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Poor Showtime: It looks like vampires are putting HBO back on top

by Jason Hughes, posted Jul 15th 2009 10:05AM
True BloodFor a while there, it looked like Showtime, with buzzworthy shows like Californication, Weeds and Dexter, was dominating headlines and getting all kinds of praise. In response, their ratings were rising. Meanwhile, HBO had struggled to replace The Sopranos, Deadwood and Rome when all three left the airwaves in 2006-07. New "big" shows like John From Cincinnati and Tell Me You Love Me failed to make waves with audiences.

Really, it was Dexter that started swinging the ship toward Showtime, and in so doing, brought attention to the rest of their lineup. With HBO floundering, Showtime saw an opportunity and took full advantage, offering bold new entries. Apparently there's an audience that looks almost exclusively for premium cable original programming. And everything was going so well ... until HBO managed to snag a piece of America's current fixation on vampires.

Opening to lukewarm reviews, True Blood is reaching ratings highs in its second season, elevating Entourage and new entry Hung with it. Suddenly nobody's talking about Dexter, still chugging along and still great. It's all about True Blood and Twilight. Vampire book series are sprouting up everywhere, and HBO is riding high again.

Even with Showtime's new series Nurse Jackie, which garnered record ratings for an original Showtime series. Unfortunately, what's record-breaking for Showtime is still only a fraction of what HBO is capable of when it's firing on all cylinders.

It's telling that Entourage's ratings this past week were the highest they'd been since May of 2007. The Sopranos wrapped its six season run the next month. It's as if once The Sopranos left the air, a lot of people abandoned HBO entirely. And now that there's another huge buzz show on the network, they're suddenly back. Fickle folk, television viewers. Hard to figure out, too.

When the vampire fixation fizzles, as all fads do, will True Blood wilt with it? And will people then abandon HBO entirely if it hasn't found a worthy replacement? How must that feel to know that your ratings success are dependent on the success of another show. That must be how those Thursday night bumper shows on NBC felt for all those years.

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True Blood is entertaining, but it isn't The Sopranos or Deadwood or Six Feet Under. I think it gets attention because the actors are good looking and there is a lot of curiosity about vampires. I like the show, but it isn't Alan Ball at his best. But as long as he's having fun, no harm done.

August 28 2009 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cress d

I love Entourage, but this season is a huge BORE! It is supposed to be a funny show. It seems Doug Ellin has forgotten that. I have laughed once or twice this season. HUNG on the other hand is very promising and is much funnier. And I can't wait til EASTBOUND AND DOWN returns. That is the funniest, crudest show I've seen in years.

August 03 2009 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They DID kill Rome. Read an interview with the creator (Bruno Heller)--he got his history right. Looks like they might be continuing it with a movie, though.

July 20 2009 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I'm not so sure Showtime didn't give "Brotherhood" a chance. They gave it three seasons. Its a lot more then what a network like NBC would have done.

July 15 2009 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

AKM--Agree with you 100%. That's the point where the wife and I decided to dump HBO for Showtime (after the Sopranos series finale). Deadwood was only meant for four seasons, and it was doing well, especially with DVD sales.

Midnight--my understanding with Rome was that it originally was meant to be a one-season show with the BBC, et al involved, but since it got excellent ratings, they tacked on a bonus second season. I wasn't under the impression there was meant to be a third (or second, for that matter) season when Rome was launched.

And the only reason Dexter or Californication aren't being talked about is because they aren't on, plain and simple. Pound for pound, Showtime is heads and shoulders better than what HBO has for their current lineup. It's a shame Showtime keeps getting screwed over when it comes to the awards season...

July 15 2009 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Holtz

You guys are the WORST editors, TV Squad... You said True Blood opened to "lukewarm ratings", but I recall this article where you cite that True Blood's ratings, during its first season, were rising faster than the Sporanos when it started. It's right here:


July 15 2009 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Generation Kill was spectacular and in my opinion one of the best shows on any channel at the time, but it was a seven part mini-series. I was never intended to go any longer than that because that was the end of the book. how can you compare it against failed series that were canceled like john from cincinnati. Generation kill was essentially a 7 hour movie, you really have to factor in dvd sales to figure out it's true value to HBO.

July 15 2009 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to have a lot of respect for Showtime. They held onto a series because it was a good series, not because it was the most buzzworthy of shows. Showtime still has some great shows that to me are better then HBO. Both neither networks are flawless. While I watch Showtime for "Dexter" and "Penn and Teller's BS, I can care less about "Weeds", or "Nurse Jackie", and they cancelled my favorite Showtime series "Brotherhood". HBO isn't perfect. They killed great shows like "Rome" and "Deadwood", I can care less about "Hung" or "Big Love".

July 15 2009 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to divineparasite's comment
chadwick hansford

They didn't kill Rome. It was a mini series and they nailed it. Check your history.

July 16 2009 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HBO is really on the right track here. They have marketed True Blood brilliantly over the last year. It has really caught on and HBO has become the place again to watch TV on Sundays. Entourage has come back strong and Hung seems to be basking in the glow of True Blood,thus opening it up to more viewers.

They have positioned themselves in great shape. They have Curb Your Enthusiasm coming back this fall. Big promotions will happen centering on the Seinfeld cast being reunited for Curb. They are also debuting the new comedy Bored To Death with Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson. (although I think they could use a strong 1 hour drama here)

The winter they will have the fourth season of the very strong Big Love and then Treme' from the makers of The Wire. True Blood next Summer, Game of Thrones sometime next year, the much anticipated partner to Band of Brothers, The Pacific mini series and hopefully Boardwalk Empire sometime in maybe the fall. That's a lot of good quality shows.

Showtime has sort of just sat back. They didn't pick up any new shows for the upcoming year and are banking on Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara. I think both shows are solid but not good enough to carry the network alongside Dexter. Thinking ahead, with The Tudors entering it's last season and Brotherhood done I think they could use another solid 1 hour drama or two.

July 15 2009 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tony's comment

Has Game of Thrones been confirmed for a full season? Last I heard it was only a pilot, but I hope they pull the trigger on it. It would be an epic series.

I can't wait for the first promo..."Winter is coming."

July 15 2009 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sean Prizzle

In my opinion, True Blood has really stepped it up this season but I would dump every show HBO has for another season of Brotherhood. I first season was inconsistent but good enough to hold my attention while the second season picked up steam. The third season to me could stand up to even the best season of the Sopranos (way more action, no crappy dream sequences, and they finally injected some much needed humor). I wonder what really happened behind the scenes that caused their untimely demise. RIP Brotherhood. I wish one of the other cable channels would have thrown you a lifeline but I'm sure you (as actors) are in a better place :)

July 17 2009 at 8:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe those assholes shouldn't have canceled Deadwood.

July 15 2009 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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