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Showtime has ‘Big’ plans for next season

Laura Linney series will end as new shows including 'Ray,' 'Sex' hope to breakout

Showtime is saying goodbye to “The Big C.”

At the pay cabler’s Television Critics Assn. session Monday, president David Nevins said the Laura Linney series will end with four one-hour episodes in 2013. As for why the show was reaching a conclusion, Nevins said, “There was a finite period for that character.”

Net has also given a second season to “Inside Comedy,” a 10-episode order for the David Steinberg-hosted docuseries that chats with some of comedy’s top personalities.

Nevins said that while the majority of “The Big C” cast would likely return for the final four episodes, there would be changes. Series, from Sony Pictures Television, is exec produced by Linney, Darlene Hunt, Jenny Bicks, Mark Kunerth, Michael Engler, Vivian Cannon and Neal H. Moritz.

Nevins added that the show’s shift to an hourlong format “has to do with the creative and how they want to tell the story. It’s still a little fluid because we haven’t started writing yet.”

Showtime is high on upcoming drama series “Masters of Sex,” with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, and Liev Schreiber starrer “Ray Donovan,” from “Southland” creator Ann Biderman. Nevins said he’s not sure when those series will launch, but that it would likely be announced in the first quarter.

Also big for Showtime is the second season of “Homeland,” set to begin Sept. 30. Show performed well in its first season from both a ratings and kudos standpoint.

Nevins said that although the series casts three major stars in Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin, the writers have the option of killing off one of the characters if that is what the story dictates. (In the first season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Sean Bean’s character was shockingly executed.)

Though the net’s digital component Showtime Anytime is available to subscribers of Comcast, XFinity, AT&T and Verizon Fios, Nevins said distribution will increase in January, but auds who watch on that service are still a relatively small percentage of overall viewership.

“It has not had a huge impact on the way people watch Showtime,” Nevins said. “The vast majority of viewers come on linear, on demand or DVR.”

As for series still in development, Nevins is awaiting a rewrite for the adaptation of Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”; “Conquest,” from Nevins’ old production partner Ron Howard, is awaiting a script. Latter is about conquistador Hernan Cortes and the Aztec empire.

Looking down the road, Nevins said Showtime may increase its original programming slightly, but by no more than three new series per year.

In other programming news, net will air comedy special “Larry Wilmore: Race, Religion and Sex” on Aug. 25. Show will serve as a backdoor pilot if it fares well.

Wilmore, a contributor on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” worked closely with Nevins when the Showtime boss was at 20th Century Fox — the home of the Wilmore-created “The Bernie Mac Show.”