Category: Showtime

NBC's Bob Greenblatt: 'We had a really bad fall'

Bob greenblatt nbc
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt didn't waste any time.

"We had a really bad fall," the new NBC programming chief said Friday to open the peacock network's sessions at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.  "It was worse than what I had hoped for."

For seven years now, NBC has been slipping further and further in the ratings, a painful reminder that the once preeminent TV network had not yet reached the bottom of its catastrophic descent. Last season was particularly bad as the network limped through the waning days of former NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker's regime, but this season has proved to be even worse.  

NBC's ratings are down 11% in the advertisers' favorite category of viewers ages 18 to 49, compared with last season. Much of their slate, including "The Playboy Club" and "Free Agents," opened with a whimper, leading to early cancellations. Overall, NBC remains in fourth place in the network prime-time standings, attracting 7.4 million viewers a night.  In contrast, network leader CBS pulls in more than 12 million viewers in prime-time. 

Later this month marks the first anniversary of the takeover of NBCUniversal by Philadelphia cable giant Comcast Corp. Comcast executives have repeatedly said that reviving the ailing broadcast network is NBCUniversal's priority, and they brought in Greenblatt to do just that.

The pleasant and polite Midwesterner and former TV and Broadway producer became a star as the programming chief of premium cable channel Showtime. While there, he launched a string of hits that explored deeply flawed characters, including "Dexter," "Weeds" and "Californication."

Now Greenblatt is focused on the flaws in NBC's schedule.  He was refreshingly candid Friday about NBC's considerable challenges: Veteran shows have been losing steam, and it has been six years since NBC launched a bona fide hit.

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Q+A: 'Parks and Rec' joker Ben Schwartz serious on 'House of Lies'

Ben SchwartzFans of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" know Ben Schwartz as wildly deluded, eccentrically coiffed Jean-Ralphio Saperstein -- a character who the actor says lives every moment like he's at Disney World. But we're about to see a brand new, considerably less goofy side of Schwartz on Showtime's "House of Lies."

The series, which premieres Sunday and costars Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, follows a team of four management consultants who will do whatever it takes to close a deal, satisfy a client or boost their own career prospects. Although no one is a saint in this dark comedy, Schwartz's character, the cocky and calculating Clyde Oberholt, may be the most ruthless of all.

We spoke to the actor, comedian and writer during a break from his work on yet another TV project -- voicing the title character in the forthcoming Disney XD animated series "Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja" -- about his role on "House of Lies" and how it compares to his gig on "Parks and Rec."

What kind of guy is your "House of Lies" character, Clyde Oberholt?

He's the arrogant management consultant, always hitting on women. But at the same time, his eye is always on escalating where he is in the company. What everybody cares about is making that money, getting the deal, but Clyde eyes [his boss, Cheadle's] Marty Kaan, thinking, "I'm gonna get there. I'm gonna take over for him. I'm gonna find a way to be where he is." He always has that in the back of his head. Marty is best friends with me, but I'm not necessarily best friends with Marty.

"Parks and Recreation" is known for featuring some of the most likable characters on TV. On "House of Lies," the consultants and their profession are more morally ambiguous. How did you approach playing a darker character?

When I'm playing Jean-Ralphio, I'm thinking, "How would a guy who thinks he's nailing it say something? A guy who isn't even aware of how stupid the words he's saying would sound." But Clyde says things with intent. He's not going to waste time.

Showtime is known for these flawed characters, and the idea of seeing the layers. Because of the way "House of Lies" is written, you get to see why [Clyde] would make a certain move or why he would act a certain way. Slowly, as the series goes, you see how the flawed characters either redeem themselves or keep crashing into oblivion. You watch all of us choose our paths and take our blows. It's a pretty exciting series arc.

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Sizing up 2011's rookie TV series

“New Girl” Zooey Deschanel, with Jake Johnson

As the 2011 TV season tips into 2012, cable shows such as “Homeland” and “American Horror Story” have aired their explosive climaxes, while network newbies that survived the fall are just about halfway through their premiere seasons. Here’s a look at six series that showed early promise and how they’re living up to expectations.

New Girl” | Fox

The premise: Jess (Zooey Deschanel), an attractive but socially awkward woman in her mid-20s, moves in with three single guys after she splits with a philandering tool of a boyfriend.

The vibe: Hipster comedy that avoids coming off as hipper-than-thou.

