Showtime popping pills with new drama pilots

Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:13am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Showtime became an unlikely supplier of strike content when CBS picked up the pay-cable network's acclaimed drama "Dexter" during the writers' walkout.

With the strike ending Tuesday, CBS will still forge ahead with edited episodes of the serial-killer saga -- even as its corporate sibling lines up its next round of pilots.

Showtime said Wednesday it has ordered a pilot for the pharmaceutical drama "Possible Side Effects," which Tim Robbins wrote and will direct; casting is set to begin shortly.

The project revolves around a family that runs a pharmacy company and the various hurdles it must navigate. Robert Greenblatt, Showtime's president of entertainment, compared it to HBO's undertaker series "Six Feet Under."

The network also has hired Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") to direct the pilot for "The United States of Tara," which stars Toni Collette and is based on an idea by Steven Spielberg. It was written by Oscar-nominated "Juno" scribe Diablo Cody. The half-hour project about a woman with multiple-personality disorder aims to shoot in the spring.

CBS is set to debut "Dexter" on Sunday. Many episodes will clock in at an unusually long 50 minutes, Greenblatt said, with only small trims made to the Michael C. Hall drama. The show was an easier fit for broadcast than some might have expected, Greenblatt added, because the series often cuts away without showing the full effects of a kill.

Sources also said CBS had informal discussions with Showtime during the strike about airing several other of the pay network's series, including "Weeds" and "The Tudors." With broadcast development soon to be returned to its normal pace, it's less likely CBS will dip into the Showtime well.

Showtime also has lined up its spring and summer schedule, setting "Tudors" as a lead-in for the new variety show "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union" on March 30, and packaging "Weeds" and the recent British acquisition "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" for June 16. Ullman's show was completed before the writers strike began on November 5, execs said.

But the David Duchovny comedy-drama "Californication" likely won't return until after the Summer Olympics in August, essentially making the show a fall series. The series about a misanthropic Hollywood writer debuted last year in mid-August.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Michael C Hall from Showtime's "Dexter" arrives at the 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 28, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>