More 'Huff’ In a Hurry

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In an unprecedented move for the network, Showtime surprised the cast of Huff last Wednesday by announcing it had ordered a second season of the dramedy series before it ever hit the air.

The series, starring Hank Azaria (Tuesdays with Morrie) as a psychiatrist who calls his career into question after the suicide of a patient, is scheduled to premiere Nov. 7.

Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt told pundits assembled at the Television Critics Association summer press tour here that the decision had just been made. After viewing the first five hours of the show, executives said, its quality led them to make the call for a 13-episode second season.

Cast members seemed stunned, then broke out laughing when series regular Paget Brewster, a veteran of several failed series, shouted out, “I’m no longer a show killer!”

Showtime also announced the renewals of the Emmy-nominated Penn & Teller: Bullshit! and the late-night series Family Business.

Greenblatt also told the critics that Showtime has contracted with writer/director John Ridley to develop a single-camera, half-hour comedy series based on the Barbershop film franchise. Showtime also bought a pitch by actress Kirstie Alley, a semi-autobiographical comedy called Fat Actress.

Six other pilots are in development: Weeds, with Emmy-nominated Mary Louise Parker as a suburban housewife, who sells pot to make ends meet; Hate, about the New York Police’s hate crimes unit; The Cell, which depicts the activities of an undercover officer in a domestic terrorist cell; an untitled drama by director Phillip Noyce, (Rabbit Proof Fence); Pryor Offenses, starring comic Eddie Griffin in a series based on the life of comic Richard Pryor.

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