References: “That Girl,” “Three’s Company,” “Friends,” “(500) Days of Summer”

Sample line: “Pink wine makes me slutty.” — Jess, having a night out with the guys to lift her spirits

Casting call-out: Cece (Hannah Simone), Jess’ best friend, exudes Grrrrl Power in the man cave Jess now calls home.

Performance/prospects: Averaging 8.2 million viewers per episode, “New Girl” will be back for a second season. The big question is will “New Girl” start feeling old?





“Up All Night” | NBC

The premise: Yuppie power couple Chris (Will Arnett) and Reagan Brinkley (Christina Applegate) trade Jell-O shots and last calls for baby formula and middle-of-the-night feedings when newborn Amy comes along.

The vibe: Modern love and marriage. And baby makes comic relief.

Referencing: “Mad About You,” “Mr. Mom,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show”

Sample line: “He just doesn’t understand. I just had a baby. I mean underneath this, I have a girdle and two pairs of Spanx on.” — Reagan to Ava, after accepting her well-meaning friend’s gift of a red thong

Casting call-out: Maya Rudolph in Oprah mode as Reagan’s friend/boss Ava, who seems to spend as much time at the Brinkleys’ house as she does at the television studio.

Performance/prospects: With what might be described as “tweener” ratings (averaging 5.75 million viewers per episode), the series was picked up for a full season in October. Whether this baby makes it to Season 2 … stay tuned.




“Homeland” | Showtime

The premise: Having gone missing for eight years in Iraq, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is rescued and returned to the U.S., where CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) suspects he has been “turned” by the enemy and tracks his every move. An overwhelming sense of paranoia and claustrophobia ensues.

The vibe: “Big Brother” meets “Nurse Jackie,” only Nurse Jackie is a pill-popping CIA agent with bipolar disorder.

References: “24,” life in these United States since 9/11

Sample line: “He’s lying!” — Agent Carrie, after Sgt. Brody aces a polygraph test in which he was asked if he had ever cheated on his wife. And she would know.

Casting call-out: Brody’s best friend and fellow Marine, Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), who stood in as the man of the house while his buddy was in captivity — in more ways than one.

Performance/prospects: With its growing audience and critical acclaim, get ready for another season of white-knuckled viewing in 2012.



Once Upon a Time” | ABC

The premise: Fairy tale characters, including Snow White (Ginnifer Godwin) and the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), are cast out of their idyll to the fictitious small town of Storybrooke, Maine, where they lose their memories and their supernatural mojo.

The vibe: Complicated storytelling and nostalgia for simpler times.

References: “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” “Twin Peaks”

Sample line: “Where are we going?” “Somewhere horrible, absolutely horrible.” — an exchange between Snow White and the Evil Queen, just before the denizens of the world of make-believe are transported to contemporary America

Casting call-out: Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), long-lost biological daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, who leaves home and moves to Storybrooke at the urging of a mysterious, precocious boy named Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore).

Performance/prospects: With viewers numbering in the 10 million range, it looks like lightning should strike twice for “Once” and fans can expect a second season.



 

“American Horror Story” | FX

The premise: Cheating husband Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) uproots his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton), and daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), from Boston to live in L.A., where they move into a haunted house that they bought for a song. Suspended disbelief (especially on the great real estate deal part) ensues.

The vibe: Tennessee Williams throws a shower for “Rosemary’s Baby.”

References: “Saw” franchise, “Don’t Look Now,” “The Amityville Horror” (1979 version), “Poltergeist”

Sample line: "Is everybody crazy?” — Ben to Vivien, after a drop-in from a poisonous cupcake-bearing neighbor (see below)

Casting call-out: Neighbor Constance, played to the hilt by Jessica Lange channeling Blanche DuBois.

Performance/prospects: Nearly 3 million viewers per week have bought in to the ghosts and goblins that populate the series, and its fans are rabid. FX is hoping it scares up more of them come fall.





“2 Broke Girls” | CBS


The premise: Working girl Max (Kat Dennings) and newly destitute heiress Caroline (Beth Behrs) forge a friendship and dream of starting a cupcake business while working in a Brooklyn diner. Oh, and they share a tiny apartment with Caroline’s horse, Chestnut.

The vibe: “Two and a Half Broke Girls.” Bawdy and naughty.

