Showtime's David Nevins Eyes Live Colbert Election Special, Talks 'Twin Peaks' and 'Roadies'

"The thought is, do a live special ... Colbert unfettered."
Eric Charbonneau/SHOWTIME
David Nevins

Showtime Networks CEO David Nevins had the distinct honor Thursday of closing out the 2016 Television Critics Association's summer press tour, meeting with reporters on the 16th afternoon of the marathon conference. "It's a plum spot," he joked before announcing a wave of news including a live Election Night special with Stephen Colbert.

Recent visits to TCA have seen Nevins touting plans for a more year-round schedule and premiering shows one at a time and not in pairs, but there have been a few roadblocks to that plan. Comedies House of Lies and Episodes and drama Penny Dreadful all recently announced their 2016 seasons would be their last, and network flagship Homeland was delayed from its typical fall premiere to Jan. 15, 2017 (this year will pass without a single new episode from the Emmy winner).

It was likely with this in mind that Nevins front-loaded his presentation with talk of future projects, showing a trailer for comedy I'm Dying Up Here, teasing much-hyped Daniel Craig starrer Purity, announcing pilots for Saturday Night Live castoffs Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah and assuring the crowd that 2017 will finally bring the long-awaited Twin Peaks revival. The seventh and eighth seasons of Homeland also were finally confirmed, after Nevins essentially announced them in June

There also is the matter of Roadies. Showtime's biggest swing of late, with filmmakers Cameron Crowe and J.J. Abrams producing, has underperformed with critics and viewers alike. The most recent episode of the show saw its original telecast nab only 465,000 viewers in live-plus-three-day returns, though Showtime admittedly draws its biggest stats from gross views across encores and platforms.

Joined by programming president Gary Levine for the Q&A, Nevins addressed these matters and more. 

Stephen Colbert Is Likely Coming to Showtime on Election Night
Already home to election documentary The Circus, which Nevins called a groundbreaking effort in terms of turning around its content on a weekly deadline, the exec is eyeing more election-themed material. "We're working very hard to do a live election-night comedy special with Stephen Colbert," he said. "Stephen wants to do it, the studio wants to do it. The thought is, do a live special, Colbert unfettered. He promised me he'll say a couple of curse words, which is important. We're figuring it out. It's something we've been trying to get him to do for a while." Working in Showtime's favor is the fact that Colbert has the night off from his CBS late-night show, which shares parent company CBS Inc. "It will be interesting to see what Colbert does with no commercial breaks, no language restriction," Nevins told The Hollywood Reporter after his Q&A, adding that it will likely air at 10 p.m. and be taped in Colbert's Ed Sullivan studio. "He's kind of excited about it."

Twin Peaks Is Coming In the First Half of 2017
Nearly two years after it was announced, David Lynch and Mark Frost have completed photography on Twin Peaks. For proof, Nevins offered a behind-the-scenes reel with interviews with some of the sprawling cast. Still up in the air? An official premiere date. "We don't even know how many episodes there will be," he said, laughing, with Levine adding that it's a "fluid process." Lynch is currently determining that in the editing room, as the project was filmed as a movie. And, unfortunately for fans of the long-dead show, the clip screened is not going online. As for how much of the episodes executives have seen, Nevins noted they have seen footage and are about to begin seeing cuts. Following his 30-minute session, the executive told a small group of reporters that everything about Twin Peaks' release plan will be "unconventional." "Unconventional in the handling of it and how we put it out in the world and how we market it," Nevins said while shooting down the notion of releasing all the episodes at once. "I think it is quite possible we're not going to do a traditional release pattern. I've had a couple conversations with David. But I want to embrace the unexpectedness of it, so I could definitely see longer episodes or in terms of this question of how do we release it linearly and how do we release it for people who want to stream it — maybe there's something different between the two."

Maybe Blame Showtime for Those SNL Firings
Among Showtime's TCA announcements on Thursday was news that Killam would star in Jason Katims' comedy pilot Mating and Pharoah would topline Jamie Foxx entry White Famous — though it isn't totally Showtime's fault that the duo aren't returning to the NBC sketch show in the fall. "Our conversations have been with the actors, individually, over the last several months," Nevins said, when asked if he negotiated use of Killam and Pharoah with Lorne Michaels. He added that both men were planning to stay on SNL for one more year. "We were prepared to work around their SNL schedules," said Nevins. "Our schedule ended up being easier when they got released from the show." 

 
Roadies Is in a Holding Pattern
Pressed for details about the critical response to Crowe's music drama Roadies, Nevins stood by the show's creative. "I think it's going according to vision," he said, noting the drama marks a departure in tone for Showtime. "It obviously hasn't caught on big and we're still evaluating its future." The executive said that he is proud of the music the series has delivered and and the show's "warm ensemble" feel. As for a decision on the future of Roadies, expect that at the end of its run.

Homeland Could Live Beyond Season 8
Nevins confirmed that Homeland has indeed been renewed for seasons seven and eight, but that doesn't necessarily mean the end of the Claire Danes drama. "This show is broken year by year … I don't think [showrunner] Alex [Gansa] would say he's broken the next three [seasons in terms of story]. It's Alex saying, 'I'm comfortable doing two more after this,'" Nevins said. "We'll see what he wants and whether we keep going or not."

Getting His Digs in
Nevins used his spot on the final executive panel of the press tour to get in a few digs at the competition, including FX boss John Landgraf and Starz topper Chris Albrecht. "The only people who complain about too much TV are burned-out TV executives," he said in his opening remarks, just days after Landgraf fronted a data-driven presentation that predicted the so-called "Peak TV" era will top 500 scripted originals by 2018. In taking a shot at Starz, Nevins stressed that Showtime is the No. 2 premium cable service in terms of both subscribers and profitability. "And any other statements are simply untrue," he said, adding that his numbers are on the rise.

Speaking of Peak TV ... 
Given the rising number of scripted originals, Nevins noted that he does see Showtime continuing to up its total series. "The ecosystem of premium TV is really strong," he said, stressing cabler's careful — and often slow — development process. "We are sort of gradually expanding it in a hand-crafted way of going about it. We still believe in developing scripts and casting them carefully. It takes a while." The executive declared that Showtime has a "pretty robust offering" that also includes stand-up comedy specials, sports programming and documentaries on top of its scripted originals.
 
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