Several Documentaries on Tap for HBO

HBO 'Veep' TV Show Panel, TCA Winter Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 08 Feb 2019Documentary films seemed to take a greater portion of HBO’s high-profile programming. There were panels for two impending films, Alex Gibney’s look into the implosion of the Silicon Valley startup Theranos, whose valuation went from $9 billion to zero, “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” running March 18, and Laura Berg’s four part “The Case Against Adnan Syed” that looks deeper into the murder at the heart of the first season of “Serial,” starting March 10.

But the network also announced consecutive night airdates for the controversial “Leaving Neverland” documentary on charges of abuse of Michael Jackson that just played Sundance, on March 3 and 4.

The two part documentary “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali,” on HBO May 14, uses Ali’s own words for the narration. It’s produced by LeBron James and directed by Antoine Fuqua.

The behind-the-scenes political film “Running with Beto,” running in May chronicles the Beto O’Rourke senate run. “A year ago, before anybody knew who he was, HBO had agreed to do a film with David Modigliani, and he was embedded with Beto for the full year, and it’s an incredible look at how arduous these political campaigns are,” HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer said.

Other upcoming HBO documentaries include Marc Levin’s “One Nation Under Stress” March 25. April brings, a Duplass brothers film about an all-autistic comedy troupe, “On Tour with Asperger’s Are Us”; a climate change documentary about reducing carbon called “Ice on Fire”; and a look at the sexual abuse case by Dr. Larry Nassar in “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal.”

In May, “Foster” looks into the foster case system in Los Angeles.

On Feb. 18, Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s “United Skates”  looks at the African-American subculture of roller skating and how it has been threatened.

The five-part miniseries “Chernobyl” wasn’t a documentary, but Craig Mazin’s script aims to hew close to the facts of the 1986 nuclear accident. It stars Jared Harris, Emily Watson, Paul Ritter, Stellan Skarsgård and Jessie Buckley and was shot at a decommissioned Ignalina Nuclear Plant in Lithuania.

There was just one new show announcement, a late spring Spanish-language comedy from Lorne Michaels and Fred Armisen, “Los Espookys” in which Armisen will star with his co-creators Ana Fabrega and Julio Torres.

But some were disappointed that there was no farewell panel for “Game of Thrones” which presents its final seven chapters in April.

“This is what the panel would be like,” Schaffer said. “It would be, ‘Could you tell us what’s happening with Jon Snow?’ No. ‘Could you tell us what’s happening with Daenerys?’ No. ‘Could you tell us who inherits the throne?’ No. ‘Could you tell us anything?’ Yes, it premieres Sunday, April 14 on HBO. That you already know. So, that’s why we aren’t doing ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Another good example might have been the panel for Veep, which is having its own seven-episode final season premiering March 31.

The panel for “Veep” was kind of a shambles, in part because star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in Austria for some reason and there the satellite feed she was on had about a two second delay. “Always great for comedy,” Shaffer said.

“This is how Julia and I have interacted for the last three years,” deadpanned writer, director and showrunner David Mandel. “I’ve never actually met her. It’s always satellite delay.”

“I’ve been living in Austria for the last four years,” she replied, after a moment.

“The show is mostly green screen,” Mandel said.

The nadir was this horribly time-delayed exchange:

Q. Julia, when you walk the streets…

A. Yeah.

Q.  …of Austria and the mountains of Austria, do they know you as the character?

A.  Yeah.

Q. And tell us, there must be some great stories that you have about walking the —  what I’m about – what am I asking you – what I am asking you?

A. ??

Q. Tell me, tell me the funny stories.

A. Unfortunately, I lost…

Q. OK.

A. Tell you the funny story of walking in Austria?

Q. Tell me, tell me what – No, whenever, you’re in Austria now…

A. What?

Q.  …aren’t you? Well, when you walk the streets of any town…

A. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Q. …outside of the United States, what kind of reaction do you get? Do people scream or do they — tell me? At you and your character.

A. ??

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