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Showtime chief: US and UK writing styles merging

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL TELEVISION FESTIVAL: Showtime president David Nevins told delegates here in Edinburgh that elements of the US- and UK-styles of scriptwriting were merging.

David NevinsAsked how he felt about the British ‘auteur’-style approach in comparison to the US writer rooms he pointed to the number of UK writers working on American television shows, and felt change was happening in Britain too.

“The American team system versus the British auteur system has become interesting,” he said. “There’s more team writing happening in the UK and more ‘alone’ writing in the US.”

Nevis said there were “a ton of British writers” on Showtime titles at the moment, noting two were currently working on espionage drama Homeland and more were attached to Sky coproduction Penny Dreadful.

His comments came in a US Gamechangers session at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which draws to a close today. Top executives from Discovery Channel, ABC, HBO and Showtime have all presented to the largely British audience, with the key message being there is increasing opportunity for collaboration between the US and UK scripted markets.

Nevis said Showtime was in particular interested in unlocking new comedies, with the CBS-owned network currently piloting LA stand-up comedy period piece I’m Dying Up Here and running shows such as Don Cheadle-fronted House of Lies and BBC coproduction Episodes.

“Over the years the defining shows for HBO and Showtime have been dramas, but there’s great cable comedy to be had and I intend to find it,” said Nevins. “There’s an opportunity there.”

HBO’s executive VP of programming, Michael Ellenberg, used his packed session to explain how the Time Warner-owned premium channel approaches programming. “The simple and boring but true answer is we’re looking for great things,” he said. “You’re looking for genres we haven’t been engaged in before.

“With [upcoming drama] Westworld, were we considering what sci-fi on HBO would look like? Absolutely. There are certain genres people have cracked and that’s catnip to us. The musical, for example; these things no-one has really gone for yet. We look for what’s not already on the air.”

Elsewhere in his session, Nevins also provided some detail about the upcoming Twin Peaks reboot, noting that he was only open to it happening if creators Mark Frost and David Lynch returned and if the latter would direct the entire piece.

“I feel like it’s satisfying,” he added. “If you’ve watched the first round it answers questions from the first one. It’s an incredible journey and ends with defintiveness.”

Nevins succeeds the long-serving Showtime CEO Matthew Blank next year.