Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily reports: HBO’s Richard Plepler, who rose from top corporate communications officer and exec VP to the company’s programming boss in a move that raised eyebrows, has decided to get some help from a familiar source: The New York Times. Specifically, from Frank Rich, the NY Times’ weekly Op-Ed columnist and formerly America’s most powerful drama critic, who as of today keeps his day job in journalism but also signs on as HBO’s creative consultant (press release below). Rich, who’s about to turn 59, told me just now “it was not hard” to obtain the newspaper of record’s permission to do the showbiz deal once it was agreed that he would no longer even mention HBO. “I am completely out of covering HBO whatsoever.”
As Plepler told me this morning, “I’m a longtime fan of Frank’s, and HBO’s goal is to bring as many interesting voices and points of view to the table as possible. When you look at what Frank has done, and his sui generis talent, and his many relationships in the creative community, he has a very, very good instinct for quality. Because of that, he has a remarkable feel for what we see as a quintessential HBO brand.” The details of Rich’s deal, while confidential, sound typical for showbiz: a consulting fee combined with payments for projects that get made. Plepler made a point of stressing that while Rich will make suggestions, HBO execs “will have to make the final determinations of what fits and what doesn’t.”
Rich said that he and Plepler began talking around the first of the year about some sort of formalized relationship, and it took until now to firm up the deal. The journalist calls this “an unplanned and wonderful piece of serendipity where our interests merged. It’s the start of a new chapter in my life that’s fun, quite frankly. I’ve been stage and movie struck since high school. Both have been a passion of mine. And I’ve always been thinking I would love to be part of this world. At HBO I can do everything from a comedy to a docudrama at a high level where you don’t have to answer to sponsors.” Read more from DHD, including the HBO press release.
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