s now official. HBO just announced that Carolyn Strauss is leaving her longtime gig (though the pay channel took great pains to claim she would get a fat production deal). “Everyone felt this was the right time,” an insider told me about her firing because the pay channel has lost all its sizzle. Heck, HBO hasn’t had a new hit series in, like, forever. The pay channel was going to announce the shake-up Monday, but then I broke the news Saturday. Not only will there be a new President of HBO Entertainment hired but also a new Head of Series, I’m told.
I’ve been complaining ad nauseum that Hollywood is waiting for Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes, a one-time head of HBO, to make a bold move to rejuvenate the ossified pay channel. There was profound disappointment when he replaced HBO chairman/CEO Chris Albrecht after a scandal with two insiders since the company already was filled with execs who seemed to have jobs for life. What’s been needed is new blood and fresh creative leadership. As for Strauss (pictured with Larry David, left), I’ve already reported that she’s been phoning it in for a long time while doing business with what seemed like just the same six people. Made president of HBO Entertainment back in February 2004, she’d been at HBO since 1986. Finally, Richard Plepler, HBO Co-President, and Michael Lombardo, President of Programming Group and West Coast Operations, made a move to end that. “I think this is a very decisive step for Richard and Michael,” a source analyzed. HBO axed its unpopular comedy czar, Bob Crestani, back in November. And the next shoe to drop should be the overrated Colin Calender (a legend in his own mind who recently rejected an offer from Walden Media to develop a new production slate and team).
Nothing would please Hollywood more than if Showtime were on the verge of whacking the hubris out of HBO. Certainly, Showtime has more distinctive programming right now, even if it can’t market its way out of a paper bag — unlike HBO. Problem is, HBO has nothing to sell. Look how many HBO series have tanked: John from Cincinnati, Rome, Deadwood, and Carnivale all had their plugs pulled prematurely. They passed on Mad Men. Critically acclaimed The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Oz, Sex In The City have expired. And replacement series like Tell Me You Love Me and In Treatment are like watching pain dry. Even the once-fun Entourage now sucks. As I’ve said again and again, HBO needs to once again make the kind of unique and even dangerous programming that can’t air on basic cable or commercial networks. That’s what defines pay television. I say shake up the place, get rid of everybody, and start all over.
Previous: I’ve confirmed there’s an HBO shake-up. Tipsters tell me that Carolyn Strauss may be exiting. The change does not affect Colin Calender though he had been approached by Walden Media. (See HBO Needs To Wise Up, Or Get Whacked)