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TV Column
Posted at 06:07 PM ET, 08/04/2011

Summer TV Press Tour 2011: Showtime takes on taboos


David Nevins, president of entertainment for Showtime network, answers questions from reporters. (Chris Pizzello - AP)
Showtime network has ordered a new docu-series from Steve Carell and David Steinberg called “Laughing Stock,” in which Steinberg will interview famous comics about their craft, including Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Larry David, Carl Reiner and, well, Steve Carell. Like most successful new series on the boundary-pushing pay-cable network, this program is clearly serving an un-served audience -- no one has interviewed Carell in at least eight days, and the others are well-known recluses who do not give interviews.

“Laughing Stock” will debut Sunday, Jan 8 at 10, hammocked between Showtimes alcoholic-can-be-adorable series “Shameless” and its sex-addicts-can-be-cute series, “Californication.”

All these years later, TV critics still marvel that Showtime is not an ad-based network, and can push the envelope with its content in ways that ad-driven broadcast networks cannot.

“I’m confused by the question,” Showtime entertainment president David Nevins said when one TV critic asked him what is his position on Showtime being the Other Channel that can put pretty much do what it wants when it comes to edgy and adult content.

“We’re not an advertiser environment, so we have the ability to push limits,” Nevins said, once he grasped the idea that you can recycle decade old information in your Q&A at Press Tour.

On that same subject, another critic wondered if Nevins was worried the Professional Hand Wringers will start wringing about Showtime’s five-season-old Dexter, now that it’s “taking on Jesus.” The critic is referencing a “Dexter” trailer shown at the start of Nevins’ Q&A, and also shown at Comic Con, in which forensic specialists/serial killer Dexter appears to off a guy who’s some kind of evangelist and who admits he murdered his wife because divorce is expensive.

“He’s not taking on Jesus,” Nevins said, of “Dexter.”

“Jesus will not be on the show this year,” he joked.

But, this season, Dexter is confronting a really powerful story – questions of spirituality, of “what do I believe,” Nevins explained.


“Dexter” (Peter Iovino - SHOWTIME VIA AP)
“We take on the taboos. I think it’s a really compelling year.”

Is it good for your business to get the hand wringers up in arms, Nevins was asked.

“Maybe?” Nevins said. “It’s good business to push into taboo subjects. To be subversive, to be daring, to be a little bit scary and I think that’s what people love about those shows. Our shows aren’t for everybody. Nevins pointed to new Don Cheadle dramedy, “House of Lies” about a corporate management consulting firm which he said was “glossy but under the glossy fancy prettiness is really subversive.”

And, Nevins noted, new series “Homeland,” from “24” exec producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, “touches on some pretty dangerous themes.” It’s about a presumed-dead American soldier back from Iraq who is suspected by bi-polar CIA agent Claire Danes of having been “flipped.”

“That show is going to freak some people out.”

By  |  06:07 PM ET, 08/04/2011

 
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