Last night’s series finale of Showtime‘s Weeds delivered a season high, averaging 864,000 viewers at 10 PM and 1.28 million viewers for the night. It was up 7% from the Season 8 premiere (805,000) in July and 55% compared with the Season 7 finale (vs. 556,000) last September. Finale night vs. finale night, the series closer was up 74% from last year. Weeds, whose last episode couldn’t match its series highs from earlier in its run, is a heavily DVR-ed show. Its final eighth season currently averages 3.2 million total viewers across platforms, on par with Season 7.
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
At today’s TCA panel on Weeds, creator-executive producer Jenji Kohan and cast members (Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk) were unwilling to reveal any details about how the show’s final season will unfold.
Kohan did say there’s an advantage to knowing this is the show’s final season: “We knew it would be the end just before the season started,” she said. “I was very sad about that, it’s been great. It’s hard to let go of a good thing.”
Added Kohan, “Once we got the news, I thought, oh shit, so many times we’ve written our (season) ending not knowing what is coming next.” This time, she said the finale will not end with a cliffhanger and that “ultimately, it’s a show about family.”
Beginning today, HBO is making the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s new drama The Newsroom, which premiered on the pay cable network last night, available free to any viewers — including non-subscribers. It is going live on HBO.com, YouTube, DailyMotion, TV.com and multiple distributors’ free On Demand platforms. The episode will also be available as a free podcast on iTunes during the sampling period. FYI, ratings for the Newsroom premiere will be available in about an hour. (UPDATE: The ratings are in: the series debut attracted 2.1 million viewers in its first airing and 2.7 million overall.)
Meanwhile, Showtime is putting the final-season premiere of Weeds and the second-season opener of Episodes on Facebook one week before their July 1 debut on the network. To boost sampling of the Matt Leblanc comedy Episodes, those who watch the show’s Season 2 premiere will be able to “unlock” the first episode of Weeds‘ eighth season. The Episodes opener also will be available on other platforms.
UPDATED: We’ve been referring to the upcoming eighth season as “likely” the show’s last ever since the show’s renewal last November. Now likely has become definitely. Showtime has confirmed that Weeds will end its run after this summer’s eighth season. “Weeds has been a seminal series for Showtime and was key in establishing the network as a home for great original programming,” said Showtime’s entertainment president David Nevins. “It was very important to us that we bring the story of Nancy Botwin and her family to a satisfying conclusion for the devoted fans who have spent years following these characters.” The final 13 episodes of Weeds, which will begin airing July 1, will include the series’ 100th episode, a rare feat for a pay cable network show.
Many key Weeds players have moved on. Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon this spring only made deals for one last season on Weeds after landing broadcast pilot leads in first position. Kirk’s project, Animal Hospital, was picked up to series at NBC to launch this fall. Weeds creator Jenji Kohan too has a new series in the works at Netflix, Orange Is The New Black. Weeds, starring Mary-Louise Parker, helped put Showtime on the map. The network has plenty of half-hour building blocks at its disposal for the next year. Since picking up the show for Season 8, Showtime has renewed several comedy series – Californication, House Of Lies and Nurse Jackie – with a decision on …
The premium cable network announced today that the Season 8 premiere of Weeds and the second-season bow of Episodes are set for Sunday, July 1. Weeds will feature 13 half-hour episodes and is in the 10 PM slot, while Episodes, starring current Golden Globe winner Matt LeBlanc, shot nine half-hour episodes and will follow at 10:30.
EXCLUSIVE: Another key Weeds player is set to return for the series’ upcoming eight and likely final season. I’ve learned that Justin Kirk has closed a deal for Season 8 of the dark Showtime comedy. He joins the series’ star Mary-Louise Parker, who was signed before Weeds was renewed for Season 8 in November, and Kevin Nealon, who recently finalized his deal to return for one last season. Both Kirk and Nealon have broadcast pilots — Kirk plays the lead of NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot Animal Kingdom, Nealon co-stars on another NBC comedy pilot, Isabel, with the new projects in first position to Weeds. It appears that everyone on the Jenji Kohan’s show is moving on (Kohan herself has a new series for Netflix), but not before one final hurrah with Season 8. Kirk, who was among the sought-after actors this pilot season with multiple offers, has recurred on ABC’s Modern Family. The actor, repped by UTA and Management 360, co-stars in the movie Goats, which premiered at Sundance.
After lengthy negotiations with Lionsgate, Showtime has closed a deal for an eighth season of comedy Weeds. Production on the 13-episode eighth season will start next year for a 2012 launch. Weeds, created by Jenji Kohan, is the longest-running series on Showtime and the most watched comedy. It stars Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban widow-turned- full-fledged marijuana queenpin. Justin Kirk, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould and Kevin Nealon co-star.
