“George hasn’t finished the next book – any concerns about that?” a TV critic asked HBO execs this afternoon at TCA, referring to Game Of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Bleary-eyed TV critics, who gotten up pre-dawn to cover this morning’s Primetime Emmy nominations unveiling, HBOunderstandably had the series very much on their minds, what with the show clocking a pack-leading 19 noms. “His book’s not finished at this point, but we’re not concerned about it,” HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo said of the writer’s progress on his most recent book in the series. “We’re not losing sleep,” chimed in HBO CEO Richard Plepler, dismissing the critics’ suggestion that Martin was leaving the premium network hanging.

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Another critic tried baiting the execs to confirm speculation that next season of anthology series True Detective would star two men and one woman — seriously, just the gender, no names. “We’re going to do the next season with puppets,” Lombardo snarked. “They’re being built right now.” Look for the tweets.

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Not that the two guys onstage sent critics away empty-handed. They did reveal that the first two scripts of the second season of True Detective are “more exciting than the first season.” They also announced the show’s casting — is likely to be announced in the coming week. “Is it two lead actors and one actress?” the intrepid journalist with no name persevered. “We’ll let you know,” Plepler joshed.

Another critic tried a different approach, asking the two men if, given the casting of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey for the show’s first season, it meant they could  not go with “journeyman performers” for the second season and instead had “to go for big stars,” adding, “How much of a challenge is that?” Lombardo and Plepler, who weren’t born yesterday, noted that, at the time they committed to produce True Detective, McConaughey certainly wasn’t the star he turned out to be in the course of production.  “We decided early on to free ourselves from the idea of stars and just lean into great acting,” Lombardo insisted,  adding that viewers may have come to the program because of the two names but “they stayed because the shows were really compelling.” Critics ground their teeth.

True Detective Shakes Up Drama Emmy Contenders RaceTrue Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has been having a lot of fun with the TV critics; a few weeks ago he dropped a few more hints about the new storyline and new cast for the second season. He confirmed with NPR program To The Best Of Our Knowledge that Season 2 will have —  three leads! The press went nuts as “unofficial breakdowns” began floating around, in which the three leads included a fortysomething male detective/cop, with Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Bale and Josh Brolin as “prototypes.” Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Also, a twentysomething male cop, and a thirtysomething female detective, with Jessica Chastain as a “potential prototype” — that’s Hollywood-speak for “wouldn’t that be great-meets-no confirmation. This had followed early speculation about Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Cate Blanchett possibly starring, which morphed into Bale, Phoenix and Brolin, as well as The Normal Heart star Taylor Kitsch for the other male lead, and Chastain. As for specifics of the second season, Pizzolatto revealed to NPR that Season 2 “takes place in California — not Los Angeles, but some of the much lesser-known venues of California — and we’re going to try to capture a certain psychosphere ambiance of the place, much like we did in Season 1.”

Back to this afternoon’s HBO exec Q&A sessions, where media in the room abandoned their True Detective line of questioning and made a beeline back to Game of Thrones.

“George is on record saying he wants the series to end with a movie,” said someone, insisting on knowing if it was feasible and if it was something HBO was in talks about making.  Plepler insisted Martin is “100% focused on the books and series” and has only “held out a movie concept as something way down the road.”

Lombardo clarified, “There’s no conversations going on about a movie.”

Emmy SnubsA particularly anxious journalist noted HBO only has picked up GOT through seasons 5 and 6, which will plow through the next book. The writer asked, “Is there anything you could conceive of, short of nuclear war, that would prevent HBO from carrying out the entire run of the story?”

“No,” said Plepler. “No,” added Lombardo.

That did not seem to comfort the critics, however — like the one who asked the guys how much sleep they lost trying to figure out what has caused GOT to “become not just a TV show but something dramatically beyond that.”

Anybody who tells you they’ve figured that out is lying, Plepler responded. “What we know is this is a great series of books in the hands of two superior showrunners … that it would turn into the biggest show in the history of our network was completely unpredictable.”

“If we knew, we’d be bottling it,” Lombardo added. “All you can do is go along with it — and be very, very pleased.”