Showtime’s Boss Talks About the Twin Peaks Avalanche

David Nevins on the troubled reboot, HBO Now and new comedy Happyish

When David Nevins arrived at Showtime in 2010, the premium cable network was searching for the next generation of shows to replace fading stalwarts Dexter and Weeds. The network's president, former head of Imagine Television, has done that and much more, taking the net to 22.8 million subscribers and launching a host of acclaimed series like Homeland, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. Now, Nevins believes he's found Showtime's next great property in Happyish, a comedy debuting April 26 that stars Steve Coogan as a disillusioned advertising executive.

Nevins talked about forthcoming moves—including the launch of a streaming service—as well as his efforts to salvage Showtime's much-anticipated revival of Twin Peaks, which was thrown into disarray after David Lynch's surprise April 5 announcement that he would not be directing the series as planned.

Where do things stand with Twin Peaks?
We're in the middle of it. I can't say too much.

It sounds like you're still holding out hope that Lynch's departure isn't definitive.
It's either a negotiation, or he's had cold feet. But I am hopeful.

So at this point, you're waiting to figure out what's going on with David before you decide anything else about the future of Twin Peaks?
Correct.

HBO Now launched last week, right before the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Is it safe to say we'll see Showtime's stand-alone streaming service by the time Homeland returns in the fall?
Yeah. The next two pegs are Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex in the summer, and then Homeland and The Affair in the fall. It's safe to say it's going to be one or the other.

It seems like this will open Showtime up to a whole new audience, particularly millennials.
Right. And we don't know exactly how big. We do know that there's maybe 12 million homes that have high-speed Internet, who are not subscribers to any video packages. And there's another, say, 75 million homes that have video packages but don't subscribe to Showtime. So we feel like there's definitely opportunities in new distribution.

What's so special about Happyish, and why did you stick with the show after original star Philip Seymour Hoffman's death?
I've stayed with it for a long time because good comedies don't grow on trees, and I loved the first script and then I loved the second script, and then the third one was better, and the fourth one was better than that. It has relatability, which a lot of premium shows don't have, since we tend to deal more on the margins.

How did you convince Keebler to approve the R-rated use of the Keebler Elves in the first episode?
We didn't. It's First Amendment protected. It's not a Keebler endorsement. The show is all about satirizing the ad world, so it makes ample use of brands throughout. That's one of the things you can do in premium.

The latest SNL Kagan research indicates that Starz squeaked past you to become No. 2 in premium subscribers.
I would actually expect that to shift back within the next couple of months. We're back on a good path with Time Warner [Cable].

What sets you apart from the other premium networks?
Our biggest calling card is breadth and depth of our original series. Last year, eight of our nine shows were Emmy-nominated. So it's not all concentrated on one or two shows.

Your predecessor, Robert Greenblatt, left to run NBC. Would you ever be interested in a broadcast job?
Those are still appealing jobs, and a lot of people would want them. Personally, I made that decision a long time ago to turn down those opportunities. I almost made the mistake of turning down this opportunity because I loved being a producer, but then I thought better of it. But long ago, I decided: broadcast, not so much for me.