References: “Alice,” “The Simple Life”

Sample line: “I forgot you’re Equestrian Barbie. You came with a horse.” — Max to Caroline, after Chestnut pokes his head through the back door of Max’s apartment

Casting call-out: ”Saturday Night Live” original cast member Garrett Morris dispenses free advice as the diner’s cashier, Earl.

Performance/prospects: A huge hit for CBS in terms of viewers and the ages 18-to-49 target demographic. The girls will be back for another season of sass while they scrimp and save for that cupcake start-up.

ALSO IN SHOWTRACKER:

2011 favorite TV guest stars

2011 best TV meltdowns: From 'winning!' to whining

2011's most gruesome TV Deaths

 

— Wes Bausmith

Photo: Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson in "The New Girl." Credit: Greg Gayne/Fox

How did prime-time TV become an adulterer's paradise?

Damian lewis claire danes homeland

Adultery is nothing new on television, but the proliferation of cheating as a plot point is making prime-time TV look like an ad for Ashley Madison, the online dating service for married folks, where the message is, "Life is short. Have an affair."

On "Homeland," the Iraq War hero turned secret terrorist falls into a reckless affair. Central characters on "The Good Wife," "Revenge," "Boss," "Ringer," "Nurse Jackie," "Justified" and even "The Walking Dead" engage in infidelity.

Cynicism about marriage is one of the factors leading to an increased depiction of adultery. "People believe marriages don't work anyway, so seeing affairs on TV kind of serves as a model for how things can and will go bad," said Julie Albright, a sociologist at USC.

But showrunners insisted they don't treat the topic lightly. Liz Brixius, creator of "Nurse Jackie," said of her cheating heroine: "We've never used cheating to be juicy. We use it to show Jackie's living a double life and making terrible decisions."

Brixius and her team had to assure Showtime and producer Lionsgate that Jackie would, indeed, get her comeuppance in the new season this spring. "It was not an easy sell for us to have Jackie continue to skate by without suffering for what she'd done."

There's more on TV adultery in this feature.

ALSO:

2011's most gruesome TV deaths

"Homeland" finale: A critical salute

Primetime TV gets in bed with adulterers

'Homeland' sets new series record on Showtime

Homeland_111_2527[1]
The first-season finale of terrorism thriller “Homeland" was the highest-rated finale for a freshman series in Showtime’s history, with 1.71 million viewers for its 10 p.m. airing — and 2.03 million for the night.

The finale — which drew mixed reactions from viewers, judging from readers' comments on some of its recaps — was up 58% from its Oct. 2 premiere, which drew 1.08 million viewers. And it has helped the series elbow its way to being among the network’s elite, ranking as Showtime’s No. 2-rated series behind Dexter, the network said. But it still has a ways to go in usurping the top spot; “Dexter,” which aired its Season 6 finale Sunday, drew 2.23 million viewers at its 9 p.m. slot.

RELATED:

Homeland' finale: A critical salute

Year in Review: Mary McNamara's top TV of 2011

Golden Globes: 'Homeland' creators discuss the show's nominations


--Yvonne Villarreal
twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Damian Lewis portrays Nicholas "Nick" Brody in a scene from the season finale of the Showtime series. Credit: Kent Smith/Showtime

`Homeland' finale: A critical salute

Homeland

Ever since Showtime’s remarkable new drama “Homeland” began answering its own central questions — yes, former POW Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was indeed “turned” by the enemy and no, CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is not crazy (well, she is, but she is also brilliant and right) — the show’s biggest mystery was how, and if, it would manage to emerge from its season finale with both its stars intact.

Brody had delivered a stirring speech about the vagaries of courage during a family trip to Gettysburg, where he also picked up his suicide bomber vest, while Carrie, having gone on full bipolar wig-out after almost being blown up herself, was now a spy out in the cold. Even her beloved mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin) seemed undone by the whiplash turn of events. How on Earth would Brody, and the show, survive its own intent?

I must admit that out of all the scenarios I considered, and I spent an embarrassing amount of time considering them, it never occurred to me that the switch would go on the fritz. There Brody was, following a letter-perfect plan, hustled into lock-down with the vice president, the secretary of State and a bunch of other bigwigs, sweaty and resolute and about to blow them all to smithereens when — click, huh? Click, click — the simple technology failed.

It was a huge and glorious cheat, saved from utter absurdity by some lovely breakdown symbolism — there were no paper towels in the bunker either — and Lewis’ almost supernatural ability to silently project the 715 types of emotion that might rise within a man who, ecstatically prepared to blow himself up, discovers he has been undone by faulty wiring.

