Showtime grows ‘Weeds’

Edie Falco series titled 'Nurse Jackie'

Showtime has brought the Edie Falco pilot to series and given Mary-Louise Parker two more seasons to sell dope.

At the network’s Friday afternoon TCA session, Showtime made plenty of programming announcements, unveiling, for example, the tentative title of “Nurse Jackie” to the Falco skein. Production of the series will begin in the fall, and it will arrive on air in spring or early summer.

Net also said it was ordering an untitled spinoff of “The L Word,” which ended its fifth season in March and will finish up in 2009 with eight more episodes. New series will be exec produced by Ilene Chaiken.

Entertainment topper Robert Greenblatt said the storyline for the spinoff would continue from where the series ends, including taking one actress from “The L Word” and moving her character forward. He declined to say who that actress is.

Parker and the gang, meanwhile, will be back for two more 13-episode cycles of comedy “Weeds” — the show’s fifth and sixth seasons.

On the reality front, net has ordered six episodes of half-hour series “Lock ‘N Load.” Skein examines the range of customers who come in to buy firearms at a rural Colorado gun store. The show, exec produced by Authentic Entertainment, will debut in 2009, with Tom Rogan and Lauren Lexton serving as exec producers.

Coming back for a seventh season is “Penn & Teller: Bullshit,” which will become the paybox’s longest-running show. Ten episodes have been ordered.

The previously announced “United States of Tara,” exec produced by Steven Spielberg and Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, will launch early in 2009. Toni Collette stars as a suburban housewife with multiple personalities.

Greenblatt and chairman-CEO Matt Blank said the net received considerable exposure when “Dexter” made a run on CBS because of the writers strike and that the increase in viewers — totals per episode spiked from about 1 million on Showtime to 6.5 million on the Eye — can’t be discounted in helping drive subscription growth and brand recognition.

Net currently has 16 million subscribers and saw a year-to-year increase of about 1 million.

“We’ll continue to have good growth,” Blank said. “The subscription premium business with 16 million subscribers is a very good business. We believe we’ll continue to grow and are going to be pretty aggressive going into the future. Clearly, the success of programming is having an impact across the board in our business, and we only think it will accelerate.”

Greenblatt said there’s a possibility of more Showtime series coming to CBS if the circumstances were right, but it’s not a consideration during production.

“We’re not going to ask anybody to change the context for the possibility of broadcast down the road,” he said. “I don’t want our brand to be confused with the broadcast brand.”

Blank commented that the cabler’s recent output deal with the Weinstein Co. means Showtime will have about 130 films over the next seven years, and that pics from Lionsgate and MGM will appear on the smallscreen a year after their theatrical release in an 18-month window.

“We feel very strongly there will be a significant supply of films that we’ll have to put on the network,” he said.

That’s good news considering Greenblatt said finding an original concept for a series is becoming ever more difficult.

“That’s my daily nightmare,” he said. “Every single day we try to figure out where the next great show is coming from. They’re not infinite.”

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