Best In Show: With Women, Showtime Gives HBO A Run For Its Money

Yesterday, we expressed disappointment in HBO's male-dominated series lineup. But as several readers pointed out, there is a fast-growing alternative: Showtime. Maybe being the underdog has its virtues.

The channel has a solid track record of shows that not only feature complex, unconventional roles for women — among them, The L Word, Weeds, The United States Of Tara, Nurse Jackie — but often have a woman (or several) in charge behind the scenes. And taking a look at what Showtime has in the pipeline indicates that they don't intend to change that.

While still dwarfed by HBO in scale, resources, and prestige, Showtime had a very good 2009: Subscribers grew to 17.5 million (to HBO's nearly 40 million) the finale of Dexter gave them their all-time ratings high, and their shows won more acting awards than any other network. [Update: A Showtime rep cites Nielsen figures putting Showtime's subscribers at about 22 million and HBO's at 32 million; the original numbers came from Variety and HBO's corporate information.] One winner, Toni Collette, thanked Showtime executives "for having the balls to work on all of these amazing confronting shows." Her show, the Diablo Cody-created The United States Of Tara, has been renewed for a second season, as has Nurse Jackie, created by two women, Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem. (There is also British import Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.)

Showtime's longtime CEO, Matt Blank told The Daily News last year, "These women are some of the most exceptional talents on television right now," adding, "We are very aware of the opportunity that we have to do things differently than others in television and in film get to do...and we like to think we've really taking advantage of that opportunity."

So what's next? The Big C, the Laura Linney comedy about a cancer survivor — created by Darlene Hunt and guest starring Gabourey Sidibe — was recently
picked up
for a 13-episode run, and is expected to premiere this summer. An L Word spinoff didn't get picked up, but the show will return as a reality show sometime this year.

Showtime also ordered a pilot for Shameless, an adaptation of a BBC show about a blue-collar Chicago family held together by an 18-year-old daughter (Emmy Rossum). William H. Macy plays the alcoholic father, and Alison Janney plays his love interest.

Announced development projects include Mouthpiece, Seinfeld writer-comedian Carol Leifer's show starring Marlee Matlin and Mario Cantone. Lisa Kudrow is part of a team developing a show based on the memoir of a gay screenwriter growing up with conservative parents. Sunshine Cleaning screenwriter Megan Holley is adapting the movie into a series.

And after HBO passed on Women's Studies, guess where playwright Theresa Rebeck turned? She's writing a pilot for Showtime for a Steven Spielberg project about the making of a Broadway musical.

What, no youngish bros trying to make it in New York or LA? It's enough to make you forget about Californication.

'Nurse Jackie' Star Edie Falco, Mary-Louise Parker, More Strong Women Lift Showtime [NYDN]
Emmy Rossum, Allison Janney Set For Shameless On Showtime [EW]
Rebeck Goes Legit For Showtime [Variety]
L Word Is Now A Reality [Variety]
Showtime Picks Up 'The Big C' [Variety]
'Glee' Is Golden At The Globes [Variety]
Carol Leifer Sets Up A Pair Of Shows [The Wrap]

Earlier: Fine Bromances: Where Are HBO's Shows About Women?