Which he fixes, in a bathroom stall, reminding everyone that “Homeland” does share major genealogy with “24” and giving Carrie enough time (at least enough TV time) to race to the Brody home and prompt young Dana (Morgan Saylor) to call her father just as he’s about to pull the now-functioning trigger. Which he can’t do, not with his daughter on the line.

It was totally crazy, of course. Except that it wasn’t, at least not in the alternative universe of “Homeland.” Every big season finale is, by definition, a con, revolving around a big emotional event that the writers hope will both satisfy viewers and leave them hanging.

And from the moment it was revealed that Brody was indeed working for a known terrorist, “Homeland” entered an even more dangerous shell game — this character may be broken by torture or driven by a need to hold America accountable for its sins, but either way he has been, and will be, party to events that kill innocent people. Which makes him a whole new breed of lead character, neither antihero nor villain.

Throughout the season, creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa have been able to maintain the show’s fever pitch not so much through plot as through composition. “Homeland” overcomes its histrionics through nothing more or less than a remarkable sense of balance, beginning with its main characters. 

Both are damaged and focused, regretful and resolute, but where Lewis petrifies Brody, turning him into a man of roiling stillness, Danes take Claire to the other end of the emotional universe, rolling her eyes and champing her teeth like a fire-maddened horse. One alone would be ridiculous, the two together are riveting.

The finale stayed true to this particular blend of high drama and humanity. Although the season could have easily ended with the failed bombing scene, it did not. We saw the next day and the next, the repercussions stacking themselves up, the truth refusing to be unveiled in some cheap magician’s flourish because truth is rarely revealed that way.

It comes at us incrementally, and often without our noticing until it is too late.

RELATED:

Year in Review: Mary McNamara's top TV of 2011

Golden Globes: 'Homeland' creators discuss the show's nominations

'Homeland' mirrors the Gilad Shalit news

-- Mary McNamara

Photo: Damian Lewis and Claire Danes in an earlier episode of Showtime's "Homeland." Credit: Kent Smith 

Year in Review: Mary McNamara's top TV of 2011

Game of thrones Emilia Clarke Jason Momoa
For all the shows that premiered this fall, it was not a stellar season. Fortunately, the television landscape has many datelines, so, taken overall, it was a very good year. And here’s why:

“Game of Thrones”: HBO proved that nothing beats epic fantasy when it’s rooted in good story and great performances, which this show most definitely is. No doubt the dragons will be fun too, but with Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion and Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys, even dragons are just icing.

Margo Martindale on “Justified”: FX’s lyrical, Elmore Leonard-inspired drama about a U.S. marshal returning to his hometown to clean up a few messes took on epic and revolutionary proportions when creator Graham Yost introduced Mags Bennett (Martindale), a back-country mob boss the likes of which have never been seen. Martindale rightly won an Emmy for her astonishing performance, but it would have been better if she had won another season — for reasons that confound me, Yost chose to kill off Mags in the season finale. I may forgive him; I haven’t yet.

“Downton Abbey”: Julian Fellowes crossed “Upstairs, Downstairs” with his own “Gosford Park” to herald a new and glorious age of PBS period drama.

“Homeland”: Wrangling Claire Danes and Damian Lewis as two of the most complicated characters on television (not to mention the ever-mercurial Mandy Patinkin), Howard Gordon and some of his “24” team turned an Israeli hit into the first show to successfully mirror midwar America.

Al Jazeera: During this year’s rebellions in the Mideast, Americans found themselves glued to their laptops to watch on-the-ground coverage from Al Jazeera English. For a time, many lobbied to find it a permanent American home, which would be a very good thing.

Ted Danson in “Bored to Death” and “CSI”: It’s difficult to imagine another actor who could juggle the quaint-ish HBO comedy and the CBS behemoth at all, let alone with such agility. I am not a huge fan of either show but watch both for the pleasure of seeing a man so utterly in control of his craft.

AMC and “The Killing”: Veena Sud’s murder-mystery stumbled as it soared, and outraged fans and nonfans alike with its non-finale season finale. But around here, we give points for trying, and AMC continues to do just that, accepting its failures (“The Prisoner”) as down payment for its successes (“The Walking Dead”). Sud took on TV’s most popular and predictable genre and, for better and worse, made it her own. Also Mireille Enos is now officially a star, and that has to count for something.

