HBO Publishing Program
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In the late 1990s, HBO pioneered a new kind of television, featuring truly great writing, acting, and a highly sophisticated visual flavor. However, there was nothing in the book market that matched the vision, intensity, originality, and success of HBO’s programming. Melcher Media’s set out to do just that: to create a family of books that reflected the quality of HBO’s shows, translating their visual sophistication into lush, immersive, and show-appropriate experiences. We also wanted to make these books in collaboration with the shows’ creators and talent, who were driving the success and brilliance of HBO’s original programming, and who were our most important readers.
Melcher Media first approached HBO with the idea of creating a book based on Sex and the City, a show that typifies the smart, witty, and visually sophisticated tenor of HBO original programming. We proposed making a book that built on these essential qualities through both format and content. Inspired by one of the amazing materials we saw on the Sex and the City set—pink patent-leather crocodile—we sourced a custom-dyed pink faux-croc for the book cover. (A limited first edition came in a shoebox along with a matching pink croc address book that doubled as a flip-book for Carrie’s embarrassing catwalk incident.) And for the interior content, Melcher Media went far beyond the customary collection of stills, doing original research to connect characters and episodes in new ways and using screen grabs and original design to truly tell the stories of the show, both its plot and the behind-the-scenes story.
Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell went on to sell more than 500,000 copies, in the original hardcover as well as in a paperback version that was updated to include the entire series. Both editions reached the New York Times best-seller list.
The book became a blueprint for other HBO tie-ins, which have included titles for Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, and Rome. Each of those projects began by considering how the book could reflect and extend the attitude, visual flavor, and content of the show.
For Six Feet Under, for example, we worked with show creator Alan Ball and his writing staff to craft a fictional backstory for the show’s characters, including photographs and handwritten notes and letters. And we created a striking physical package for the book: a “skinned” hardcover revealing its red binding threads, inside a slipcase. The exposed binding evoked the fragility of the characters and human life in general—fitting for a show that revolves around a family funeral business.
For Deadwood: Stories of the Black Hills, show creator, head writer, and legendary storyteller David Milch related his own compelling and convoluted version of the West, his characters, portions of his own past, and his writing process. The book was modeled after 19th-century Western narratives, whose storytellers always had to be taken with a grain of salt, a form that fit the show and its creator perfectly. The look of the book also harkens to old Westerns, with uncoated paper and sepia-toned portraits of the cast.
Finally, for The The Sopranos, we set out to make a book that would celebrate all six seasons of the groundbreaking, multiple-award-winning show that changed the face of TV forever. The book’s dazzling design features lush photography—including a pull-out gatefold of the now-iconic “Last Supper” cast photo shot by Annie Leibovitz— that matches the striking cinematography of the show itself. And a thoughtful narrative by theater writer David Cote delves into how a show featuring a group of criminal anti-heroes ended up becoming such a hit. All of this is accompanied by interviews with the cast and crew, looks at the show’s locations, costumes, and food, and a discussion of the controversial and still-talked-about final scene—making the book a true keepsake for both casual and die-hard fans alike.