The Franchise: Everything We Know So Far About HBO's Superhero Movie-Making Series From The Creator Of Veep

While the future of HBO Max has been thrown into absolute chaos over the last week or so, HBO proper continues to march forward with programming that rarely seems to misfire. Even if a show ends up being a dud, HBO has found a way to eventize television watching in a way no other platform has been able to do in the streaming era. When we think of HBO, we tend to think of their overwhelmingly popular dramas: "Succession," "Euphoria," and classics like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire." It is the premiere place for television drama. But lately, comedy has been the channel's more consistently successful lane. "Barry," "Los Espookys," "A Black Lady Sketch Show," and "The Righteous Gemstones" all have fervent, devoted fans eager to tune in week after week. Today, you can't go 30 seconds on Twitter without seeing a meme from its latest comedy smash, "The Rehearsal." Plus, there's the luxury of having Larry David pop up to make some more "Curb Your Enthusiasm." HBO is a home for comedy.

I think this shift into bringing in major comedy talent occurred in 2012, when two shows premiered. The first was Lena Dunham's "Girls." Say what you will about it, but "Girls" was a major shift in what kind of mature, character comedies could get made. The other was "Veep," the vulgar satirization of American politics starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. "Veep" was a constant Emmys favorite, including Louis-Dreyfus winning six of its seven seasons, and did a lot to change how we think about Washington D.C. in modern day. Now, "Veep" creator Armando Iannucci is re-teaming with HBO for another satirical series. His new target is Hollywood, and he's bringing Academy Award winner Sam Mendes along to aid in the skewering with a newly ordered pilot called "The Franchise."

What is The Franchise about?

While the details on the specific plot of "The Franchise" are light, what we do know is that the show will be about a crew of people who love movies but find themselves in the doldrums of making a superhero franchise film. Now, as Armando Iannucci is keen on tearing down those who have tremendous amounts of power, I imagine this will be less a cynical look at the frivolity of today's entertainment and more an indictment of the business of modern day Hollywood. At least, that is my hope.

While this is an Iannucci project, he looks to be much more hands-off than he was in the early seasons of "Veep." He co-wrote the story for this pilot with Jon Brown, a writer and producer on "Succession," and Keith Ashukie, creator of the BBC Three sitcom "Siblings," but Iannucci did not co-write the teleplay with them. If the pilot goes to series, Brown would serve as the showrunner.

Sam Mendes, whose latest film, "Empire of Light," is set to premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, will direct the pilot and act as an executive producer for the series as well. 

Now, when I think of Sam Mendes, "comedy" is not the first world I think of. It's not even the hundredth. All of his films have been exceptionally dour, including his entries in the James Bond franchise. His stage work is equally serious, whether it be musicals like "Cabaret" or plays like "The Ferryman." His one foray into filmed comedy was "Away We Go," and even that film's biggest fans probably wouldn't describe it as a laugh-a-minute ride. So I am very curious to see how all of these various minds come together to make a Hollywood satire.

Who will be in The Franchise?

We have no word on who will be in the cast of "The Franchise," as it's still early stages, but that's not going to stop me from putting together a wishlist! First of all, I hope the show finds room for Simon Russell Beale. This probably isn't the first name you expected to see, but hear me out. Simon Russell Beale is one of the finest actors working today. His stage work ranges from his recent Tony-winning turn in "The Lehmann Trilogy" to basically every great role William Shakespeare ever wrote. On film, he hasn't gotten quite the opportunity to shine (just look at his two-shot, wordless "cameo" in "Thor: Love and Thunder"), but when a role comes his way that utilizes him to his fullest, like "The Deep Blue Sea," "The Outfit," or "The Death of Stalin," you cannot take your eyes off him.

Armando Iannucci directed "The Death of Stalin," and Sam Mendes directed "The Lehmann Trilogy." Let's bridge these two worlds by giving a high-profile role to one of our best actors. Mendes and Beale have continuously worked with each other on stage for over 30 years, beginning at the Royal Shakespeare Company in a 1990 production of "Troilus and Cressida." Typically, they work together on stage, but recently, they have migrated to the small screen. For "The Hollow Crown," which Mendes produced, Beale took on Falstaff in "Henry IV, Parts I and II." "Penny Dreadful" featured Beale as Ferdinand Lyle and Mendes as an executive producer. It's only logical to cast Simon Russell Beale. Doesn't matter the role.

Bonus suggestion: Paddy Considine has been directed by both men, as well. Get him in there! Iannucci and Mendes both have fantastic eyes for casting, so I imagine whoever they get will please me.

When can we see The Franchise?

Look, we don't even have a cast for this show yet. We are still at the pilot stage. This show may not even get picked up to series. I mean, they threw a "Game of Thrones" spin-off down the toilet after a pilot, so we may never see this. Based on the pedigree involved, though, I imagine we probably will. But my guess is we are at least a year away from this premiering, presumably, on a Sunday night on HBO. In the meantime, we will just be patiently waiting until we get any further word about "The Franchise."