LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- HBO has firmed up its plans for the coming year as the network outlined its programming highlights for the 2006-07 season at the TCA Summer Press Tour on Wednesday.
The biggest news: the second season of "Rome" will likely be its swan song, despite solid ratings for its freshman go around. HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht indicated its production budget - reportedly as high as $100 million - will be the biggest factor in its decision. The network currently shares the cost with its production partners, the BBC and Italy's RAI, who are only signed through its second season, which will launch on Sunday, January 7. Nevertheless, Albrecht said it's very possible the show could continue, telling reporters: "we may decide that the food in Rome is so good and figure out a way [to continue]."
-- HBO will try shifting movie premieres from Saturdays to Sundays this fall, ending a 15-year tradition. Said fall package, which includes "Fantastic Four," "Doom" and "Domino," will bump the fourth season of "The Wire" - set to begin on September 10 - from 9:00/8:00c to 10:00/9:00c. Albrecht however said the movie schedule will likely revert back to normal once "Rome" bows in January.
-- Also being tested: new episodes of "The Wire" and the revived "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" will be available six days before their premieres on the network's HBO on Demand service.
-- Production on the final "The Sopranos" episodes has been delayed a few weeks to accommodate co-star James Gandolfini's knee surgery. Said development will push the installments from a January to a March start.
-- January is being targeted as the return date for "Extras," whose new season includes cameos David Bowie, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen while next summer will see the return of "Big Love." Joining "Big Love" in June will be "sexLife," a new relationship drama from Cynthia Mort. Beyond the summer, HBO is close to giving series orders to David Milch's "John From Cincinnati" and Alan Ball's "True Blood," based on Charlaine Harris's "Southern Vampire" book series. No launch date however was given for the back half of "Entourage's" third season.
-- Albrecht also noted that a sixth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is "pretty close" to being a done deal with the new season being targeted for late 2007.
-- Saturday, February 3 will see a new concert featuring pop star Kelly Clarkson, live from Wembley Arena in London.
-- And finally, HBO has teamed with Cingular Wireless to offer full-length episodes - segmented into chapters - of early episodes of "Entourage," "Sex and the City," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Dane Cook's Tourgasm." Original mobisodes of "Entourage," focusing on Kevin Dillon's character, are also on tap, acted, written and produced by the cast and crew of the regular series.