Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: A Brief History of HBO

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pp. 1-20

The founding of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) was a harbinger of some-thing new and innovative that was happening to television as an industry and a technology during the early to mid-1970s. Cable entrepreneur Charles Dolan first conceived of the network in 1971 as the Green Channel. He was the owner of Sterling Communications, a growing ...

I. Drama

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Overview: Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Television

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pp. 23-41

When did it become permissible to view a drama series produced for American television and think of it as a work of art? We’re used to thinking of television programs as seductive attractions designed to coax viewers into the grasp of advertisers. With the rise of academic television and cultural studies, we’ve learned that television programs...

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1. Films

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pp. 42-51

Perhaps more than any other recent filmmaking venture in the United States, HBO Films has granted a sense of authenticity to the dwindling aura of the movies. Or to put it another way, HBO Films is a rebuff to Walter Benjamin’s argument that film technology can offer no more than a cheap imitation of the singular and unique presence of the work ...

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2. Oz

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pp. 52-60

It is 1997. A man is strapped to a gurney, sedated, and locked in a small cell to restrain him. He is known as one of the most volatile and violent criminals in this prison. But the crime for which he is now being punished was a mercy killing. Having befriended a prisoner on the AIDS ward during a punitive work assignment, this man strangled the patient ...

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3. The Sopranos

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pp. 61-70

The signature program of the post-broadcast era, The Sopranos debuted on HBO in January 1999 and became the first cable series to achieve larger audience ratings than its broadcast competition. The series also received unprecedented critical acclaim in both popular and elite circles. Even intellectuals who had previously disdained television hailed the ...

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4. Six Feet Under

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pp. 71-81

Six Feet Under debuted on HBO at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday June 3, 2001. It was the first drama series launched by the channel since The Sopranos (1999–2007), and HBO anticipated success, commissioning a second season before the first had even aired. This confidence appeared justified: the show received the highest ratings of any new HBO series, with...

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5. The Wire

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pp. 82-91

From the start, The Wire (2002–) was a departure for HBO, the net-work that had made its reputation departing from traditional television ways. Instead of offering a dramatic alternative to the program formats of its commercial broadcast rivals, The Wire was a direct assault against that most venerable of TV genres, the cop show, with the goal quite lit-...

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6. Deadwood

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pp. 92-102

It is perhaps indicative of the current state of television at large, and certainly indicative of television series produced for HBO, that Deadwood (2004–) is most often referred to as “David Milch’s Deadwood.” Just as The Sopranos (1999–2007) is often linked directly to creator and executive producer David Chase, and The Wire (2002–) to David Simon, ...

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7. Tanner ’88

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pp. 103-115

Tanner ’88 aired on the HBO network during the 1988 presidential primary campaign. At a time when cable was still a novelty, and few cable networks had original programming, Tanner ’88 was a mock documentary film that created the presidential campaign of a fictional Democratic candidate, Jack Tanner, whom it ostensibly followed as its subject. It ...

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8. From the Earth to the Moon

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pp. 116-124

Executive-produced by Hollywood A-list star Tom Hanks, From the Earth to the Moon premiered on HBO on Sunday April 5, 1998. This original twelve-part miniseries, screened in blocks of two episodes over six consecutive Sunday evenings, was HBO’s most prestigious and expensive production to date. It had a dramatic impact, picking up an ...

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9. Band of Brothers

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pp. 125-134

For more than a half-century, Hollywood has been steadily refining and recasting the “war film,” a genre that coalesced during World War II and that has continued to evolve through successive U.S. military conflicts without ever losing sight of that generative historic event. The genre was born by federal mandate, quite literally, when President ...

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10. Angels in America

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pp. 135-148

Angels in America (2003) is one of the most ambitious and celebrated productions in the history of HBO. The six-hour adaptation of Tony Kushner’s sweeping seven-and-a-half hour, two-part play (Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika) was shepherded from stage to ...

