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Entertainment prez endorses pilots but stresses importance of taking time with development

SPOILERS AHEAD from the season three finale of “Homeland

Showtime prez David Nevins opened his TCA exec session by tackling one of the most talked-about issues on Showtime over the last several months: season three of “Homeland,” and the fate of Nicholas Brody.

“Thank you for being so invested,” Nevins laughed, referring to the flurry of social media freak-outs that cropped up during season three and the finale. “This is an instantaneous-review, must-see culture…It’s driven ‘Homeland’ ratings higher than we’ve ever seen — it’s reached (a record) 7 million viewers a week,” and brought Showtime’s subscriber base to 23 million homes.

SEE ALSO: Showtime Hands Series Orders to ‘Happyish,’ ‘The Affair’

“This season (of ‘Homeland’) was pretty brilliant in its architecture…I thought it was very clever and audacious, what they set out for,” he said.

But, Nevins said, “Obviously there’s a big reset,” with Damian Lewis’ Brody character killed off in the finale, leaving many to wonder where “Homeland” will go without such an integral lead. His answer: Claire Danes.

“This show is fundamentally about a field operative and we really haven’t seen her much out in the field operating,” Nevins noted. “The likely plan for next year is that you will see her on the ground in a foreign capital doing her job. I haven’t had much presented yet [from the ‘Homeland’ creatives], and those guys are spending next week in Washington — they’ve got an incredible itinerary,” which includes meetings with C.I.A. personnel, per Nevins.

The prez has been more than pleased with the trajectory of Showtime as a network, especially given that the pay cabler’s new shows also tend to be its highest rated, including freshman dramas “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex.”

Showtime has set April 13 as the premiere date for its unscripted series “Years of Living Dangerously,” which focuses on reports from around the world about climate change from celeb contributors. That will follow the season premieres of “Nurse Jacki” and “Californication.”

Showtime’s new psycho-thriller series “Penny Dreadful,” from John Logan and Sam Mendes, bows May 11.

“We’re in this good cycle — which is rare — where we’re replacing the first generation shows one by one and the new ones are working,” Nevins remarked. “We’re working hard to take risk, and trying hard to not copy ourselves, or other things on air…The good thing is now we’ve become a destination. The best writers and actors really do want to do shows on Showtime.”

It’s not just Showtime that top notch scribes and thesps are heading towards. Nevins, like many network brass and creatives, praised the quality of TV programming across the board, even stating that the “vibe” at Sunday’s Golden Globes was “different than it used to be.” (Jon Voight took home a Golden Globe on Sunday for Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” and “Masters of Sex” drew nominations as well.)

“Every actor is interested in working in TV right now,” Nevins said. “The level in television storytelling as a longform, open-ended format is very seductive for talent.”

Nevins himself offered praise for series that don’t grace his net’s airwaves: “Girls,” “Mad Men,” “Louie,” “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are all favorites for the Showtime prez. “It’s an incredible time to work in television,” he said.

Given that “pilot season” is a hot-button issue at TCA following Fox head Kevin Reilly’s remarks about the pilot process being obsolete, Nevins received his own question from journos about pilots — are they worth it?

Showtime does not abide by a specific pilot season, instead taking as long as the project needs to develop, cast and tweak the pilot. “Happyish,” which was just ordered to series by the net, was a script Nevins had in his possession for a long time. It took the net awhile to nab Philip Seymour Hoffman as the lead, “but we didn’t have to rush it, and we could wait and slowly bring him in,” Nevins explained. Horror series “Penny Dreadful” was ordered directly to series “because (writer) John Logan is unbelievably prolific,” Nevins said. “He was able to write the entire series — I didn’t order it until I read the first episode, and the last.”

Nevins “believes in pilots,” the prez said confidently. “You learn a lot. One of the fundamental issues with the [now dead pilot] ‘The Vatican’ was the world changed on us. That was conceived in a world [with former Pope Benedict] that I think would now feel very dated. I’m glad we didn’t make 13 episodes of that.”

The inevitable Netflix question also arose in the TCA ballroom, but Nevins was upbeat on the subject, explaining that Netflix and Showtime can exist happily in the same ecosystem since the net doesn’t sell program rights to Netflix until after they’re off Showtime’s airwaves — and even then, they remain on Showtime Anytime.

“There’s a lot of talk about stacking rights,” he said. “All of our shows will always be on Showtime Anytime. Even though Netflix has ‘Dexter’…it’s still on Showtime Anytime…We think that’s really important.”

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