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Nearing Five-Oh, Offsay Will Depart Showtime

3/23/2003 7:00 PM Eastern

Jerry Offsay, the architect for Showtime's original programming over the past decade, will step down as the premium's network president of programming at year-end.

Offsay's decision was long in the making. He told Showtime Networks Inc. chairman and CEO Matt Blank upon his hiring in 1994 that he wanted to step back by the time he was 50, a milestone he will hit in December.

Discussions with candidates would begin in the next couple of weeks, according to Blank. Offsay will work with his successor to effect an orderly transition.

Blank said the timing is good, as the 2003 schedule has been largely set.

"New series are on the air and others are in production. Pilot scripts have been ordered to make pilots," he said. "Decisions about the next round of pilot ordering will be left to the next person."

Offsay joined Showtime with a résumé bearing credits as president of RKO Pictures and executive vice president of ABC Productions.

At Showtime, he's earned a reputation for tackling controversial subjects and vastly increased Showtime's slate of original series and movies. Of the 300 films Offsay gave the green-light to over the past nine years, 69 have been nominated for Emmy Awards.

His personal highlights: the Governor's Award for Showtime's furthering diversity on TV via Soul Food, Resurrection Blvd.
and Queer as Folk; the Golden Globe for Dirty Pictures; casting seven Oscar nominees in 12 Angry Men; and such controversial fare as Bastard Out of Carolina, Lolita
and More Tales of the City.

He also singled out Thanks of a Grateful Nation, which he said prompted federal government acknowledgement of Gulf War Syndrome.

But while the Showtime series Queer as Folk, Soul Food
and The Chris Isaak Show
have developed solid followings, none has the buzz rival Home Box Office gets from The Sopranos
or Sex and the City.

Showtime is moving into the magazine and reality genres with Penn & Teller: Bullshit
and Family Business
. And its first scripted animation entry, Free for All,
is due in July. New scripted fare Dead Like Me,
Earthlings
and Out of Order
will premiere later. Offsay calls the last one, a limited series on a dysfunctional Hollywood marriage, "the best series I've worked on."

Immediate post-Showtime plans include settling down with "the 40 of the greatest 100 novels I haven't read." Beyond that, he'll make movies — probably some for Showtime.

"I think it would be impossible for me not to be involved," he said. "Matt and I will talk about some things."

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