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It's been a long time since we've seen HBO go through such a major transition. Last year brought the end of Treme, Enlightened, and Eastbound & Down; this year, they'll be followed out the exits by True Blood, The Newsroom, and Boardwalk Empire.
That's a major shakeup for any network — let alone one that relies on the substantial buzz generated by its relatively few original series. HBO still has plenty of strong shows in its stable, including Game of Thrones, Veep, and newcomer True Detective. But there's plenty of rebuilding left to be done. What TV series are (probably) in HBO's future? Gaze into the crystal ball:
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These are the programs that have already been ordered for a full season:
Looking (Jan. 19)
HBO's second new show of the year (after last week's True Detective) is Looking, a dramedy about a group of men navigating work, relationships, and an ever-evolving gay culture in San Francisco. Jonathan Groff stars alongside Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett. Creator Michael Lannan says he wants to come up with "the most contemporary stories [Looking] could tell with gay characters," including the national conversation around gay marriage.
Silicon Valley (April 6)
King of the Hill creator Mike Judge makes his HBO debut with Silicon Valley, a black comedy "set in the high-tech rush of the modern Silicon Valley, where the people most qualified to to succeed are the least capable of handling success." It's an apt premise for Judge, who has built his career on endearing corporate oddballs in films like Office Space and Extract. Comedian T.J. Miller leads as ensemble cast that includes Party Down's Martin Starr and the late Christopher Evan Welch.
The Leftovers (2014)
Lost creator Damon Lindelof returns to television to launch this drama based on Tom Perrota's novel of the same name. The Leftovers, which stars Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, and Ann Dowd, takes place after "a Rapture-like event" in which 140 million people from across the globe suddenly disappear. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lindelof described the show as "if Lost and Friday Night Lights had a baby and then that baby was severely neglected."
Jay and Mark Duplass — who made their names with mumblecore pictures like The Puffy Chair, Cyrus, and Jeff, Who Lives at Home — are breaking into television with Togetherness. The half-hour comedy, which stars Mark Duplass, Amanda Peet, Steve Zissis, and Melanie Lynskey, will chronicle the tensions that emerge when two couples decide to share a house in Los Angeles.
You're guaranteed to see Looking, Silicon Valley, The Leftovers, and Togetherness in 2014. But the following list of pilots that HBO currently has on deck comes with a caveat: There's a very good chance you'll never see a single episode of some of these shows. In recent years, HBO has ordered many promising-sounding pilots that never ended up airing — from The Missionary, a '60s spy drama set in East Berlin, to The Corrections, a star-studded adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's National Book Award-winning novel of the same name.
Still, keep an eye out for these six shows — you never know which one might turn out to be HBO's next big hit:
One of HBO's most enduring creative partnerships is with writer/producer David Milch, who has launched three previous TV shows (of varying success) on the network: Deadwood, John from Cincinnati, and Luck. Milch's latest HBO project, The Money, sounds pretty Milch-ian: A high-profile American media mogul (Brendan Gleeson) uses his power to shape his personal and professional life. Ray Liotta, Andrea Riseborough, and David Harewood co-star.
HBO's big bet on comedy continues with The Brink, a politically oriented dark comedy that sounds like a logical time-slot partner for Veep. The story features three men at the center of a geopolitical crisis: A Foreign Service officer (Jack Black), a Navy fighter pilot (Pablo Schreiber), and the U.S. secretary of State (Tim Robbins).
Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy brings his edgiest drama yet to HBO — a "modern, provocative exploration of human sexuality and relationships" that indicates HBO wasn't scared off by the low ratings for Tell Me You Love Me. The ensemble cast includes Anna Torv, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Cheyenne Jackson, Scott Speedman, and Michelle Monaghan (who's currently costarring in True Detective).
Perhaps the most surprising pilot on HBO's docket is Westworld, a drama based on the 1973 sci-fi/western of the same name. The series, like the original movie, is set in a future in which an adult-oriented theme park allows visitors to act out their greatest fantasies — including those both violent and sexual — with a series of incredibly lifelike androids. No cast members have been announced, but the pilot is being helmed by Jonathan Nolan, the creator behind CBS' Person of Interest.
People in New Jersey
Topher Grace and Sarah Silverman are slated to star in this half-hour comedy about a dysfunctional brother and sister who live in — you guessed it — New Jersey. Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels will serve as executive producer, and the pilot will be directed by Bridesmaids' Paul Feig.
Dwayne Johnson will produce and star in this half-hour dramedy about a group of sports stars in Miami. Lone Survivor director Peter Berg will helm the pilot, with Rob Corddry set to co-star as Johnson's boss.