By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/9/18 – Johanna Fuentes, head of PR, introduced the Showtime executive session taking place at the Winter TCA Press Tours held at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena on Saturday, January 6th, 2018. Present was David Nevins, Showtime President and CEO.
David noted how quickly everything in television was changing. “That word ‘television’ is now just an entry point into an ecosystem far more complex and colorful than the black and white era that coined that word,” he said.
David said, “This is a fantastic time to be working in television, if you’re well positioned for its challenges. And Showtime is extremely well positioned.” The “prime directive” of the network is to develop and disseminate premium content that attracts an ever-growing number of paid subscribers.
According to Nevins, consumers are voting for Showtime in greater numbers because they have increasingly provided a buffet of programming that satiates a wider variety of appetites. Nothing short of the Super Bowl is for everyone, but Showtime premieres new shows like HOMELAND, BILLIONS, and SHAMELESS at least every single month. Showtime is also the world’s leading outlet for live boxing!
In addition to first-run movies, Showtime now offers a prime slate of non-fiction programming. “This is how we attract new subscribers, and it’s our bulwark against churn with our existing customers,” Nevins concluded.
Showtime also provides a very inviting environment for talents such as David Lynch (TWIN PEAKS), Frankie Shaw (SMILF), and Lena Waithe (THE CHI) to work. A new Showtime series called KIDDING will star Jim Carrey and another series called BALL STREET will star Don Cheadle.
CITY ON A HILL will star Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge in a drama directed by Michael Cuesta of DEXTER and HOMELAND with Jen Todd, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck producing. Lin-Manuel Miranda of HAMILTON fame will executive produce and create the music for THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLES based upon the bestselling fantasy book series.
Jessica Williams of THE DAILY SHOW is developing her first scripted series with a “sexually fluid” protagonist and Robert and Michelle King will executive produce YOUR HONOR with Peter Moffat.
“I have to say, it is great fun to be in the center of the arena–and television, without a doubt, is the center of the arena right now,” Nevins said. “We get to make stuff that has impact, that resonates, that reflects the culture and affects the culture, that touches politics, touches race and gender and class, and touches how we live. It makes Showtime an incredibly exciting place to be.”
After David Nevins completed an overview of Showtime’s winter and spring programming, Gary Levine (Showtime’s President of Programming) joined him for the Q & A.
Concerning the retooling of Showtime’s I’M DYING UP HERE; Its creators are excited about Season 2 with Melissa Leo and Ari Graynor. “That mix of comedy, drama, pain, and pleasure just continues to fascinate us!” Levine said.
And concerning THE CIRCUS and the process of replacing Mark Halperin after allegations about sexual harassment came to light, Nevins said it had been decided very quickly that the show should go on without Halperin.
Concerning the music for KINGKILLER, Levine joked, “I have three words for the style of the music–Lin-Manuel Miranda!” Miranda is apparently a rabid fan of the KINGKILLER books, which feature a musical troupe.
Actress Paula Malcomson, left RAY DONOVAN after putting in an excellent performance the previous year. We needed a “quick postmortem” on WHITE FAMOUS, David Nevins said that in his estimation the show hadn’t been “moving the needle” (unlike SMILF, which premiered at the same time). Along with SHAMELESS, SMILF and THE CHI with Frankie Shaw and Lena Waithe seem to be breaking through with fresh new voices and viewpoints.
When asking Nevins and Levine to expand upon the “big swings” they had taken with shows like these and TWIN PEAKS, Nevins and Levine said that the 18 hours of consecutive directing work done on TWIN PEAKS was unprecedented.
“Diversity pays dividends, you know,” said David Nevins. “I think these shows make sense on Showtime, but they don’t particularly look like previous Showtime shows. So we are constantly pushing ourselves to go in new and different directions. . . .It takes somebody looking at things in a different way to blaze its way onto our schedule.”
After some humorous debate about the terms “sexually fluid” and “bisexual,” the next questioner asked about predictions within the industry concerning the plethora of recent sexual harassment charges. David Nevins replied, “You’ve got to have the right culture, you’ve got to create the right culture, and you’ve got to foster the right culture.”
Gary Levine added that the lack of politics and ego/power trips kept the culture at Showtime a special place where people wanted to stay for decades, not just years. The many powerful female executives at Showtime also help to foster better workplace conditions.
We asked about competition within the industry and Showtime’s programming expenses, David Nevins said that it could be hard to compete and that the quality shows that got nominated for Golden Globes and Emmys were not necessarily the giant star vehicles. “And, yes, we are spending more money, but it’s mostly a function of the fact that our business is flourishing and CBS wants to invest in Showtime,” he concluded.
After some more discussion of THE CIRCUS and Alex Wagner, and referred to the HOMELAND clip shown previously that had obviously been prepared long before the Clinton/Trump Presidential contest. “Now we are seeing talk about having a paranoid President. . .and a cartoon President!”
David Nevins said the HOMELAND President was an interesting amalgamation of a Bernie Sanders leftist isolationist and members of the current political administration. “So, you know, the hard core right wing as represented by the radio character you see is strongly against them.” None of this is meant to be a direct reflection of today’s White House, but there are common themes that run through the politics depicted on the show.