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Showtime Prez Reveals All Renewal Plans, ‘Masters of Sex’ and ‘Ray Donovan’ Details

Showtime’s David Nevins updates renewal prospects for all his series and new details on upcoming projects including Ron Howard's 'Conquest.'

David Nevins, president of entertainment for Showtime, spoke with the Television Critics Association for their network sessions today. He had a lot of updates about series renewals, and premiered the first clips from new series “Masters of Sex” and “Ray Donovan.”

“Episodes,” which has not been officially picked up, is expected to return for a third season. “We’re working on the details right now but I’m expecting ‘Episodes’ to come back,” Nevins said. “I think that show is irregular, as opposed to some of our other shows. That’s mostly a function of how David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik like to make that show. They like their shows to be handcrafted. They write them all themselves, edit them all themselves. We tend to be a little bit slower to get them on the air but my intention is to keep going.”

“Dexter” has been expected to wrap up in two more seasons, but midway through production on season seven, Nevins is leaving the door open a crack. “I think that’s the likely scenario, sort of what I’ve said before is likely two years, but I’m not making any announcement today and I think plans can always change. I think everything has gotten rewired this year in a very interesting way given that Deb has to deal with who her brother is. I can promise Dexter is going to be a game-changing year. Every scene, in my opinion, I just watched the fourth cut last night and it blew me away. Every scene is fraught because you’re wondering what is she going to do? What does he think she’s going to do? What does she think he thinks she’s going to do? They’re able to take both Deb and Dexter to new places. Everything changes so we’ll see where that carries us.”

That said, Nevins was not trying to usurp the producers’ plans for “Dexter.” “I’m not trying to change the tune. I think that is likely. I think that’s the current plan but I would be stupid if I didn’t leave the door open for someone to say, ‘I have an idea and I want to do it differently.’ I have a sense of this year and a strong sense of next year. I still think that’s likely. I’m just not making any announcements.”

Nevins took a similar tact with “The Borgias,” which is in its third season and Nevins expects to go through a fourth. “I’ll say going in [that] the original plan was four seasons. We’ve green lit season three. They’re shooting right now, the first two episodes, Neil [Jordan] is directing. I think that’s still the likely thing, three plus one more, but I haven’t ordered season four and who’s to say after four that we don’t try to do one more. We try to make these decisions about when to end series from a creative point of view, so the creators have a big say in that.”

“Homeland” is just getting started, and Nevins says its future is “Wide blue sky. I’m excited for season two but I believe we’re still on the upswing for ‘Homeland.’ I think they’ve made some very bold choices this year. By the end of the second episode, I think your [reaction will be] ‘Holy sh*t.’ By the third you understand what the trajectory of the season is going to be. We’re still opening the door on that one, not closing it.”

Because the nature of “Homeland” is dealing with the volatile world of terrorism, Nevins also hinted that no cast member is safe. Damian Lewis could have blown himself up last season if it were dramatically appropriate. Nevins is open to losing lead cast members to keep the world of “Homeland” realistic.

“It’s intertwined with storytelling. If you’re going to give your creators, especially a show like that which is contemporary and urgent, it’s today and it’s urgent and unexpected obviously, anybody could go at any time so absolutely. It’s always a possibility.”

Similarly, “Shameless” is still fresh. “‘Shameless’ is deep into season three. I think it’s got a long future. It’s a big hit.” Even “Gigolos” is promising for the network. “‘Gigolos’ continues and I don’t know what the future is. It’s amusing while it’s here.

“House of Lies” and “Nurse Jackie” remain strong contenders too. “I think both have rosy futures. ‘House of Lies’ is just getting started and I think ‘Nurse Jackie’ had a really strong renewal this year. Its ratings were up. There was renewed interest in the show from the audience and there’s new people coming, new blood. Clyde Phillips is coming in to run the show so we’ll see. We tend to make these decisions one season at a time.”

