Showtime Performs Surgery on Originals

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Showtime last week took steps to reshape its original series roster, greenlighting a pair of shows that will debut next year and sounding the final bell for Resurrection Boulevard.

Viacom Inc.'s pay service gave the go-ahead to 13 episodes of an untitled show, slated for a January premiere, from comedic magicians Penn & Teller that will debunk subjects like TV psychics and second-hand smoke.

The premium channel also okayed production on Earthlings
(working title), an exploration of Los Angeles's lesbian community. The series, set to bow next summer, includes a two-hour premiere, plus 13 episodes.

Meanwhile, Showtime cancelled Resurrection Blvd. after three seasons. The show received acclaim from both the Hollywood community and diversity proponents as it was the first series to not only include a largely Hispanic cast, but also had Latinos in production and behind-the-camera positions as well.

HBO news

Rival premium channel Home Box Office also made series news last week, announcing that it will begin shooting next year on Marriage, a co-production with Steven Bochco Productions, that will debut in 2004. The 13-episode series will be created, written and executive-produced by Alison Cross and Bochco, whose credits include NYPD Blue, L.A. Law
and Hill Street Blues.

Thirteen episodes have been ordered of the drama, which will examine a couple and their strong union, while looking at the tensions, conflicts and crises inherent to their relationship. Set in New York City, the series will be shot entirely from the perspective of the couple's bedroom, bathroom and a closet.

Bye-bye 'sex'

Meanwhile, there was some question about how much life is left in comedy Sex and The City
after cast member Cynthia Nixon (Miranda), speaking on a Fox News Channel morning show on Nov. 4, said the show's next season — its sixth — would be its last.

Production on the show might resume in February, after both Nixon, expecting her second child in December, and star Sarah Jessica Parker, who gave birth to a son last month, return from maternity leave. The series could return next summer.

An HBO spokesman said "no decision has been made on the future of the series."

Showtime's Penn & Teller series is currently in production, and will feature the duo, exposing frauds and fakes with their trademark humor, knowledge of carnival tricks and con-artistry, as well as through hidden cameras and confrontations. The show will also tackle big-money health scams, alien abductions, ghost stories, fake miracle-workers and fad religions.

Following the success of gay-themed Queer as Folk, Earthlings
marks Showtime's second alternative lifestyle skein. A co-production with MGM, the show
will feature an ensemble cast, including Jennifer Beals (Flashdance), Scott Bairstrow (Party Of Five), Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) and Mia Kirshner (24). The series will train on Kirshner's character as she attempts to choose between the straight and lesbian worlds.

Sources said Showtime was also close to ordering Dead Like Me, following a young woman on her job in the afterlife, and Out of Order, a story about the disintegrating marriage of a Hollywood screenwriting couple. The latter may air in a limited run format, according to sources.

Showtime is also expected to soon make the call on whether to renew freshman skeins Street Time
and Odyssey 5.

Network officials declined to comment about the status of those shows. Showtime previously gave the thumbs up for additional runs of Queer as Folk, The Chris Isaak Show, Jeremiah
and Soul Food.

Elsewhere, former Showtime series Stargate SG-1, which migrated to Sci Fi Channel earlier this year, received a seventh season pick-up from the basic-cable network. Sci Fi officials said the network ordered 22 episodes of series, expected to premiere next summer.

This past summer, the sixth season averaged a 1.8 household rating, topped by a network series-best 2.0 for the mid-season finale.

Shanks returns

Star and executive producer Richard Dean Anderson returns to both roles, Sci Fi and producer MGM Television said. Inside sources have said former cast member Michael Shanks is expected to return, after skipping the current season, but no official announcement had been made as of press time.

Sci Fi officials said production commenced last week on The Dream Team with Annabelle and Michael. The half-hour nightly series, scheduled to debut on Jan. 20, will be co-hosted by Annabelle Gurwitch (TBS Superstation's Dinner & A Movie) and Michael Lennox, who will interpret guests' dreams.

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