Showtime Networks President David Nevins took questions at the Television Critics Association’s (TCA) winter press tour today, discussing the network’s new and returning series and ongoing awards season success, including wins for freshman drama series The Affair and it’s mesmerizing star Ruth Wilson at last night’s Golden Globes awards.
Nevins said that Showtime’s strength in a competitive premium-television landscape is the breadth and depth of its series, noting that the network’s nine tent pole shows are all awards-season contenders.
“I want all of our shows to feel different in tone and different in feel — we stay way from what other people are doing well,” Nevins said, adding that he wants the network to focus on programming with sophisticated adult appeal, depth and adult psychology.
Nevins also doled out insight on a host of new and returning series.
On the returning series front, Nurse Jackie returns for it’s final season on April 12 at 9pm. Penny Dreadful returns April 26. And a 12-episode sixth season of Shameless will begin production later this year.
Nevins also heralded the success of Homeland’s Season 4, “forcing many of you to jump back on the bandwagon… Happy to have you back! No hard feelings!”
Asked about the danger in making series that tackle international political conflict, in light of recent attacks on media outlets, Nevins said free speech is an imperative. “Needless to say, it is a scary time to be a maker of controversial, political, boundary-breaking shows. So I watch it very carefully. … The show is going to back at it next year, and it’s not going to shy away. I hope no one who works for us shies away from the difficult stuff. That said, it’s a work of fiction and I’m very defensive of their right to go wherever they want to go.”
Nevins defended the change in show runners for the Liev Schreiber starring drama Ray Donovan, saying “For the health of the show you need to make some moves. But Ann [Biderman] did a brilliant job. Her characters and her creations got us up here.” Nevins said the show’s third season won’t focus solely on the Donovan clan, adding a complicated arc involving another family.
On the new series front, the 10-episode first season of the long-awaited Happyish premieres April 26 at 9:30pm ET/PT, following Nurse Jackie. Starring Steve Coogan, Kathryn Hahn and Bradley Whitford, the series tackles the unanswerable question of why happiness is so elusive. Nevins said he is “dying to unleash” the series, because “it feels like the next way to do a cable comedy” — a genre he hopes to expand at the network.
Also upcoming is the financial drama Billions, starring Paul Giamatti and Homeland’s Damian Lewis, and Roadies, which chronicles life on the road with a successful rock tour, as seen through the eyes of the stage crew. Rapper Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker, Luke Wilson, Christina Hendricks and Imogen Poots star in the dramedy from Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous), J.J. Abrams (Lost) and Winnie Holzman(My So-Called Life).
Twin Peaks star Kyle McLachlan joined Nevins onstage to help the exec announce the long-awaited return of the cult favorite as a nine-episode series arriving in 2016. Handing Nevins a cup, MacLachlan — who will return as Special Agent Dale Cooper in the premiere — announced. “I think you need a damn good cup of coffee” before offering critics a winking, “May the forest be with you.”
Nevins revealed that Twin Peaks creators David Lynch and Mark Frost will produce, pen and direct all nine episodes. “I was kind of begging them and hoping to pass muster with David Lynch,” Nevins said, noting that the only way he felt comfortable bringing the show back was if Lynch committed to directing every episode. “I think in David’s mind, 25 years was the magic number.”
Asked what input he might have in the series, Nevins said “more or less, writing checks and leaving them alone” and added that he’s particularly excited that Lynch and Frost were “very specific” in promising closure for Twin Peaks fans.
Nevins closed out the session by talking the success and future of The Affair. On the heels of good critical notice, augmented by the pair of Golden Globes, Nevins said he was heartened that the low-rated show enjoyed a post-Globes boost on the network’s on demand service Showtime Anytime. The net will also re-air Season 1 Fridays at 10pm for the next ten weeks to lure a larger audience to future seasons.
“The relationship between Noah and Alison is just beginning,” he said of the potential of future storylines. “We’re only nine months into that relationship.”
Though Nevins said he finds The Affair more “low concept” than Showtime’s typical series, he added the atmospheric drama was always designed to be a relationship show, noting that viewers are hungry to form bonds with characters and then follow them over time.
“When they have a show they like, they want it to come back … and, needless to say, our business is dependent on that,” he smiled. “We’re a subscription service.”