“Californication”’s future is uncertain. “‘Californication’ I’m honestly not sure. This year that is coming up I think is a great year for the show. It’s got a great combination of comedy and soulfulness. It’s got two great season-long guest characters. We’re going to see. I’m going to put it on the air. I haven’t seen any cuts but we’re going to decide.”

Perhaps abruptly, Nevins announced that “The Big C” would wrap up with a shortened fourth season of four one-hour episodes. Nevins said not to assume the series will end with Cathy Jamison dying of melanoma. “I wouldn’t assume anything as to how it’s going to end. We’ve been having a lot of really interesting creative conversations about how to do it.”

Nevins added that it was during the third season that he and the show’s producers decided “The Big C” was nearing the end of its story. “We were sort of working through the creative on the third season, sort of said what is the endgame, how are we going to get there? I think ‘Big C,’ like ‘Borgias,’ there’s a finite period for that character so you don’t want to go on forever.”

The third season finale for “The Big C” sets up a very different dynamic for the fourth and final season, even with a different cast lineup. “I think the ending was interesting. It sets us up very interestingly for what’s to come. When they made that choice to separate Cathy from her family, that’s what’s going to lead into the final season. [Creators] Jenny [Bicks and] Darlene [Hunt] and Laura [Linney] will be back. Everybody else, we’ll see. A lot of them will be back but those are the three we’re building around. It’ll be largely the same cast but I don’t want to say too much because there are some things they are doing that are going to be untraditional. They are going to mess a little bit with the format of the show. They’re going to do it in slightly different ways but I would expect most of the characters to be back.”

With new shows, “Masters of Sex” stars Michael Sheen as human sexuality doctor William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson, based on the book by Tom Maier.

“It’s serious stuff and you’ve got serious drama. Michael Sheen is a great dramatic actor. I wanted the clip to reflect that it’s going to be fun and have wit to it. The script has enormous wit but the fundamentals do come from the book and it will continue to feed. They have 20-plus years together so the stuff of Thomas Maier’s book will continue to feed the series for years to come.”

The clip shows liberal nudity and sexual situations, though mostly revealing of the woman. Nevins promised equal opportunity nudity. “Yes, only fair.”

In casting Sheen, Caplan and others, nudity was part of the deal. Some actors insisting on “no nudity” clauses could not be considered. “That ruled out some people. A show like that, the subject is human sexuality so you have to be willing, you have to be comfortable to do it.”

“Ray Donovan” is a hard-hitting crime drama starring Liev Schrieber, Eddie Marsan and Jon Voight. “Ray does the dirty work for the city’s top power players. He’s the guy they go to to make their problems disappear. It is also a disturbing family drama.”

The clip showed Ray helping to make some trouble disappear at a movie studio. “That shot you saw I think was shot at Paramount but it was really just the gate at Paramount. The truth is you’ll be able to traverse the town. It’s some Hollywood. It’s also a lot of things that have nothing to do with Hollywood, just L.A. It’s a really interesting portrayal of 2012 Los Angeles.”

Future Showtime projects like “Chew” and Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” are still in active development. Nevins is waiting on a new draft for “Dome” and is not out to casting yet.

Lastly, Nevins addressed Ron Howard’s the long-gestating Aztec project “Conquest.”

“It’s in the very early stages of development. On the one hand it’s been talked about for many years. On the other hand we don’t have a script yet. I think there’s a very interesting show to be done that has genre elements, has elements of supernatural and horror, really frightening gruesome stuff which is about the encounter between these two very different cultures. We’re in a pre-modern time where I think magic and mysticism is in the core of the belief system of the Spanish Catholics and the Aztecs. It’s very advanced civilization in a lot of ways, the Aztec civilization advanced mathematics and science but [was] also brutal and violent. It’s the kind of period show that no one has done. I’m always looking for something that feels like fresh territory. I hate talking about it because other people can get the idea but it’s loaded with potential.”