II. Comedy

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Overview: At Home on the Cutting Edge

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pp. 151-171

HBO takes comedy very seriously. Former network chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht—a key architect of HBO’s brand and identity—notably stated that HBO considers itself “a patron [and] celebrates standup,” and this attitude arguably has been integrated into the network’s comedy series as well.1 Before coming to the premium cable channel in 1985, ...

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11. Comedy Talk Shows

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pp. 172-182

HBO’s executives have always recognized that, as a subscription television network, its programming must be similar enough to network fare to seem familiar and inviting to audiences, yet different enough to be worth paying for. HBO’s approach to comedy is no different. As Chris Albrecht, then HBO’s president of original programming, noted in ...

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12. The Larry Sanders Show

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pp. 183-192

Before HBO’s prestigious programming proclamation, “It’s Not TV . . . ”; before its Emmy Award dominance and critical acclaim; before its cast of colorful characters, from Carrie and the city gals to Tony and the Jersey boys to the dysfunctional Fisher funeral family; before the narcissistic entourage of Hollywood wannabes and the improvisational ...

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13. Sex and the City

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pp. 193-203

From its debut in June 1998, Sex and the City became a comic epicenter of vigorous debate on such issues as gender, lifestyle, materialism, and orgasms. Unlike previous landmark situation comedies, many of which seemed retrograde in either form or content, this HBO series engaged the contemporary world wholeheartedly, infusing the mise-en-scène and ...

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14. Curb Your Enthusiasm

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pp. 204-214

When Curb Your Enthusiasm debuted on HBO in October 2000, HBO was in its halcyon days. The first two seasons of its flagship series The Sopranos (1999–2007) had aired (season three would begin the following March); Sex and the City (1998–2004) was ending season three that same night; Oz (1997–2003) was on hiatus in the middle of its fourth...

III. Sports

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Overview: It Isn’t TV, It’s the “Real King of the Ring”

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pp. 217-236

Sport has always been at the core of HBO.1 A National Hockey League (NHL) fixture was among its first programming at the time of the channel’s launch in Pennsylvania in 1972. By 1974, HBO typically showed two films each evening, or a film and a sporting event, often live from Madison Square Garden.2 Movies, then as now a key programming ...

IV. Documentaries

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Overview: Form and Function

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pp. 239-261

HBO paid little attention to documentaries in the network’s early days. But beginning in the late 1970s, HBO executives began to look to documentary programming to expand its schedule. Slowly, HBO became a destination for both documentary viewers seeking original works from filmmakers. Seasoned pioneers and emerging novices have found a ...

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15. America Undercover

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pp. 262-273

HBO’s documentary series America Undercover has been on the air since 1983; in that time it has not only showcased the work of some of the finest documentarians in the world, but has also come under some critical fire for its tendency to focus on the sensational and the titillating. Most documentaries made for and shown on HBO come under the ...

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16. Erotica

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pp. 274-287

From HBO’s early days as a nascent satellite channel to its current status as the most profitable network in television history, the one form of programming that has seemingly fulfilled the promise inherent in the network’s popular branding campaign, “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO,” is erotica. As a subscription channel, HBO has taken advantage of its ability ...

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17. Theatricals

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pp. 288-300

HBO’s branding slogan—“It’s Not TV, It’s HBO”—is never more fulfilled than through its production and distribution of documentary and narrative films exhibited on big screens nationwide. Building on a general environment of robust independent feature production, a developed network of high-profile festivals that serve as launching pads for indie ...

V. Reflections

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18. What Has HBO Ever Done for Women?

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pp. 303-314

Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco), Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy), Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Tripplehorn), Nicolette Grant (Chloë Sevigny), and Atia of the Julii (Polly Walker) are some of the most compelling women on our television screens—and they all come courtesy of HBO. Strong, complex women ...

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19. HBO’s Ongoing Legacy

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pp. 315-330

The expectations game is an essential part of how television works. Each new season brings a fresh batch of original programs that are tested by networks, handicapped by critics, and sampled by audiences. Viewers are bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of promos and ads that are all intended to get them to watch what is supposedly the ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 331-336

Television and Film Index

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pp. 337-344

General Index

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pp. 345-357