By any measure, Showtime is in the best fighting shape it’s ever been in, with strong momentum on the creative front — plenty of buzz, if not viewer tonnage — and a lean corporate structure, both of which please the feevee channel’s ultimate boss, CBS Corp.’s Leslie Moonves.
The kind of questions entertainment prexy Greenblatt and his boss, Showtime chairman Matt Blank fielded during the 45-minute exec Q&A session were softballs with hot fudge, sprinkles and a maraschino cherry on top. (“How have you made Showtime such a hot place to go, Bob?”) The closest thing to grilling came from one TCA-er with a distaste for CBS’ summer reality mainstay “Big Brother” who demanded to know why Blank and Greenblatt weren’t shamed by the “Big Brother After Dark” wee-hours feed running on the Showtime 2 channel in the wee hours. (Hey, I’m with Mr. Irate Questioner on the worthlessness of “Big Brother” but it’s hard to get worked up about anything airing at 3 a.m. on pay cable.)
The most interesting lines of questioning for Greenblatt were thinly veiled entrees for him to engage in a little crowing at HBO’s expense. After 30 years of fighting a mostly uphill battle against its larger, wildly profitable rival, Showtime is standing tall all on its own thanks to “Dexter,” “Weeds,” “The Tudors,” and a raft of projects in the development pipeline with George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, Tracey Ullman, etc. etc. Greenblatt didn’t take the bait, for the most part, other than to (gently) join in what has become a running joke of this summer’s TCA about the all the skin that’s in HBO’s new couples-drama “Tell Me You Love Me.” And Greenblatt allowed that he wasn’t much in favor of the blackout ending of “The Sopranos” but quickly followed that observation (which set the keyboards in the room clackety-clacking) by noting that HBO had little choice but to support the vision of the writer-producer who had brought them so much during the past few years.
“It’s hard to say ‘No’ to David Chase,” said Greenblatt, sounding like the producer he was a few years ago, of HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” among others, and the seasoned executive he is today. “I probably would’ve tried to talk (Chase) out of it…and I probably would’ve failed.”