HBO, Showtime Re-Up Hits; Starz Mulls ‘Spartacus’ Fate


Home Box Office and
Showtime sought to shore
up their 2011 programming
lineups last week by renewing
several highly-rated series,
while premium peer Starz was
deciding whether to go ahead
with its most popular series,
Spartacus, after the series’ star
left due to an illness.

HBO didn’t wait to renew its
freshman series Boardwalk Empire,
saying two days after the
Sept. 19 premiere it will bring
back the series about gangsters
and corruption in Prohibitionera
Atlantic City.

HBO said the Martin Scorsese-
directed pilot averaged 4.8
million viewers, the secondmost
watched start for an HBO
series behind Deadwood. That
Western-themed drama drew
5.8 million viewers when it premiered
in March 2004, according
to network officials.

With additional plays at 10:15
p.m. and 11:30 p.m., Boardwalk
was watched by a combined
7.1 million viewers on premiere

Bruce Miller, TV critic for
the Sioux City Journal, said he
wasn’t surprised by the early renewal,
which locks in the cast
as well as the show’s producers,
Terence Winter (The Sopranos)
and Scorsese. “When you have
those type of people involved in
the show, as well as the investment
in the set, it was a prudent
thing for HBO to do because it’s
going to have an audience no
matter what,” he said.

Showtime’s Monday-night
comedy lineup of veteran series
Weeds and freshman dramedy
The Big C both will be back
next year.

Weeds, starring Mary-Louise
Parker as a widowed housewife
involved in the marijuana-trafficking
business, will return for
a seventh season in 2011, Showtime
said. Its sixth-season debut
culled 6 million viewers per episode
across a number of platforms.

The Big C
, with Laura Linney
as a woman who decides
to shake up her status-quo existence
after being diagnosed
with terminal cancer, had the
most-watched series premiere
ever for Showtime, averaging
more than 6.5 million viewers.
Showtime said it ordered 13 new
episodes of Sony Pictures Television-
produced The Big C and at
least that many for Lionsgate’s

Starz is determining the next
course of action for drama
series Spartacus: Blood and
, after lead actor Andy
Whitfield bowed out of the
show’s second season after a
recurrence of cancer.

Whitfield was diagnosed
with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
in March while preparing
for the show’s second season,
which was slated to launch in
September 2011.

A network official would
not comment on the status of
a sophomore campaign for
Spartacus, which averaged more
than 6 million viewers across all
platforms during its run that began
last January.

Miller, of the Sioux City Journal,
said, “it’s the proverbial elephant
in the room — how do
you continue the series without
the main character there? They
either have to recast or put the
show on hiatus indefinitely.”

Starz had earlier disclosed
plans for a six-episode prequel,
which it still plans to air
in January 2011.