January 21, 2014
By Michael Grebb
As one critic put it Thurs during a question at TCA, Showtime was once the "stepchild" of premium TV. Not anymore. With big buzz behind new shows like "Masters of Sex" and "Ray Donovan," Showtime pres, ent David Nevins noted that "our newest shows are also our highest rated shows... generating more discussion, more press and viewers than the shows they are replacing." He hopes that trend continues with 2 new pickups he announced Thurs: "The Affair," which explores "the challenges of infidelity from multiple perspectives," and "Happyish," which involves a 40-something ( Philip Seymour Hoffman) trying to navigate a fast-changing, millennial-driven, social-media obsessed world with results that apparently include a dream sequence with the Keebler elves (we can't make this stuff up). No air dates yet, but Nevins said they will likely bow in late summer.
Showtime's also betting big on "Penny Dreadful" (May 11 premiere), a supernatural thriller series starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and others, and produced by John Logan and Sam Mendes. "This show is like nothing we've ever done before," said Nevins, also telling critics that the net's increasingly excited about 10-part docu-series "Years of Living Dangerously" (Apr 13 premiere), which explores climate change from several angles and whose producers include James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. "We've been trying to take risks, trying hard not to copy ourselves, trying hard not to copy other things that are being done on the air," Nevins said. "But I think we've been broader in the types of shows we've been putting on... The best actors and the best writers really want to do shows on Showtime. It's a good place to be right now."
The buzz around hit "Homeland" helped it become the first Showtime series to reach 7mln viewers in one week, Nevins said (And that was despite some grumbling by critics last year about Season 3's meandering storyline). Lots of talk at TCA about whether pilot season—or even the idea of creating pilots before going to series—makes sense anymore in the fast-moving TV biz. But Nevins said "I believe in pilots. You learn a lot from pilots." He specifically cited Showtime's busted pilot "The Vatican," noting that he's glad it went to pilot 1st because "it was conceived in a world that I think now would feel very dated" following the election of Pope Francis. "So I'm glad we hadn't made 13 episodes of that."
Also, he said that while "the current ecosystem works really well for us," premiums are in a good spot to survive any cord cutting or shift to OTT. "We're a subscription service," he said. "People are used to writing a check every month... We're kind of well positioned for whatever the future holds, so we see a lot of opportunity."
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