HBO is making decisions on the three new comedy series that premiered last year. The pay cable network has opted not to order a second season of Family Tree. Also not going to second season is Hello Ladies, which will wrap the story of Stuart Pritchard (Stephen Merchant) and his group of friends with a special — similar to the way HBO ended Ricky Gervais’ Life’s Too Short. There is no final decision on medical comedy Getting On but it is expected to get a second-season renewal pending the sorting out of budget issues.
Unlike HBO’s dramas, which in many cases are big crowd-pleasers like True Blood and Game Of Thrones, its comedies, by design, have been very specific. None of the three freshman 2013 series — all with strong British pedigrees — have been as noisy as Girls for example, but they have been relatively well received (especially Getting On), and their viewership deliveries have been OK for the price point. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree, starring Chris O’Dowd, was originally designed for an arc. I hear being a co-producing with the BBC made a second installment even more complicated, contributing to HBO’s decision not to go forward.
After a break, HBO’s comedies have returned to the awards circles with Girls and Veep, which has raked in a slew of nominations and trophies for the past two years. The launch of HBO’s newest comedy series, the gay-themed Looking, has been soft, but HBO brass have been encouraged by the attention the show has been getting as they consider a show being part of the cultural conversation as important (and sometimes even more important) than ratings. There is a correlation between the two. Girls, which quickly got in the cultural zeitgeist, now brings in some 5 million viewers per episodes in total. HBO has several comedy pilots in the pipeline: the Duplass brothers’ Togetherness, and two projects that could reach a broader audience The Brink starring Jack Black, and Miami-set Ballers starring Dwayne Johnson. (HBO just passed on comedy pilot People In New Jersey and will retool the untitled Diallo Riddle/Bashir Salahuddin half-hour pilot.)