Robert Priday is a creative director at HBO, which means he’s the guy who designs the stuff that makes you want to watch. He believes that good television—as well as the promotion that supports it—has power, much of which comes from being able to evoke a strong emotional response. And just how does he evoke that response? “I’m not going to frame fuck you,” he says. “I have to feel it.”
What’s one of the best stories you’ve ever been told?
A friend of mine got on an elevator in an office building in Midtown. Inside was a gentleman in a business suit. Before the door completely closed, a very elderly woman wanted to get in, so he pushed the “open doors” button. The woman shuffled in with her cane and stood uncomfortably close to the guy in the suit. All of a sudden, in her grandmotherly voice, she said, “Can I smell your balls?”
The man in the suit, in a state of shock, said, under his breath, “Nooooooooooooo.”
The grandma’s reply back? “It must be your feet then.”
What are some of the television shows that have had impact on you, and why?
- Get Smart. The cone of silence. It’s the same gag over and over again. They go in there, and they can’t hear each other. The punchline is already set, but it’s still funny. It’s the same shit every time, like the shoe phone. But I love it.
- Dexter. I thought it was good that he was killing bad people, which is kind of a weird thing to think. [Watching the show] you think, oh, well, it’s okay that he’s killing that person. It’s not okay. Not at all. It’s not how it works. But for some reason, I’m rooting for him to kill these people. Pretty bizarre.
- Game of Thrones. I don’t know what the fuck’s going on, but I love that show. It’s so epic. I appreciate the filmmaking. They’re putting on an hour of great television, and they’re doing a lot of it.