The film and TV company had a net loss of $24.6M, an improvement from its $29.7M loss in the quarter last year, on revenues of $358.1M, down 21.5%. That revenue figure was far below the $421.5M that analysts expected. And the net loss, at 18 cents a share, was below the 13 cent loss the Street had forecast. The bottom line could have looked even worse: Lionsgate included the $11.0M it collected from its sale of Maple Pictures. The company also was able to add $6.1M from its 31.2% stake in EPIX vs a $19.8M loss from last year’s quarter. Lionsgate says that it suffered from “underperformance of theatrical films in the quarter” — where releases included the Conan The Barbarian remake, Warrior, and Abduction – as well as “timing of DVD releases which offset gains in the Company’s television and digital businesses.” The movie operation generated $218.9M in revenues, down 36%.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate wants to unload TVGuide.com and, even more importantly, is at least considering an ownership change at TV Guide Network, which has been ordered to balance its books in anticipation of a potential sale. We hear that the studio has begun to interview investment bankers who can quietly sell the consumer website which, like the cable channel, is a 50-50 joint venture with JP Morgan Chase’s global private equity investment arm One Equity Partners. The website is thought to be worth anywhere from $50M to $100M. Lionsgate is intent on shedding what it considers to be non-core assets (just like Lionsgate recently sold its stake in Maple Pictures). TV Guide Network’s owners just secured long-term carriage agreements with the major cable operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Charter, further increasing its value. But putting a dollar figure on the TV Guide Network suggests that Lionsgate and One Equity Partners want to at least begin a discussion that could lead to one of the partners buying the other out.
Lionsgate would seem to be the more likely buyer if things go that far: It has said that it wants to build its presence in TV channels; it also owns major stakes in Epix, FearNet, and Asia’s Tiger Gate. ”They’ve made it clear that they have a TV channel strategy,” says Hudson Square Research’s Marla Backer. Lionsgate paid $241.6M for the TV Guide website and network in February 2009. Three months later, One Equity Partners teamed up with investor and producer Allen Shapiro and paid $122.4M for half of the combined operation. Shapiro is chairman of TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com and is now taking on leadership of the network’s programming. (He initially was buying TV Guide from Macrovision until Lionsgate swooped in at the last minute. Ultimately, Shapiro secured a sizeable chunk of it.)
Pablo Schreiber has joined the cast of CBS’ new drama A Gifted Man as a series regular. He plays Anton, a shaman and New Age spiritual healer to Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson). Schreiber was a guest star in the Jonathan Demme-directed pilot and is now being upped to regular. Schreiber, repped by ICM and D/F Management, is currently filming a five-episode arc on Weeds and also stars in the upcoming feature Recalled.
Stephen Root has been cast as a new regular in the FX drama pilot Outlaw Country, which is undergoing tweaking and some reshoots directed by Adam Arkin. The crime thriller/family drama, set against the backdrop of Southern organized crime and Nashville royalty, stars Luke Grimes as twentysomething Eli Larkin, who tries to leave a life of crime; John Hawkes as Eli’s uncle Tarzen Larkin, a big-time player in the Southern crime world; Haley Bennett as a country singer; and Mary Steenburgen as her overprotective mother. Root, repped by Gersh and Grillstein, will play Jack Folcum, a shrewd businessman gangster associate and rival of Tarzen’s.
Competition for Emmy nominations among this year’s Outstanding Comedy Series contestants is no laughing matter. The showdown between two 20th Century TV hits is more intense than ever, with Modern Family showrunners Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd trying to score their second consecutive Emmy win, while Glee executive producer Ryan Murphy is hoping to edge them out. That is, if one or more of a duo of up-and-comers — Community or Parks and Recreation — don’t act as spoilers. Then again, past Emmy stalwarts 30 Rock or The Office could resurface. Or Showtime’s bold, female-skewing dramedies Nurse Jackie or newbie The Big C might seize the spotlight. And don’t rule out the possibility of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory finally scoring a nod in its fourth season, or How I Met Your Mother receiving recognition in its sixth. And then there are the underdogs. As The Middle’s co-showrunner Eileen Heisler (with DeAnn Heline) says about ABC’s Wednesday night lineup, “We’re really grateful to Modern Family for bringing attention to family shows. We’ve benefi tted from their success, but I think it takes a little longer for people to realize the next door neighbor in The Middle is edgy and wry.”
If Modern Family does repeat, no ABC sitcom has managed that feat since Taxi more than 30 years ago. Of course, NBC’s won three years running. And Frasier took home a record five in succession between 1994 and 1998. So it can be done. But that doesn’t mean Modern Family’s Christopher Lloyd thinks it’s a shoo-in. “Among certain segments of the blogosphere who first anointed the show that everybody is supposed to be watching, there’s another rush to declare that it stinks now. And then there will be others who’ll want to say ‘I told you so’ when it wins again.”
There’s general agreement it would take a miracle for any freshman broadcast network comedy to crash this year’s top comedy series’ Emmy party, with the possible exception of Fox’s Raising Hope. Though there’s a sliver of daylight for a newbie cable show like The Big C, despite the fact it’s a dramedy. Cable continues to make inroads in the comedy series categories, evidenced by Showtime’s Nurse Jackie capturing eight Emmy nominations last year, including one for top comedy; with Showtime’s Weeds as well as HBO’s Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm landing series nods in recent years. This year, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland has Emmy buzz. But only one cable comedy has ever won: HBO’s Sex and the City in 2001.
