HBO was very busy this week — or at least their publicity department was — as they issued a flurry of press releases announcing a list of their upcoming shows, some of which we can’t wait to see.
The Normal Heart, starring Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo, and directed by Ryan Murphy (Eat Pray Love, Glee) will go into production in New York City later this year for a 2014 debut. It’s written by Larry Kramer, based on his play about the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in early 1980’s New York.
Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner, the handicapped doctor who treats several of the earliest victims of the mysterious disease. Ruffalo plays a character based on Kramer himself, who witnessed the death of many of his friends in the gay community.
The Normal Heart debuted in 1985 at the Public Theater in New York. In 2011, it had a Broadway revival and won five Tony awards, including one for Ellen Barkin for featured actress.
Parade’s End, a five-part HBO miniseries adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s novels by Tom Stoppard and directed by Susanna White, sounds a Downton Abbey, but darker.
Set during the period of Edwardian England through the First World War, the story focuses on an English aristocrat trapped in a marriage to an unfaithful wife, “caught between his commitment to the values of Toryism and his unspoken love for a fearless young suffragette.” Whoa! That’s a lot to chew on.
It’s already aired on BBC-2 in England where viewers and critics complained about the poor sound quality.
Still, we’re looking forward to the series, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town) and Adelaide Clemens (The Great Gatsby). The miniseries debuts here Feb. 27 and 28.
Family Tree, an HBO comedy series created by Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock, stars Chris O’Dowd (loved him in Bridesmaids) as 30-year old Tom Chadwick, who has recently lost his job and his girlfriend. He inherits a mysterious box of items from a great aunt that starts him on his search for his lineage, which uncovers an array of zany stories and eccentric characters.
It’s shot single camera Guest-style (think Best in Show) and also stars Tom Bennett and Nina Conti. It will feature appearances by regulars of Guest’s feature films, including Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Matt Griesser, Michael McKean, Lisa Palfrey, Jim Piddock, Kevin Pollak, Fred Willard and Guest himself. The series debuts in the spring.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, directed by Alex Gibney (who won the Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side), is about the investigation of the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 children under his care.
The film just received a nomination for best documentary screenplay by the Writers Guild of America. The case, which spanned three decades, resulted in a lawsuit against the pontiff. The documentary debuts Monday, Feb. 4.
Vice is a news magazine show hosted by Shane Smith, founder of the new media company of the same name. Bill Maher, Smith and Eddy Moretti, Vice’s creative officers, are executive producers, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria serves as consultant.
Vice is an entertainment company based in more than 34 countries, and includes vice.com, an online video destination, and an international network of digital channels. Some of the stories they’ll cover include a South Korean preacher who runs an underground railroad to rescue North Korean women from sex slavery in China. The news series debuts in the spring.
Other upcoming HBO documentaries:
Kings Point, about five seniors in an American retirement resort who struggle with their new lives after the death of their spouses, as well as their need for independence and community. It sounds like a downer, but HBO claims it is bittersweet and inspiring. Directed by Sari Gilman. (March)
American Winter focuses on families in Portland, Oregon, as well as the 211 call centers that offer social service assistance as this country suffers its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Produced and directed by Joe and Harry Gantz (Taxicab Confessions). (March)
50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, directed by Steven Pressman and narrated by Alan Alda and Mamie Gummer. The documentary tells the little known story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, who traveled to Nazi Germany in spring 1939 to save 50 Jewish children. (April)
Which Way is the Frontline from Here?: The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington. This documentary is about the war photographer and filmmaker who was killed by mortar shells in Libya on April 20, 2011 while covering the Libyan civil war. Directed by Sebastian Junger, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated Restrepo with Hetherington. (April)
Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden. The title tells it all. Director Greg Barker (HBO’s Sergio and Koran by Heart) claims to reveal “previously hidden truths about one of the most-examined stories of modern times.” (May)
Tales From the Organ Trade investigates international organ trafficking and how the Internet plays a part in the black market exchange. Looks gruesome but fascinating. Produced by Roc Bienstock, Simcha Jacabovici, Bill Cobbin and Brian Edwards. (May)