TCA: Showtime topper talks up new skeins

David Nevins: 'Weeds' likely heading into final season

Showtime entertainment president David Nevins crowed about the success of freshman series “Homeland” and the healthy start to comedy “House of Lies” at the net’s Television Critics Assn. panel Thursday.

Nevins, who took over for Bob Greenblatt as the head of the network in the summer of 2010, added that the upcoming season would likely be the last for Mary-Louise Parker series “Weeds” but that he doesn’t foresee an end date for “Nurse Jackie,” which hit some ratings trouble spots last year.

Also, Nevins said that he doesn’t anticipate greenlighting any new pilots in the near future, sticking with the two already given a greenlight.

With a strong original series lineup under his belt, Nevins will be pushing the pay cabler’s docu division going forward. Upcoming will be a look at former vice president Dick Cheney, to be directed by R.J. Cutler, as well as profiles of Suge Knight from helmer Antoine Fuqua and of Richard Pryor.

Nevins also sees an upside with “Episodes,” in which former “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc plays himself. Believing the show has “real potential,” Nevins has upped the episode order from seven to nine for the upcoming season and said the skein will get a major marketing and publicity push.

As for pilots already ordered, Nevins told Variety that while Paul Bettany backed out as one of the leads in Sony’s “Masters of Sex,” that did not deter him from the project about the lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Though it’s not official, Lizzy Caplan has been talked about for the role of Johnson.

“His role was very sought after, and I anticipate it coming together pretty easily, with an even bigger actor,” Nevins said. As soon as “Masters” is cast, Showtime will shoot both that pilot and drama “Ray Donovan,” starring Liev Schreiber.

As for “Homeland,” the show averaged 4.4 million viewers per episode when combining original telecasts, repeats, DVR usage and video-on-demand. It was the most-watched rookie skein in network history and currently ranks second on Showtime behind “Dexter,” which Nevins confirmed will likely have only two seasons left.

” ‘Homeland’ was a show that clearly resonated with people. It was watched by about 4.5 million people every week, but its influence went way beyond that,” Nevins explained. “This is a show that is watched in the highest places in Washington. The president said he watches the show, and the White House asks us for extra copies.”

Nevins said the cards lined up well for the terrorist drama. Working again with exec producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa — the trio joined forces on “24” when Nevins was a producer as the head of production shingle Imagine — Nevins said he got the script when he first arrived at Showtime and felt “Homeland” would be a good fit as an accompaniment to “Dexter” and positioned well in the zeitgeist with the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“It was a situation where the strategy lined up with the execution,” Nevins said, who added that most of the cast would be back for season two (which will premiere in the fall), although he couldn’t confirm that Mandy Pantinkin was signed for a second season.

As for other programming news, the new seasons of “Nurse Jackie,” “The Big C” and “The Borgias” will premiere April 8. Also, the status of comedy reality series “The Green Room” — in which comedians chat about standup — is unclear, although the net is launching “Inside Comedy” later this year. In “Inside Comedy,” host David Steinberg chats with comedians about the business of being funny.

In sports programming, Showtime will bring back a second season of baseball docuseries “The Franchise” (Variety, Jan. 10) and the net just signed a deal with radio host Jim Rome, who will also work with CBS.

When chatting about what Showtime is doing compared to pay cabler HBO, Nevins said he wouldn’t trade places with his network rival.

“HBO does their thing and, frequently, when things go well for HBO, they go well for us. Sometimes our businesses work in tandem,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the game we’re playing.”

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