Showtime at TCAs: Homeland's Season 4 Reset, Sex on TV, and the Importance of Quality Shows
David Nevins, president of entertainment at Showtime, bravely stood before a room full of reporters at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Thursday to answer questions about Showtime's current and future programming. Surprisingly, not a single person asked about the widely criticized final season of Dexter, but there was plenty of talk about Homeland, the network's focus on sex, and what the pay cabler has coming up (hint: it includes Joshua Jackson's butt).
On the criticism of Season 3 of Homeland and what we can expect in Season 4:
When asked if he'd braced himself for the backlash toward Homeland's third season, Nevins admitted he wasn't completely surprised by it, but that everyone involved in the show always knew Season 3 would be a bridge between Seasons 2 and 4 and would act as a reset for the series. He also said he thought the season was "pretty brilliant in its architecture about Iran" and "very clever and very audacious."
The writers are currently planning out where Season 4 is headed, but it's very likely that we'll finally see Carrie working as a field operative—which is actually her job—in a foreign country. "It's going to be different next year," said Nevins. "You're going to see a different kind of story with Claire Danes, and I don't know if it's going to be a one‑season story or two‑season story." When asked about Mandy Patinkin's involvement in Season 4 with Carrie out in the field, his understanding is that Saul will still be very central to the story and play a large role. Which is good, because if you've got Mandy Patinkin, you need to use Mandy Patinkin, you know?
On Showtime's pilot process and why Kyle Chandler's The Vatican didn't make it:
Nevins and Showtime still believe in the pilot process, unlike Fox, and cited Kyle Chandler's failed pilot The Vatican for the reason why. "That show was conceived and written when Pope Benedict was still in charge of the Vatican." Afraid that the show would feel dated was part of the reason the pay cabler decided not to order it to series. On the other end of the spectrum is Showtime's newest series Penny Dreadful, which premieres May 11 and didn't have a pilot. Series creator John Logan wrote the entire season before Showtime made a decision on it. It wasn't even ordered to series until Nevins had read the scripts for the first and last episodes. So basically, Showtime's just going to continue doing whatever it wants because it's Showtime.
Showtime doesn't pay much attention to target demos, according to Nevins, but he notes that the network makes shows for adults and that The Affair is a very adult drama. "It's an interesting combination, that show. It's just a gorgeous script... It looks at all the small nuances of relationships from both the male and female perspective." The males in question are Dominic "Jimmy McNulty" West and Josh "Pacey Witter" Jackson. The female stars are also just as recognizable; Luther's Ruth Wilson plays the wife of Jackson's character and has an affair with West, while Maura Tierney of ER and NewsRadio plays West's wife. There is no premiere date yet. But get ready for Betrayal on Showtime!
On the network's overall strategy:
Echoing similar comments made by FX President John Langraf earlier this week, Nevins believes in making quality shows for a certain audience, not generic shows with a mass appeal. "Not every show needs to appeal to everyone," he said. "We try to make a number of shows, and I want to make shows that are going to inspire passionate audiences... I hope that Showtime as a whole will appeal to a fairly broad section of adults, but each individual show doesn't need to."
On the amount of sex on Showtime:
With series like Californication and Masters of Sex, the network obviously doesn't shy away from the topic, and that's for a reason: you can't do that stuff on advertiser-supported networks. "You're always looking for things that can differentiate you... and sex is certainly one of them," said Nevins. But he's clear that there's sex for the sake of sex, and then there's the interesting stories Showtime is telling about it. "I mean, Masters of Sex, from the moment that I read that book, the biography of the two of them, I realized that's so clearly an only‑in‑pay‑cable idea, where...the subject of your drama can be the study of human sexuality."
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