LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- Coming off its three Emmy nominations and its highest ratings to date, HBO has renewed its half-hour comedy "Entourage" for a third season of at least 13 episodes.
The news was one of several announcements HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht made at HBO's session at the TCA Summer Press Tour on Friday:
-- As previously mentioned, "Entourage" will return for its third season in 2006 with at least 13 fresh installments. The show's current second season of 14 episodes is set to wrap in early September. No mention however was made about the future of lead-out "The Comeback." "It is a challenging show to watch," Albrecht told reporters, "I'm curious to see the rest of it."
-- Sunday, September 25 will mark the end of "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" 18-month hiatus as the show's 10-episode fifth season will launch that night at 10:00/9:00c. Following "Curb" at 10:30/9:30c will be the U.S. premiere of the six-episode Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant comedy "Extras," about a journeyman actor (played by Gervais).
-- As for the hot button issues of the day, Albrecht gave a firm "I don't know" when asked about a potential seventh season of "The Sopranos." Adding, "I honestly feel like (creator David Chase) has got more to tell." As for the cancellation of "Carnivale," he noted: "It's not a big show in the foreign (market), there's not a lot of investment to recoup from that." And as for the decision to move "Six Feet Under" to Monday nights earlier this year, Albrecht simply confessed: "That was a mistake."
-- Meanwhile, HBO has ordered a pilot presentation for a new improv series from Bob Odenkirk ("Mr. Show with Bob and David") entitled "The Derek & Simon Show." The half-hour project stars Derek Waters ("Married to the Kellys") and Simon Helberg ("Joey") as two average guys trying to hook up with women in and around Los Angeles. Odenkirk will direct the presentation (which will be shot in two 15-minutes segments a la "Tenacious D") and executive produce along with Naomi Odenkirk and Brillstein-Grey's Bernie Brillstein and Tim Sarkes.
-- And finally the drama "Big Love," about a polygamist (Bill Paxton) and his three wives (Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin), will launch early next year.
The pay channel also provided some additional details about three of its upcoming mini-series:
-- Filming is currently underway in Lithuania on the two-part mini-series "Elizabeth I," about the life of the famed 16th century monarch (played by Helen Mirren). Jeremy Irons ("Kingdom of Heaven") and Hugh Dancy ("King Arthur") also star in the project with Tom Hooper ("Prime Suspect 6") directing from a script by Nigel Williams ("Uncle Adolf").
-- Next up is the 10-hour event "John Adams," about the founding father who also had the formidable task of following George Washington as the second president of the United States. Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman ("Band of Brothers") are executive producing the project, which is set to begin production in Virginia and Europe this fall for a 2007 air date. Hanks himself is expected to direct one of the episodes.
-- And finally, Hanks will re-team with Steven Spielberg for "The Pacific" about the World War II battles in the Pacific theater. No production start date was given for the long-in-the-works project, which was first announced two years ago. HBO however expects to spend $300 million between "John Adams" and "The Pacific."
And in other odds and ends:
-- "One Night Stand," HBO's veteran stand-up series, will return with regular weekly installments on Friday, August 19 at 12:00/11:00c following the return of "Real Time With Bill Maher." Louis C.K. will be featured on the August 19 episode followed by Earthquake on August 26.
-- The Edward James Olmos-helmed original movie "Walkout" will bow on the network sometime next year. The project, about the protest movement in the East Los Angeles public school system during the civil rights era, stars Alexa Vega ("Spy Kids").
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters