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'Game of Thrones' to end after season 8, but 7th still ahead

HBO is confirming what "Game of Thrones" fans never wanted to hear: The fantasy-thriller phenomenon will be coming to an end after Season 8.

Recently HBO renewed the series — adapted from George R.R. Martin's novels — for a shortened seventh season consisting of seven episodes.

The eighth season will bring the saga to a close. The number of episodes for that last cycle has not been determined, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys said Saturday at the Television Critics Association's summer conference.

Equal opportunity violence on HBO dramas, its boss says

HBO took a bit of heat Saturday for its shows' sexualized violence toward women.

At the semi-annual Television Critics Association conference, HBO programming head Casey Bloys took questions about the violent storytelling of the network's hit series "Game of Thrones" and "The Night Of," which deals with the bloody murder of a beautiful young woman, as well as the upcoming fantasy thriller "Westworld."

Regarding "Thrones" and "Westworld," Bloys dismissed the notion that they normalize violence toward women in particular.

"The violence is pretty extreme on all fronts," he said. "I don't think it's isolated to women."

As for "Westworld," which depicts a fantasy theme park where visitors immerse themselves in an Old West environment while interacting with real-life robot "residents," Bloys noted that the point of the series is examining how the human characters treat, and mistreat, the robots: That shines a light on how humans are prone to treat their fellow humans, he said. "Westworld" premieres Oct. 2.

HBO announced that its weekly talk and humor hour, "Real Time with Bill Maher," has been renewed through 2018, its 16th season.

Reminded that HBO's portfolio of talk-show hosts includes Maher, John Oliver and Bill Simmons — and no women — Bloys was asked if the network had plans to launch a talk show with a female presiding.

No specific plans are in place, he said, "but it's something we aspire to."

Bloys, tapped as programming head earlier this year, said he plans to expand diversity in the drama slate, "and by diversity I mean not just ethnicity, but in scale, scope, location, tone," he said. "By diversity, I mean every sense of the word."

There were few details on Jon Stewart's upcoming multiplatform HBO venture, but Bloys disclosed that it will be an animated parody of a cable news network allowing Stewart to comment on daily breaking news in real time. It will be both a text-and-video digital portal as well as a TV series on the HBO channel.

It is expected to launch this fall, Bloys said.

Fans of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" recently rejoiced at news that its creator-writer-star Larry David would be filming a new season. Production begins this fall, with a planned 2017 premiere. The most recent new episodes aired in 2011 — the series' eighth season.

Meanwhile, Bloys offered a bit of hope for the long-discussed and long-delayed movie follow-up to "Deadwood," HBO's celebrated western series that aired for three seasons ending in 2006. He said the series' creator, David Milch, is currently writing the script. No plans beyond that were disclosed.

The presidential race didn't escape mention during the session. HBO has had great success with political-drama films "Recount" (about the 2000 presidential election) and "Game Change" (the 2008 John McCain-Sarah Palin candidacy). Bloys said a film about the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump faceoff was a distinct possibility.

"There's no plans right now, but it's obviously very interesting," Bloys said, adding that the two previous films' creative team — Jay Roach and Danny Strong — were on hand at the Republican National Convention, "just poking around."

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Online: www.hbo.com

A look at some of the most death-defying stunts of all time

Although he's one of the most accomplished skydivers in the world, Luke Aikins will tell you what he's about to do — jump out of a plane without a parachute — is one crazy stunt.

"If I wasn't nervous I would be stupid," Aikins, who has jumped 18,000 times with a parachute, said recently as he prepared to jump from 25,000 feet without one. He plans to land in a giant net for a program being broadcast live Saturday on Fox.

Crazy perhaps, but only the latest in a long line of outrageous endeavors. Here are 10 of the craziest and most dangerous.

— Evel Knievel's Snake River Canyon Jump: After years of jumping motorcycles over buses, trucks and fountains, and breaking many of his bones, Knievel decided to ride a rocket-powered motorcycle across a mile-wide chasm in Utah's Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974. He didn't make it, his cycle crashing on the canyon floor below. His escape chute deployed prematurely, likely saving his life.

— Felix Baumgartner's Stratosphere Jump: The Austrian daredevil became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound when he jumped from a small capsule 24 miles above Earth on Oct. 14, 2012, and landed safely on the ground near Roswell, New Mexico, nine minutes later. Aikins helped train Baumgartner for that stunt and was the backup jumper.

— The Trade Towers Walk: Philippe Petit and his companions surreptitiously strung a wire between New York City's then-recently constructed World Trade Towers on Aug. 6, 1974, and Petit walked across it the next day. He danced, strutted and clowned around for 45 minutes as startled bystanders watched from 110 stories below. The Frenchman's stunt is the subject of the 2008 documentary "Man on Wire" and the 2015 film "The Walk."

— Karl Wallenda's Final Walk: The patriarch of the famous German high-wire-walking family plunged to his death on March 22, 1978, while attempting to cross a wire strung between two hotel towers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the 73-year-old Wallenda had performed much more difficult stunts, a wind gust caught him off guard and he fell. In 2012, his great-grandson, Nik Wallenda, became the first person to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. And a year later he tight-roped across a gorge near the Grand Canyon.

— Move Over Knievel: Record-setting Australian motorcycle daredevil Robbie Maddison rang in 2009 by flying his bike 120 feet through the air and landing on Paris Las Vegas hotel's 96-foot-high arch. The feat put a gash in one hand that required 10 stitches. Noting afterward that he'd previously broken his neck, wrist and collarbone doing stunts, Maddison said he considered this injury no more than a paper cut.

— Mad Mike Hughes' Steam-Powered Rocket Jump: Using a rocket powered by the same technology as Knievel's Snake River motorcycle, Hughes soared 1,374 feet across the Arizona desert in January 2014, staggering out of the contraption after it landed. He plans a longer jump later this year.

— Dean Potter's Last BASE Jump: One of the sport's most acclaimed and safety-conscious jumpers, Potter, 43, was attempting a twilight wingsuit leap from Yosemite National Park's Taft Point on May 16, 2015, when something went wrong and he plunged to his death. Graham Hunt, a friend jumping with him, also died. BASE jumping is an acronym for leaping from a building, antenna, span or Earth and is banned in Yosemite, although it occurs there with some regularity.

— Johnny Strange's Final Flight: The American adventurer, who at 17 became the youngest person to summit the highest mountains on all seven continents, was 23 last October when crashed into a mountain in the Swiss Alps while filming a video for a new wingsuit. The day before he'd posted on social media stunning close-to-the-ground photos he'd taken, but he'd also noted the weather had been unpredictable.

— Feats of the French Spiderman: "Urban climber" Alain Robert has scaled the tallest structures all over the world, often without ropes or harnesses and sometimes illegally. On Christmas Day 2004 he climbed to the top of Taiwan's Taipei 101 Building, which at the time was the world's tallest. Braving rain and wind, he climbed for four hours to get to the top, stopping along the way to chat with Taiwan's president.

— Changing Planes in Midair: That's what Paul Steiner did in 2010 when he climbed out of one glider flying at about 100 miles per hour over Austria, jumped onto the wing of another and then stood up and grabbed hold of the tail wing of the first plane as they flew in tandem. Steiner was wearing a parachute at the time, which he used to get back to the ground safely.

Trump and Clinton set for appearances on Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC's "This Week" — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump; Vice President Joe Biden; retired Marine Gen. John Allen.

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NBC's "Meet the Press" — Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager; Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder; Garry Kasparov, Russian political activist and former world chess champion.

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CBS' "Face the Nation" — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Manafort; Reince Priebus, Republican Party chairman.

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CNN's "State of the Union" — Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Khizr Khan, Democratic National Convention speaker.

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"Fox News Sunday" — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Co-founder of Autism Speaks, Suzanne Wright, dies at 69

A co-founder of the advocacy group Autism Speaks has died after helping build it into one of the leading voices for people with the developmental disorder. Suzanne Wright was 69.

Organization spokeswoman Aurelia Grayson says Wright died of pancreatic cancer Friday at her home in Fairfield, Connecticut.

She and her husband, former NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright, founded Autism Speaks in 2005 after their grandson's diagnosis. The New York-based organization funds research, raises awareness and spotlights the needs of people with autism and their families.

As part of her role, she appeared at events at the United Nations annually for eight years on World Autism Awareness Day. It's April 2.

She also helped spearhead Autism Speaks' decade-long public service announcement campaign about early signs of the disorder.

Trump and Clinton set for appearances on Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC's "This Week" — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump; Vice President Joe Biden; retired Marine Gen. John Allen.

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NBC's "Meet the Press" — Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager; Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder; Garry Kasparov, Russian political activist and former world chess champion.

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CBS' "Face the Nation" — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Manafort; Reince Priebus, Republican Party chairman.

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CNN's "State of the Union" — Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Khizr Khan, Democratic National Convention speaker.

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"Fox News Sunday" — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump speech beats Hillary Clinton in TV viewership

Donald Trump pulled off the upset — at least in television popularity.

Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by 29.8 million people on the commercial networks, the Nielsen company said Friday. That fell short of the 32.2 million people who watched Trump speak to the Republicans a week before.

Trump, who used to carefully watch television ratings during his days as star of "The Apprentice," immediately boasted about the victory during a campaign appearance Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"We beat her by millions on television. Millions!" he said. "Honestly, the numbers were incredible."

Although Trump has been a proven ratings draw throughout his campaign, the Democratic convention had proven more popular with viewers than the Republicans for its first three nights. Stars like Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Paul Simon performed for the Democrats, and President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton showed off their oratorical skills.

Meanwhile, star power was much dimmer at the Republican meeting. One night, the convention even ended 15 minutes earlier than planned, leaving television networks scrambling to fill time.

But viewers turned up to hear Trump: his audience was watched by 9 million more people than it was for any other night of the Republican convention, Nielsen said. Meanwhile, the Democrats actually had slightly more viewers for the first night of its convention than it did for the nominee's speech, typically the highest-rated night of convention coverage.

Four years ago, the audience for Obama's acceptance speech was 35.7 million, while 30.2 million saw Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Nielsen's count did not include PBS' commercial-free coverage, which made the margin closer. PBS said its viewership for Clinton's speech was 3.91 million people, and 2.75 million the week earlier for Trump.

Fox News Channel went from first to worst during a tumultuous two weeks that included the resignation of its chief executive, Roger Ailes, on the day Trump spoke. An estimated 9.4 million people watched Trump on Fox, the most popular network for Republicans, and Fox took out newspaper ads touting its first-place finish among those covering the convention.

Just over 3 million people watched Clinton on Fox. Perhaps sensing its audience's level of interest, Fox showed fewer live events from the convention floor than its rivals, preferring discussions hosted by anchors Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Sean Hannity was brought in for analysis immediately after the convention closed each night.

Meanwhile, it was a coup for CNN, whose 7.51 million viewers topped all of the networks Thursday by a comfortable margin. This convention marked the first time the cable network beat the broadcasters in head-to-head competition. The relatively newsy events appeared to benefit the networks that followed them throughout the prime time hours, as opposed to ABC, CBS and NBC, which came on at 10 p.m. ET each night.

MSNBC was seen by 5.27 million, NBC had 4.52 million, ABC had 3.85 million and CBS had 3.65 million, Nielsen said. It was measuring the time all of the networks competed head-to-head, from 10 p.m. until the convention's close.

For politicians, the true measure of the speech's effectiveness will come in about a week, when polls indicate whether or not the convention gave Clinton a bump in popularity.

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Associated Press correspondent Mark Kennedy in New York contributed to this report.

Montel Williams detained in Germany over medical marijuana

A spokesman for Montel Williams says the television personality was detained by customs officials at an airport in Germany after inadvertently leaving prescription marijuana powder in his luggage.

Jonathan Franks tells The Associated Press that Williams was held for about an hour Friday morning at the airport in Frankfurt while traveling on vacation. Franks says Williams was let go after showing a doctor's note verifying the marijuana was for medicinal purposes. Franks says Williams was neither arrested nor cited.

Frankfurt airport police and the city's customs office were not immediately reachable late Friday, and there was no immediate response to an emailed query.

The 60-year-old Williams suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana, which he uses to help manage pain.

Ken Barrie, voice of Postman Pat, dies at 83

Ken Barrie, who provided the voice of affable animated letter-carrier Postman Pat, has died. He was 83.

His daughter Lorraine Peterson said Friday that Barrie had died of liver cancer at his home near London.

Born Leslie Hulme, Barrie was originally a singer, recording for British label Embassy Records under the name Les Carle.

Peterson said her father was "the master of different characters and voices," and did film and commercial voiceovers before getting his best-known role.

"Postman Pat" premiered on British television in 1981 and was broadcast around the world. It followed the mailman's gentle adventures in fictional Greendale village.

Barrie appeared in the series between 1981 and 2005, playing Pat and other characters and singing the theme tune about "Postman Pat and his black and white cat."

Baz Luhrmann examines early hip-hop in Netflix series

As Baz Luhrmann walks on set for the press day of his first television series, "The Get Down," he can't separate his professional self from his personal self and settles in by directing his own interview.

Ever so apologetically, he makes suggestions to the crew and even asks for a monitor to see how the shot is being framed. After gesturing to the camera operator that it was a little wide, he suggests that the reporter move closer to the right to create the optimal eye line.

It's that attention to detail that Luhrmann has been associated with throughout his career, evident in such films as "Moulin Rouge!" and "The Great Gatsby."

Now he's tackling the early years of hip-hop as told through the mythical eyes of several young people living in the mid-1970's south Bronx. The 13-episode series , which premieres Aug. 12 on Netflix, takes place before a hit record made its way into the mainstream. Luhrmann serves as the show's executive producer, writer and director. He worked closely on the project with writer Nelson George, executive producer Nas and Grandmaster Flash, portrayed in the show.

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AP: How did you decide to take on this story?

Luhrmann: I was just driven to answer this question, which was, 'How did so much pure and new creativity come out of a moment where this city seemed to be on its knees, in such trouble.' And just pursuing this question led me down a road where I met Nelson (George) and I reached out to (Grandmaster) Flash and (DJ Cool) Herc, Kurtis Blow, and Crash and Daze, the legendary Lady Pink.

AP: What did you see that you could add your touch the organic years of hip-hop?

Luhrmann: The more I went down that road into the story looking for the answer, the more I wanted to find a way to not put my touch on it, but just to curate a way for that story to be told because most people, as Flash says, most people think this form of music came out in the 80s.

AP: Do you feel hip-hop is a tale of American ingenuity?

Luhrmann: In this country, particularly, actually in times that are difficult, or from corners of America where you least expect it, unbelievable pure creativity has welled up. Generally because of the cross-fertilization... a Scott Joplin tune becomes jazz, becomes blues, and becomes rock 'n' roll.

AP: What were your earliest memories of the era?

Luhrmann: What was so fascinating was it was more my recollection of New York. In 1977, I was probably about 15. I remember Elvis dying... I had a friend that came back from New York, and I said, 'What's it like?' and he said, 'Oh man. It's amazing. Just wear a coat and don't look anyone in the eye because it's that dangerous.'...Disco was huge. ...And there was punk. So that really stuck in the back of my mind. And then years later, I went on to work with great people from the hip-hop world. I made a record with Jay Z, 'Gatsby.' That was one of the greatest collaborations I've ever been involved with.

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https://www.netflix.com/title/80025601

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Follow John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci

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