Game of Thrones is one of the most popular, most-watched, and most-pirated franchise in the world. For those with political tastes that lean more into our world rather than the fantastical, Veep has reigned supreme. For those with a techie side, it’s been Silicon Valley for the past three years; for those swathed in the tortured ecstasy of early adulthood, Girls has been the mirror through which to see ones own problems and past, and so on.
With all of its star-studded programming that HBO has now, it’s hard to remember sometimes that all of it began as nothing but a pitch by a nervous writer or producer to a board. All of it was maybe until it was a yes. And all of it, good or very good, had to pass the taste of the man who was essentially the pay TV network’s godfather for three decades.
Mike Lombardo, who has served as HBO’s president of programming since 2007, announced that he is stepping down today, Variety reports. Lombardo has ingrained himself in the workings of HBO since his entrance in 1983 as an intuitive young lawyer yearning to put his hands in business affairs, and in those 33 years helped shape the masterful front-runner network that HBO is today.
Before whispers of ousting begin to float around, the former president made it clear through spokesmen that the departure was entirely his choice. After all, even though it is entirely possible that a roster of new, award-winning series could come along in the near future, the television empire Lombardo created is beginning to wind down, and so comes the end of his career.
Lombardo’s tenure at HBO magnetized more Emmys and other various awards for the network than any other programmer in the company’s history. In nine short years, a strong line-up of shows got to stand up on the stage; anywhere from the aforementioned Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, and Girls, as well as True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and True Detective.
Of course, with all of the glory comes a few downfalls as well. After HBO put countless dollars, time, energy, staffing, and filming into the six-hour series Lewis and Clark, Lombardo cut loose the head of the whole production–John Curran, the director, which some noted as an expensive and damaging move.
Some of Lombardo’s more recent decisions with his handful of prized shows have been seen as sloppy as well. Despite much excitement for Vinyl‘s first season, the show experienced a healthy amount of criticism as well, causing the programming president to change leaders for the next season (which can often nip a series’ success in the bud).
Even some of Lombardo’s current, more established series have had their shine fade a little. The most recent season of Silicon Valley met mostly unsatisfactory reviews, as well as Girls, whose fifth season has taken a hit in viewership drastically on its continuous downward slope since its debut half a decade ago.
Still, despite err now and then, Lombardo was in good company among the writers and actors for his beloved shows. The executive was well-known to be supportive of the arts, giving way to the kind of freedom in content that makes more R-rated shows like Game of Thrones, Girls, and Last Week Tonight (and so on, so on) possible.
Being in the ivory tower of overseeing all of HBO’s inner workings was not to his taste, all because of his deep love for working with these shows. “I had gotten a taste of being a creative executive, and I was feeling a desire to do more of that,” said Lombardo to Deadline, “but I am too far up the totem pole to be able to spend time with a writer and help crack a script.”
Lombardo’s exit is but one of many recent changes at HBO. Drama chief Michael Ellenburg also made his departure while comedy vice president Casey Bloys sky-rocketed to oversee all series, late-night, and specials, both in January. There have also been rumblings that Bloys may be the successor to Lombardo, according to Deadline, but only time will tell.