Showtime Expands Originals to Saturdays With Benedict Cumberbatch Drama

Showtime is expanding originals to Saturdays.

The Benedict Cumberbatch limited series Patrick Melrose will launch Saturday, May 12, at 9 p.m. ET/PT as the premium cable network plans to add scripted originals on the night that has typically been considered TV's dumping ground.  

"As the size of our programming slate continues to grow, it makes sense for Showtime to offer another night of premieres — allowing us the opportunity to eventize series like Patrick Melrose," president David Nevins said Friday in a statement announcing the news. "Offering original content on Saturdays not only enables us to fully service our subscribers with diverse offerings, it gives viewers enough time to enjoy them all. And a series with the ambition and quality of Patrick Melrose is the perfect place to start."

For the time being, Showtime will continue to air scripted originals on both Saturday and Sunday. Scripted drama Billions is slated to return on Sunday, March 25, with season two of I'm Dying Up Here set for Sunday, May 6, and The Affair on Sunday, June 17. The cabler previously aired events including championship fights on the night.

The move comes as the number of scripted originals is poised to top 520 this year and networks and streaming services alike are all struggling to cut through the cluttered landscape. While Sundays have become a destination for premium originals, Saturdays are largely a wide-open playing field after Starz moved its roster of originals to Sundays last year.

In addition to Billions, I'm Dying Up Here, The Affair and Patrick Melrose, Showtime's scripted roster includes Shameless, Homeland, The Chi, Ray Donovan and SMILF, as well as the upcoming Escape at Dannemora, Kidding, Your Honor, Purity and The President Is Missing. On the pilot side, the cabler has Don Cheadle comedy Ball Street and Kevin Bacon-Aldis Hodge drama City on a Hill in the works, with Lin Manuel-Miranda's The Kingkiller Chronicle among the high-profile projects in development.

Showtime becomes the latest outlet to experiment with a Saturday launchpad. Last year, CBS bowed Canadian drama Ransom on the night (with season two returning in the same slot); Lifetime has used Saturdays for original TV movies (including Beaches); OWN has aired comedy Love Thy Neighbor on the night; AMC aired drama The Son there; and HBO did the same with TV movies The Wizard of Lies and Paterno. Other high-profile scripted series to air in the slot include BBC America's Orphan Black and Dirk Gently and AMC's Turn and Halt and Catch Fire.

Showtime's move comes a year and a half after premium cable network Starz moved its slate of Saturday dramas to Sundays in a bid to become part of the prestige TV conversation. For its part, The CW announced last month that it is expanding to add a sixth night of originals on Sundays starting in October.

Patrick Melrose features Cumberbatch as a man struggling to overcome damage inflicted by an abusive father and the mother who condoned his behavior. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving also star in the drama. The series is a co-production between Showtime and Sky Atlantic.