Executive Suite: David Nevins
Amid an all-time high in subscribers, Showtime’s president of entertainment wants more originals.
Like his predecessor at Showtime — Robert Greenblatt, who later took the top job at NBC — David Nevins has been a producer (Arrested Development, Parenthood) and has worked at both a studio (Imagine Television) and broadcast networks (Fox, NBC). Based in the L.A. office of CBS Corp.-owned Showtime, the married father of three young children (wife Andrea Blaugrund is a documentary filmmaker) has set a mandate of “no fallow periods” lacking original series. For starters, the pay service, which recently hit an all-time high of 19 million subscribers, comes out swinging Jan. 9 with two new series — Shameless and Episodes — and April brings The Borgias, a Renaissance drama starring Jeremy Irons. “Producing taught me to hustle,” says Nevins, 44. “You can’t just sit around waiting for the universe to provide.”
The Hollywood Reporter: You said renewing Dexter for a sixth season was the “easiest decision” you’ve made at Showtime. What's been the hardest?
David Nevins: To be honest, I haven’t made any really hard decisions — yet. We’re in a place where the stuff we have on the air is really working well, so I don’t have to make those hard decisions on arrival. I definitely think it’s time for us to expand the kinds of shows we’re doing. We’ve been playing in a slightly smaller box, and now we can get bigger.
THR: What defines a Showtime show?
Nevins: I don’t want to have a single defining idea. What’s interesting is the diversity. Homeland — a pilot starring Claire Danes — is a psychological thriller, which is a genre that we haven’t really done. I want shows that reflect the culture. House of Lies — a pilot about management consultants starring Don Cheadle — deals in a subversive way with all of the stuff that has gone wrong in business and finance that created the situation that this country is now in.
THR: Is Episodes Showtime’s Entourage?
Nevins: The thing that makes Episodes more universal than just an inside-Hollywood show is that it comes with an I-hate-L.A. point of view, which I think the rest of the country always relates to. You’ve got these two jaded Brits coming in with all of their assumptions about Hollywood, and then watch the slow but inevitable process of them getting seduced by the place.
THR: Shameless stars William H. Macy as an alcoholic single parent. Are you ready for the finger-wagging?
Nevins: Shameless is a ballsy show. Some will say, “How dare they put this on television?” It happens to be a show that I absolutely love. I expect it to get some really great, fawning reviews and some what-the-hell-is-it reviews. I like doing shows like that.
THR: What are you like as a manager?
Nevins: I'm fairly intense. I like executives with strong opinions who can operate with independence and creativity. My old boss Don Ohlmeyer [at NBC] used to call the old style of network exec who would sit back and say yes or no as pitches or ideas were offered up “the diving judges.” That won't cut it at all in a universe where everyone and his brother has a network that wants to do original programming.
THR: How many original series would you like to see on Showtime?
Nevins: In the history of Showtime, there’s always been a period when we didn’t have our “A” stuff on the air. So a big priority in 2011 is to have two and three, and some weeks four, of our really big series on the air 52 weeks a year. We’re asking subscribers to write big checks every month, so we better have good stuff on.
NEVINS' 5 FAVORITE NON-SHOWTIME SHOWS
Phineas & Ferb (Disney Channel)
“I have three kids between 5 and 10. This is the show they watch that I actually really love.”
Project Runway (Lifetime)
“Go figure; I have little intrinsic interest in dress design, but I think it captures creativity on TV better than anything I’ve ever seen.”
Mad Men (AMC)
“I still watch it religiously.”
30 for 30 (ESPN)
“My favorite was The Two Escobars, about Pablo Escobar the drug lord and Andres Escobar, the Colombian soccer star who was murdered.”
The Sopranos (HBO)
“I still think it’s the greatest show of all time. I can compliment my competition.”