Showtime chief picks 4 skeins, keeps 'Word'

Robert Greenblatt is putting his stamp on Showtime.

Cabler has elected to move forward on two dramas and two comedies it had piloted for debut this year and early 2006.

In addition, Showtime announced an early third-season renewal to “The L Word,” which will begin its sophomore run on Feb. 20. Order is for 12 episodes.

“It wouldn’t be TCA without me picking something up early,” Greenblatt said. During July’s press tour, he surprised the cast of “Huff,” which hadn’t premiered yet, with an early order for season two.

Announcements were made Wednesday at the paybox’s portion of the winter critics’ press tour.

Drama pickups include 10 episodes of “The Cell,” from writer-exec producers Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris (“Bulletproof Monk”), and 12 episodes of “Brotherhood,” from Blake Masters (“Dreadnaught”) and Mandalay Television. Skeins join previously announced comedies “Weeds,” starring Mary-Louise Parker as a pot-selling mom (Daily Variety, Dec. 16), and “Barbershop,” adapted from the hit MGM movie (Daily Variety, Dec. 21).

Year’s lineup is the first full slate put out by the topper, who joined the cabler a year and a half ago.

“I’ve been (champing) at the bit to put new shows on, and ‘Huff’ has been the only thing I’ve been able to in the year and a half I’ve been here,” Greenblatt said. “We’re so small, so for us to make noise we have to have a number of swings at the bat.”

No scheduling decisions are final, but “Weeds” will be the first out of the gate, most likely in mid-June. “Barbershop” will arrive in the fall at the earliest. On the drama side, expect “The Cell” to premiere in the second quarter and “Brotherhood” for late in winter.

Upcoming series “Fat Actress” will bow Monday nights in March, right after the second season premiere of “L Word.”

Greenblatt has done some spring cleaning in recent months, opting not to renew “Dead Like Me” — like “L Word,” a remnant of the previous regime — and billing the upcoming fifth season of gay-oriented drama “Queer as Folk” as the series’ finale.

“We’re saying its going out with a bang. The executive producers feel like they’ve brought it to a certain place and told their stories,” Greenblatt told Daily Variety. “I’m sorry to see it go, but it also allows me to get new things on the air.”

“Queer” will begin its final run by early summer.

“The Cell” tells the story of an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist cell in Los Angeles. Michael Ealy (“Barbershop”) and Oded Fehr (“The Mummy”) star.

“Brotherhood” follows two brothers from a large Providence, R.I.-based Irish family who care for each other despite being on opposite sides of the law. Jason Isaacs and Jason Clarke play the two brothers.

All four series will be shot in the U.S.

Also at TCA:

  • ABC Family has made a six-episode commitment to “Looks of Love,” from Scott Mesick’s Mess Media (“NASCAR Drivers: 360″). Set in a salon not unlike that in Bravo’s “Blow Out,” skein focuses on the lives of the zany “workplace family” of a Los Angeles beauty parlor. Production begins Jan. 21 for a spring premiere.

  • Sister network SoapNet announced a second season of competition skein “I Wanna Be a Soap Star,” which will bow in July; the fourth installment of “They Started on Soaps” specials in April; an “I Love Lucci” marathon in tribute to Susan Lucci’s Erica Kane in February; and a deal with Warner Bros. that extends the cabler’s lease on “Knots Landing” and adds new skeins “Skin” and “The Monroes” to the lineup.

  • Disney Channel has ordered up three new animated series: “Disney’s The Buzz on Maggie” is a comedy about everyday life as seen through the eyes of a creative girl fly; “Disney’s Katbot” revolves around a robotic cat alien sent to study tween culture on Earth; and “Disney’s Emperor’s New Skool” is based on feature “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Series are produced by Walt Disney TV Animation Studio and will roll out on the cabler through January of next year.

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