TV Critics Tour: Showtime Supplements Series

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Just four days after signing a seven-year film output deal with The Weinstein Co., Showtime Networks underlined its commitment to series with a number of announcements at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

The premium network said that it has picked up Edie Falco’s nursing show, ordered two more seasons of Mary Louise Parker-starrer Weeds and is working toward a spinoff of lesbian-oriented The L Word, which will end its six-season run in 2009.

The three-time Emmy winner Falco will star in a single-camera, dark comedy, tentatively titled Nurse Jackie. Showtime, working with Lionsgate, has ordered a dozen installments of the half-hour show in which Falco will portray a strong-willed, New York City nurse juggling the grind of her job with a harried personal life. The series is slated to go into production in New York late this year, with an eye toward a spring/summer premiere.

“Nothing is more thrilling for us than bringing Edie Falco to Showtime in this unique, quirky, touching comedy/drama," said Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt in a statement.. "If you suddenly found yourself in the hospital and fighting through our health care system, you would want no one other than Edie Falco -- or Nurse Jackie -- by your side.  This show will illuminate the complex and often heroic people who devote their lives to healing the sick while simultaneously trying to make sense of their own complicated personal lives.”

In the Weeds garden, Parker’s pot-selling mom Nancy Botwin and Lionsgagte will get to plant 13-episode fifth and sixth seasons.

L Word creator Ilene Chaiken will develop the spinoff, involving one of the show’s characters, after production wraps on its sixth and final campaign. Showtime would not identify which series actress would star in the new show.

Elsewhere, Showtime ordered a 10-episode seventh season of Penn & Teller, making it the network’s longest-running program, and the six-installment, gun-themed documentary-style series Locked and Loaded, about a gun store in rural Colorado.

The network also has struck a deal for two more eight-episode seasons of British hooker comedy skein, Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

The spate of series news reinforces Showtime’s commitment to the form, which was a principle reason it said it elected not to renew its film output deals with Viacom-owned Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate, which are teaming on a new pay-TV channel of their own, headed by former Showtime exec Mark Greenberg. Showtime retains rights to those studios' films through 2011, the pay network has said.

With the above-mentioned series, as well as The Tudors and Dexter, plus the recently acquired Inside The NFL, Showtime officials have said the network would continue to invest more money in series as it goes forward.

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