HBO Boss Michael Lombardo Takes Hit For ‘True Detective’ Second Season Failure

In a recent interview with the Frame, HBO President Michael Lombardo took the blame for a failed follow-up to True Detective‘s massive first season smash hit. Critics and audiences alike panned Season 2 of the HBO drama, casting blame primarily on show creator Nic Pizzolatto, but Lombardo wants the fingers pointed in his direction.

“I’ll tell you something. Our biggest failures — and I don’t know if I would consider ‘True Detective 2’ — but when we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked — we’ve failed.”

Lombardo indicates that due to the overwhelming success of True Detective‘s premiere season, he and other HBO executives rushed the start date of its sophomore campaign. Television is a bottom-line business, heavily relying on ratings along with DVR and On-Demand viewership, but the HBO chief admits he should have allowed Pizzolatto to marinate longer in order to recreate his initial magic.

“Well, you know what? I set him up. To deliver, in a very short time frame, something that became very challenging to deliver. That’s not what that show is. He had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Find his muse. And so I think that’s what I learned from it. Don’t do that anymore.”

Pre Golden Globe Event with HBO and True Detective
True Detective Creator Nic Pizzolatto (Left), HBO President Michael Lombardo (Center) [Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images]
Many critics hailed Pizzolatto for his methodologies in the making of True Detective, and the flexibility it allowed its cast. The show has paved the way for stars not to be bound to the long commitments television series have been accustomed to. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were both nominated as Outstanding Lead Actors in a Drama Series at the 2014 Emmy Awards, and then pursued other opportunities as Pizzolatto began weaving an entirely new plot centered around an all-new cast for the second season. With the benefit of hindsight, Michael Lombardo recognized that daunting task.

“The first season of ‘True Detective’ was something that Nic Pizzolatto had been thinking about, gestating, for a long period of time. He’s a soulful writer. I think what we did was go, ‘Great.’ And I take the blame. I became too much of a network executive at that point. We had huge success. ‘Gee, I’d love to repeat that next year.’ “

And he insists now that pushing up start dates to appease the network, or even an audience’s craving, won’t happen anymore.

“And I’d love to have the enviable certainty of knowing what my next year looks like. I could pencil things in. But I’m not going to start betting on them until the scripts are done.”

WTC Assocation Tour with True Detective Panel
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]
At the forefront, the only common thread from True Detective‘s first two seasons was the showrunner, Pizzolatto himself. The cast, the story, the setting, and even the director were swapped out for Season 2. McConaughey, Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan starred in the first eight episodes, while Pizzolatto cast Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch for his second iteration.

Innovative visionary Cary Joji Fukunaga directed every episode of the first season of True Detective, while Pizzolatto employed six different directors for the second.

Michael Lombardo and HBO are preparing for this week’s Television Critics Association meetings, where they’ll present and discuss their new series, Vinyl, and a biopic about Anita Hill. He was mum on when and if the network will unveil a third season of True Detective, but based on his revealing and refreshing admissions, we should be safe to assume that he’ll be operating under Nic Pizzolatto’s schedule instead of his own.

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]

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