TCA press tour: A ‘Dexter’ spinoff? Showtime says maybe

A “Dexter” spinoff? Josh Hartnett as an American abroad? Philip Seymour Hoffman as a sap? Showtime sure is keeping busy.

The network made a series of announcements Tuesday during its portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. Among them, hints of a “Dexter” spinoff. Though Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins would not confirm anything just yet, the network has inked a two-year overall deal with “Dexter” executive producer Scott Buck -- which prompted Nevins to tease, “draw your own conclusions.”

While folks wait for that project to be written in blood, Showtime is moving forward with other projects in the pipeline.

The network is closer to presenting viewers with a different kind of American horror story by casting two leads in an upcoming drama. Hartnett (“Pearl Harbor”) and Eva Green (“Casino Royale”) will star in “Penny Dreadful” -- which Nevins promised will “scare the ... out of people.”

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The psychological thriller centers on a “charming American [Harnett] who finds himself trapped in the darkest corners of Victorian London, while Green will play Vanessa Ives, a seductive and formidable beauty full of secrets and danger.” The eight-episode first season will begin production in the fall, with a rollout next year.

The series is created, written and executive produced by John Logan (“The Aviator,” “Gladiator”); with Oscar winner Sam Mendes also among its executive produceers. Juan Antonio Bayona, well-versed in directing scare-fests from his work on “The Orphanage,” will direct the first two episodes.

Taking care of the funny is an Oscar-winning dramatic actor: Hoffman. The actor will star in and executive produce the network’s comedy pilot “Trending Down.” The half-hour is billed as a “blistering attack on our youth-obsessed culture, and a darkly comic examination of what it means to matter. Or matter not.” Hoffman will star as Thom Payne, a man whose purpose is threatened after his advertising agency is taken over. He’ll star opposite Kathryn Hahn (“Revolutionary Road”).

The series is created, written and executive produced by author and “This American Life” contributor Shalom Auslander.

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“We are taking a markedly unconventional approach to process and content – a cross between the BBC series model and a theater workshop. And a meth lab,” said Auslander in a statement. “I wasn’t particularly interested in doing TV, and fortunately, neither was Phil. When Showtime said they weren’t either, we knew we had something. We don’t know what that is, but at least we know what it isn’t.”

The pilot is set to begin filming on the East Coast this fall. It joins the network’s other pilot pickups, including “The Vatican” and “The Affair,” the latter of which will feature Ruth Wilson (“The Lone Ranger,” “Luther”) as the female lead. The series, which also stars Dominic West (“The Wire”), explores the ramifications of an affair on two marriages.

Showtime is also adding to its documentary library with “Time of Death.” The six-part series spotlights terminally ill people facing the end stages of life. The project is currently in post-production and will have a fall debut.

The network also announced “Episodes,” “House of Lies” and “Shameless” will return Jan. 12. And vet “Californication” will join “Nurse Jackie” in the spring, along with “Penny Dreadful.”
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