Danes, Lewis to return for 12-episode second season

Showtime’s decision Tuesday to pick up a second season of its newest drama “Homeland” was a no-brainer, given the show’s audience numbers and pedigree, and the pay cabler clearly believes the skein has a long future ahead of it.

The series was the first show that Showtime entertainment topper David Nevins greenlit after arriving at the channel, and he’s hoping the skein will become a tentpole drama for the net — assuming, of course, that it can hold viewer interest for the long haul.

“Dexter” has been Showtime’s signature drama, but the Michael C. Hall series is currently in its sixth season and may be nearing the end of its run.

Nevins underscored that while “Homeland” is based on the Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” the net made some major adjustments bringing it to air, including adding the CIA officer played by Claire Danes. Because of the different storylines, Showtime doesn’t have to echo the “Prisoners” format going forward.

Keeping audiences and critics in the show’s corner is a high priority

for Nevins, who recognized the mistakes made with some serialized shows. AMC’s “The Killing,” notably, failed to properly wrap up a storyline in its first-season finale that had been marketed as being finalized, leaving auds and crix frustrated. Other series, including, arguably, ABC’s “FlashForward” and “Ugly Betty,” as well as FX’s “Damages,” started strongly but then quickly hit a bumpy patch with critics and viewers.

In a fiercly crowded TV drama landscape, Nevins said he’s determined to make sure “Homeland” remains must-viewing.

“Clearly it has caught some piece of the zeitgeist, and it is resonating with people,” Nevins told Variety. “Our only anxiety is: Can they (producers and writers) keep it up and not fall into the serialized traps of other shows? … I was always very interested in the material and it seemed a waste to have ‘Dexter’ alone in the fall. I was aware this fall would be 10th anniversary of 9/11 and felt ‘Homeland’ would be perfectly spotted.”

Nevins reiterated that the core cast would be back for the second season but wouldn’t guarantee anything beyond that, nor the length of their deals.

Net isn’t looking to get into any more protracted cast negotiations. Currently, Showtime is negotiating a new contract with “Dexter” star Hall. Nevins is counting on the dispute to be settled long before the new season, if there is one, begins shooting early next summer.

“Homeland” ratings have been strong since the Oct. 2 premiere. Starring Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland” reached 4.4 million viewers (across multiple platforms) its debut and has increased its aud since, with its fourth episode Sunday drawing series-best ratings.

Exec produced by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, who adapted Gideon Raff’s “Prisoners of War” (from Keshet Broadcasting), “Homeland” will begin production on season two in the spring. Avi Nir, Ran Telem and Michael Cuesta also exec produce.

Pay cable rivals HBO and Starz have been quick to greenlight early renewals of their series lately, often without much, or even no, ratings data. Starz recently gave a second-season order to “Boss” before the show even began and HBO has renewed some series after only one episode.

Next big challenge for Showtime is to launch dark comedy “House of Lies” with Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. Skein, from creator Matthew Carnahan, is a scathing look at a self-loathing management consultant from a top-tier firm.

Series will debut Jan. 8, along with season premieres of “Shameless” and “Californication.”

“It’s a big glossy show that looks at how American business has been messed up,” Nevins said. “It feels very relevant.”

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