‘Folks’ extend stay

Showtime reups skein for 20 more episodes

NEW YORK — Showtime has renewed its “Queer as Folk” weekly hourlong comedy-drama — an easy decision, since a 3.4 average rating in cable homes makes it the highest-rated series on the network.

“We knew there’d be a core gay audience for the series because of its focus on a segment of the gay lifestyle,” says Mark Zakarin, executive VP of original programming for Showtime. The solid ratings, he adds, “show that there’s a degree of acceptance among American viewers, who are getting a peek at a culture that they may not be familiar with.”

Showtime has ordered another 20 episodes on top of the 22 that have completed production for the show’s Sunday-at-10 time period.

“Queer as Folk” becomes the third weekly series Showtime has renewed in the last few months, joining “Soul Food,” from Paramount TV, and Viacom Prods.’ “Resurrection Blvd.” Those two series also have 20-episode commitments.

Isaak set to go

A fourth weekly hourlong series, MGM TV’s “Stargate SG-1” is in its fifth and final year. “The Chris Isaak Show,” from Viacom Prods. and Phoenix Entertainment, a scripted hour dealing with the day-to-day live of a famous musician (Isaak plays himself) kicks off March 12 for a 17-episode run.

Zakarin says Showtime is within a few weeks of announcing three new weekly hourlong series. Showtime has carved out the 10 p.m. timeslot every night for a block of original series, which Zakarin says is “the single most important thing on our schedule.”

The executive producers of “Queer” are Ron Cowen Daniel Lipman and Tony Jonas. It’s based on the British series of the same name created by Russell T. Davies, who’s a consultant to the Showtime version, from Tony Jonas Prods., Cowlip Prods. and Temple Street Prods.

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