THE PERILS OF QUALITY TELEVISION: At the Television Critics Association’s annual gathering this week, HBO chairman Chris Albrecht held court to an eager gathering of TV scribes who might have had other questions besides “Why’d you cancel Deadwood?” and “Does Tony buy it at the end?”


On the subject of Deadwood, Albrecht was candid. The decision to end the show after the third season happened over the course of a confused weekend, after Deadwood creator David Milch pitched his new show to Albrecht on a Friday afternoon. Milch liked it, and suggested he shorten the fourth and last season of Deadwood so he could start on the new show. Milch, perhaps hastily, said they might as well cancel it altogether, according to New York Daily News TV critic Ellen Gray’s TCA blog.


Albrecht told Milch to take the weekend to think it over, but Milch talked to some of the show’s actors, there were leaks to the press, and things had spun well out of control by Monday.


“I think David Milch wishes he had that Friday afternoon back to think about it a little more,” Albrecht said.


Deadwood fans, Albrecht told the TV scribes, reacted worse than they did. On the Broadcast & Cable News TCA blog, Albrecht shared an e-mail from an outraged Deadwood fan apparently channelling Ian McShane’s Al Swearingen. “My favourite was, ‘May you never take an easy dump again,’” said Albrecht. “I sent that to a few friends, but being Italian, I knew that would never be a problem again.”

The upcoming second season of Rome, another HBO critical favourite, will be the show’s last, according to Albrecht. In a story on, he confirmed that the astronomical production costs of the period drama, set in the tumultuous capital of the Roman empire during the murder of Julius Caesar, have made continuing with the show unfeasible. Costs are being shared between HBO, the BBC and Rai, the Italian state broadcaster, but the first season’s budget came to $100 million US, and HBO decided to pull the plug after the sophomore season.

Responding to TV critics eager for at least a hint as to how the extended, final season of The Sopranos — now set to debut in March of next year — will end, Albrecht was both bemused and frank: “What are you, high? I’m going to have to shoot myself in the head if I tell you that.” He added that he does know what Sopranos creator David Chase has planned for the show’s finale, and that while “the vast, vast, vast majority of people will be able to say this was one of the great things of all time,” Chase may still “change things up” without telling HBO. Which is where that nude musical number with all the zoo animals I’ve read about comes in, I guess.