Here’s our assessment of the chances for this year’s comedy series in alphabetical order:
Although the NBC hitcom’s three-year winning streak ended last year (done in by ABC’s freshman breakout, Modern Family), it remains an industry darling — with good reason. While not as consistent as its earlier seasons, its comedy quality never seems to wane. So, without ever actually going away, it could be primed for a comeback. But the show, which celebrated its 100th episode this season, may also be mistakenly placed in the “been there, done that” category, even with red-hot writer/producer/actress/author Tina Fey at the helm (the recent Tracy Morgan scandal notwithstanding). But if the Academy revisits NBC’s quirky workplace comedies, they just might opt for the newer Parks and Recreation or Community.
THE BIG BANG THEORY
As popular as this CBS smash is, it has yet to be Emmy nominated despite originality in its scripts and ensemble. Kudos to the producers for broadening the cast this season and stepping up the romance for Mayim Bialik’s and Melissa Rauch’s roles, especially after Jim Parsons was acknowledged as last year’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series winner for nerd-chic hilarity. If you’re going to vote for a Chuck Lorre show this year, this one’s decidedly less baggage-laden than Two and a Half Men, which lost its Sheen.
THE BIG C
With lead Laura Linney considered a shoo-in for an Emmy nod, a side effect is that her show’s chances of breaking into the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy race likely increases as well. Question is, did they increase enough? Is the TV Academy ready to honor a dark comedy centering on a woman’s battle with cancer? Perhaps it’s time. If so, there could be two Showtime noms in this category for the first time, assuming Nurse Jackie repeats. Says showrunner Jenny Bicks, “It’s not going to be an easy fight for us.”
Forever floating on the renewal bubble (it will live on for a fifth and final short season of 13 episodes next season), Chuck has a well-earned reputation as The Little Show that Could. But, plucky as it is, the unlikely spy yarn remains a significant Emmy long-shot. Besides, NBC already has a couple of potential sleeper contenders at the ready in Parks and Recreation and Community.
What is arguably NBC’s most innovative comedy shoots high creatively but has yet to land commensurate ratings. Critics, however, have been quick to sing the show’s praises, perhaps loudly enough to help get it noticed by Emmy voters. Remember when Fox’s Arrested Development used critical praise to trump low viewership? Showrunner Dan Harmon likens Community’s comedy to “Krispy Kreme — we just have to get it into people’s mouths.” Or, in the case of Academy voters, into their DVD players.
In its second season, the wine-soaked “Friends for grownups” really came into its own as an ensemble comedy rather than just a Courteney Cox vehicle. And it’s even poking fun at the icky title that long ago ceased to have anything to do with the series premise. Nonetheless, it’s probably not ABC’s Wednesday night show with the most heat in this comedy category because of Modern Family.
EASTBOUND & DOWN
This back-to-fi rst-base comedy about a washed-up baseball player enjoys the prestige of HBO and the marquee value of Will Ferrell as a producer. But it’s perhaps too raunchy for older TV Academy voters. Given that producer-star Danny McBride says this forthcoming third season will be its last, Eastbound & Down likely will strike out Emmy-wise.
After landing nominations in the top comedy category for three years running, HBO’s Hollywood insider send-up didn’t make the cut the last go-round. If shut out again, it’s because Academy voters have moved on from an aging series that returns for its shortened eighth and final season on July 24th. It didn’t help when news leaked out in May that HBO pulled it from broadcast syndication by Warner Bros Domestic TV.
If the television industry’s insiders love anything more than laughing, it’s laughing at itself (see 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm). And there’s been buzz about how this Showtime Brits-out-of-water comedy reinvented Matt LeBlanc. But, even if he might, the series probably doesn’t have a high enough profile yet to garner an Emmy nod.
In 2009, the Fox show that wouldn’t die became the first animated series in nearly half a century to win an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series. But it was shut out the very next year. So expect the next TV Academy recognition for Family Guy around 2060. One question mark is whether the toon’s unique in-your-face way of campaigning for Emmy helps or hurts to sway voters. Then again, this is the comedy series category.
Showtime has set premiere dates for returning series Weeds, The Big C, The Real L Word and Secret Diary of a Call Girl and newcomers Gigolos and Web Therapy:
SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL (Final Season)
Premiere: April 7th at 10:30 PM, 8 Episodes
Premiere: April 7th at 11 PM, 8 Episodes
THE REAL L WORD (Season 2)
Premiere: Sunday, June 5th at 10 PM, 9 Episodes
WEEDS (Season 7)
Premiere: Monday, June 27th at 10 PM, 13 Episodes
THE BIG C (Season 2)
Premiere: Monday, June 27th at 10:30 PM, 13 Episodes
Premiere: July 19th at 11 PM, 10 Episodes