Following backlash after HBO revealed plans for new slavery drama Confederate from Game of Thrones showrunners, President of Programming Casey Bloys admitted the network botched the announcement.

“HBO’s mistake was that we would be able to announce an idea that was so sensitive and required such care and thought in a press release was misguided on our part,” he said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Instead, he said, network should have had journalists sit down with the four writers and producers to put the show into the same context HBO had when greenlighting the series.

The hour-long sci-fi drama is from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with African-American writers Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire). It envisions an alternate, post-Civil War world where “the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

It’s not “Gone with the Wind 2017,” Bloys said. “It’s not whips and plantations. It’s what they imagine a modern-day version of slavery would look like.”

With no script or characters currently in place, Boyd said he expected controversy around the subject of the show, but has faith in the writers.

“These four writers are at the top of their game,” he said. “They can do anything they want and this is something they felt passionate about, so I’m going to bet on that.”

They have a shared vision and a shared sensitivity, and are aware that it’s a difficult project to get right, but if done correctly it presents an incredible opportunity to advance the discussion around race in America, he said.

“All we can do is ask is that people judge the final product of these artists, and not what it could be,” Bloys said.

He also fielded questions about the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones.

“The scripts are written,” he said. “They’re boarding it out and trying to get a sense of how long it is going to take to shoot this.”

When it comes to a Game of Thrones spinoff, Bloys confirmed it will include no existing characters from the show.

Bloys also talked about the direction of the company, saying HBO is evolving by developing more high-quality dramas.

“For a little while we were only looking at what’s the next huge tentpole,” he said. But the focus is now on having a range of smaller shows and family shows not designed to be the next Game of Thrones.

Talks are in the works for additional seasons of The Night Of, as well as True Detective.

“I have read five scrips and I think they’re terrific,” he said of True Detective. “When we find a director we want to hire we’ll be a go.”

HBO is also bringing back Jon Stewart for his first stand up special in 21 years. In addition, he’ll host the network’s Night of Too Many Stars benefit for Next for Autism, to be presented live from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 18.

And HBO revealed five-part miniseries Chernobyl that dramatizes the true story of one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, and tells the story of the brave men and women who saved Europe from unimaginable disaster. The series stars Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, the Soviet scientist chosen by the Kremlin to investigate the accident.

Bloys also commented on Damon Lindelof’s adaptation of Watchman for HBO, saying “he has a really interesting take on it,” and called Alan Ball’s new dysfunctional family drama series a mix between True Blood and Six Feet Under.

Insecure, he said, is a good start in terms of repopulating the comedy space, which is something the network knows it needs to do.

There’s no denying the the television marketplace is getting more and more crowded, but the fact that HBO has always been a subscription service works in the network’s favor, he said.

“To some extent, the volume of shows is helping us,” Bloys said. “If you have a brand, that at least makes the decision of what to watch easier.”


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