On Tuesday during lunch, members of the Television Critics Association got buzzed.
There was no open bar, understand. Rather, a few enterprising fans of the recently-cancelled period drama “The Borgias” rented a small plane that trailed a banner pleading for us, and Showtime, to save their favorite series. The fan campaign was also represented a lone protester standing in front of the Beverly Hilton holding a sign that read “Give us Season 4!” and “Sardines 4 Showtime.” Seeing an opportunity for a display of good will, The CW — which, like Showtime, is owned by CBS Corporation — sent a few pages dressed in Renaissance costumes in support of their sorta historical series “Reign” to stand with the man — who, as it turns out, was paid to picket and reportedly hadn’t even seen the show.
Be that as it may, every television executive wants viewers to be that passionate about their programming. The problem is that more often than not, the passion for a series is not necessarily matched by the size of the audience or strong enough to justify the cost of said show.
Filmed entirely on location in Budapest, “The Borgias” was sexy, visually lush, featured solid performances and, like most period dramas, was probably quite expensive. It had to be. Cut the costs and… well, visually speaking, we’d probably get something like The CW’s new Renaissance romp “Reign,” premiering 9pm Thursday, October 17. “Reign” filmed its pilot in Ireland but will produce subsequent episodes in Toronto, and dresses its Mary Queen of Scots (played by Adelaide Kane) and her four ladies-in-waiting in gowns that look more fit for prom than for court. That may suit the shopping needs of The CW’s target audience — whether it’s a good fit for the network’s primetime line-up is yet to be seen — but Showtime’s viewers pay a subscription fee for its content and expect to get their money’s worth for that extra dough.
Thus Italy’s most infamous and corrupt Renaissance-era family has joined Showtime’s history books, and the premium cable channel is redirecting its resources to developing new comedies and dramas — including the following projects announced this week.
Showtime greenlighted a pilot starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathryn Hahn called “Trending Down,” a comedy and commentary on our youth-obsessed society. Hoffman plays Thom Payne, described in the press release as “a man facing his own obsolescence after his advertising agency is taken over”. Hahn plays his wife Lee.
The cable channel has also picked up a six-part documentary series executive produced by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the Magical Elves production team (i.e. the folks that gave us “Project Runway” when it was on Bravo, and “Top Chef“) that tackles end-of-life issues from the viewpoint of several terminally ill men and women titled “Time of Death”. It will premiere on Showtime this fall.
Adding to the previously announced pilot orders for “The Vatican,” which stars Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights), and “The Affair”, helmed by Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, the premium channel also announced that Eva Green and Josh Hartnett will co-star in the channel’s genre series “Penny Dreadful,” which goes into production this fall in time for a 2014 series premiere.
Also premiering in 2014: “Shameless“, “House of Lies,” and “Episodes” return to the schedule on January 12 at 9pm, 10pm and 10:30pm respectively. “Californication” and “Nurse Jackie” will make their season premieres in spring of next year.
Meanwhile, with The CW’s schedule already set — view the updated list of premiere dates by clicking here — CW president Mark Pedowitz teased reporters by confirming that the network is developing spinoffs for “Arrow” and “Supernatural“. Seeds for “The Arrow” spinoff will be planted during the upcoming season with the introduction of the recurring character Dr. Barry Allen, whose origin story we will follow until we know him as… The Flash.
“We do want to expand upon the DC universe,” Pedowitz told reporters. “We think they have rich characters that we can use, and we felt this was a very organic way to get there.”
Asked about the previously mentioned Wonder Woman project in development currently known as “Amazon,” Pedowitz characterized its status as being on pause right now, explaining that the script isn’t where the network needs it to be. “It’s an iconic DC character, and we are not going to put it on unless it works, ” Pedowitz explained, adding that with Black Canary joining Arrow along with The Flash, “it’s better to wait and get it right.”
Meanwhile, “Supernatural’s” spinoff will be set in Chicago, featuring monster and hunters that the show’s fans will meet during an episode airing within the upcoming ninth season.
As for the fate of the mothership, Pedowitz says he doesn’t see an end to the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester for the time being.
“As long as the fan base is there and the ratings are there,” Pedowitz said, “there’s no reason why this couldn’t continue.”