“Parks and Recreation” and “The Middle”: Two wonderful shows that have been living in the shadows of “The Office” and “Modern Family,” respectively, finally seem to be getting the recognition they deserve.

“Louie”: Louie C.K.’s angsty, semiautobiographical FX comedy defines adult comedy — outrageous, sentimental, big-hearted, brave and true. And that duckling-in-Afghanistan episode just about killed me.

The not-so-best

Having recently endured, through circumstances beyond my control, back-to-back viewings of “Jack and Jill” and the latest “Twilight” movie, I cannot bring myself to use the word “worst” in connection with anything I have seen on television this year. But here are a few of the biggest disappointments (none of which, I am happy to add, involved Al Pacino).

OWN: I’m not certain what I expected from the new Oprah Winfrey Network, but I know it was more than a bunch of whiny reality series. When Rosie O’Donnell is your biggest draw, things are not up to the Oprah standard.

And the cable networks’ coverage of the jumpy Dow. Look, here we all are, alive and well, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse nowhere in sight, despite all the rumors to the contrary during that horrible week in August when the Dow bounced around and all the business pundits seriously lost their minds. Did none of you ever hear about Orson Welles and his “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast?

For more, here's an essay on TV in 2011.

RELATED:

Mary McNamara's Best of 2011 in TV

Year in Review: Robert Lloyd's Top New TV of 2011

— Mary McNamara

Photo: Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke in "Game of Thrones. Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO.

Golden Globes: 'Homeland' creators discuss the show's nominations

'Homeland' creators discuss the show's Golden Globe nominations

On the brink of its first-season finale, which will air Sunday, Showtime's "Homeland" scored three Golden Globe nominations.

The show might not have made the cut in the SAG Awards, getting snubbed when nominees were announced Wednesday, but good news came soon enough for the show's co-creators, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa.  

"This morning was a lot better than yesterday," Gansa said. "For a first-year show, this is huge. The idea that it might give more exposure and get people to watch while the season is still happening -- or catch up on it -- is great."

The show scored a nomination in the drama category, along with nominations for its leads, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. It's one of many cable shows dominating the nominations -- and Gordon and Gansa are happy with that.

"You know, there was a time when it was going to be bought by Fox or NBC," Gordon said. "'Does it have to be a CIA agent?'-- that was the running joke. We're glad it ended up on Showtime. The show couldn't reach its potential any other way."

It certainly has in the eyes of critics, who have praised the series, about a CIA officer (Danes) and her obsession with proving a former Marine POW (Lewis) has been turned into a terrorist, as one of the season's best new drama. With the season finale just around the corner, Gordon and Gansa were coy about where the story line will go from here.

"We're just starting to talk about that now," Gansa said. "We broached the subject of the second season at dinner the other night. But we can't tell you! You have to watch Sunday first. It's too tender."

RELATED:

Golden Globes: The complete list of nominees

Golden Globes: Cable shows dominate TV nominations

Complete coverage of the Golden Globes

 -- Yvonne Villarreal
twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in a scene from "Homeland." Credit: Showtime

Golden Globes: Cable shows dominate TV nominations

 "Homeland" gets Golden Globes nomsShowtime's  "Homeland," which didn't received any nominations for the SAG Awards, got some redemption Thursday when the nominees for the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The terrorism thriller was among the major dramatic nominees, along with "Boardwalk Empire," "Game of Thrones," "Boss" and "American Horror Story," and its stars, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, both nabbed noms in the lead acting categories in drama.

"Modern Family," and "Glee" once again scored major nominations in the comedy categories; they were joined by Showtime's "Episodes" and freshmen series "New Girl" (Fox) and "Enlightened" (HBO). The awards show, which will be hosted by Ricky Gervais, will be televised Jan. 15 live on NBC.

