HBO Programming Head Blames Himself for Terrible ‘True Detective’ Season 2

But at least he learned his lesson

If you thought Season 2 of “True Detective” was terrible, don’t blame creator Nic Pizzolatto, blame HBO.

At least, that’s what Michael Lombardo, the premium cable network’s president of programming, said during an interview on KPCC’s “The Frame.”

“The first season of ‘True Detective’ was something that Nic Pizzolatto had been thinking about, gestating, for a long period of time. He’s a soulful writer. I think what we did was go, ‘Great.’ And I take the blame,” Lombardo said. “I became too much of a network executive at that point. We had huge success. ‘Gee, I’d love to repeat that next year.’”

He went so far as to admit that he set Pizzolatto up to fail to deliver with another season that was on par with the first, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

“Well, you know what? I set him up to deliver, in a very short timeframe, something that became very challenging to deliver,” Lombardo said. “That’s not what that show is. He had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Find his muse. And so I think that’s what I learned from it. Don’t do that anymore.”

His new game plan? Hold off on placing bets on new programming “until the scripts are done.”

“I’ll tell you something: Our biggest failures — and I don’t know if I would consider ‘True Detective 2’ — but when we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked, we’ve failed,” he said.

As noted in TheWrap’s selection of biggest winners and losers of the 2015 summer TV season, “True Detective” was a clear loser for multiple reasons. Its score on Metacritic dropped from an 87 for the first season to a 64 for the second. And by the end of the sophomore-slumping run, “True Detective’s” ratings dropped 22 percent in viewers from the first season finale. On top of that, viewer complaints on social media steadily increased as the season wore on, culminating in a final slaughter on Twitter by angry, confused or disappointed viewers who watched the finale.

Lombardo previously defended the season, as well as Pizzolatto, during the 2015 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.

“I think the show works … He’s a bold storyteller,” Lombardo said. “I mean that only in the best possible ways.”

“If he wanted to do another season, I told him our door is open,” the executive said at the time, reiterating, “I’d love to do another season with him. I think he’s a spectacular writer.”