DRAMA SERIES
"American Horror Story"
"Boardwalk Empire"
"Boss"
"Game of Thrones"
"Homeland"

DRAMA — ACTOR
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Kelsey Grammer, "Boss"
Jeremy Irons, "The Borgias"
Damian Lewis, "Homeland"

DRAMA — ACTRESS
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Mireille Enos, "The Killing"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Madeleine Stowe, "Revenge"
Callie Thorne, "Necessary Roughness"

COMEDY SERIES
"New Girl"
"Enlightened"
"Episodes"
"Glee"
"Modern Family"

COMEDY — ACTOR
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
David Duchovny, "Californication"
Johnny Galecki, "The Big Bang Theory"
Thomas Jane, "Hung
Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"

COMEDY — ACTRESS
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
Laura Dern, "Enlightened"
Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"
Laura Linney, "The Big C"

SERIES, TV-MOVIE OR MINISERIES — SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story"
Kelly Macdonald, "Boardwalk Empire"
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family
Evan Rachel Wood, "Mildred Pierce"

TV-MOVIE OR MINISERIES

"The Hour"
"Downton Abbey"
"Cinema Verite"
"Mildred Pierce"
"Too Big to Fail"

SERIES, TV-MOVIE OR MINISERIES — SUPPORTING ACTOR

Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Paul Giamatti, "Too Big Too Fail"
Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce"
Tim Robbins, "Cinema Verite"
Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"

TV-MOVIE OR MINISERIES — ACTOR

William Hurt, "Too Big Too Fail"
Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"
Idris Elba, "Luther"
Bill Nighy, "Page Eight"
Dominic West, "Appropriate Adult"

 TV-MOVIE OR MINISERIES — ACTRESS

Romola Garai, "The Hour"
Diane Lane, "Cinema Verite"
Elizabeth McGovern, "Downton Abbey"
Emily Watson, "Appropriate Adult"
Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce"

RELATED:

Golden Globes: The complete list of nominees

SAG Awards: TV nominations are announced

SAG Awards: TV surprises and snubs

--Yvonne Villarreal
twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Claire Danes, left, as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul in a scene from "Homeland." Credit: Showtime.

Showtime to spin more 'Web Therapy' with Lisa Kudrow

Showtime has ordered a second season of "Web Therapy," the comedy starring Lisa Kudrow as a self-centered and self-serving psychotherapist who treats patients for three minutes via webcam
Showtime has ordered a second season of "Web Therapy," the comedy starring Lisa Kudrow as a self-centered and self-serving psychotherapist who treats patients for three minutes via webcam.

Meryl Streep, Conan O'Brien and Minnie Driver are among the celebrities scheduled to appear on the series, which is scheduled to return next year.

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"The Amazing Race" recap: Trust your taxi?

Illeana Douglas puts herself together in "Easy to Assemble"

Madonna to perform during Super Bowl XLVI halftime show

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Lisa Kudrow. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Showtime renews 'Homeland' for second season

Showtime renews 'Homeland'

"Homeland," Showtime's acclaimed espionage drama starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, has been renewed for a second season.

Showtime President of Entertainment David Nevins announced the pickup a few days after the premiere of the most recent episode, which scored the drama's biggest audience to date. "Homeland," which drew 4.4 million viewers in its first week, is the network's highest-rated freshman drama ever.

" 'Homeland' is just getting started," said Nevins. "Clearly, the overall audience growth from Week 1 to Week 4 demonstrated that this show is hitting a nerve in the cultural zeitgeist."

The series features Danes as a troubled CIA agent who is convinced that a U.S. soldier (Lewis) who is being hailed as a hero after eight years in captivity could be planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

ALSO:

Andy Rooney health "serious" after surgery scare

CBS gives full-season pickups to "Unforgettable," "Person of Interest"

-- Greg Braxton

 Photo: Damian Lewis as rescued soldier Nicholas Brody in "Homeland." Credit: Showtime

'Homeland' mirrors the Gilad Shalit news

Damien

Sometimes, television stories are ripped from today’s headlines — maybe even tomorrow’s.

That’s the case with the critically acclaimed Showtime thriller “Homeland” and its Israeli forerunner this week after the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,  who was captured by Hamas and held prisoner for five years. The American series, which has been one of the premium channel’s highest-performing freshman drama series in nearly a decade, is based on a current Israeli program called “Hatufim” (Prisoners of War). Both programs center on soldiers as they struggle to re-embrace their former lives after years of brutal captivity.

“As every Israeli citizen, I watched the release of Shalit with excitement and happiness,” said Gideon Raff, who created the Israeli series and serves as an executive producer on its Americanized cousin. “The return home of my characters are very similar to what happened in real life this week.”

Shalit’s negotiated release, which came in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, is not the only recent international event to overlap with the fictional series. Earlier this week, Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi was killed — an event that came six months after the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of Navy SEALs in Pakistan. And last week the FBI accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. Many of these startling events will play out in “Homeland,” but for spoiler reasons, executives do not want to release specific details.

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