“I became aware with a phone call from Mark, a day or so before the story broke,” Showtime CEO David Nevins told TV critics at TCA when asked how he became aware of sexual harassment/assault allegations against Showtime’s The Circus EP/co-star Mark Halperin.
“I have known Mark for many years; he is an old friend. That was very difficult to be blindsided by that,” Nevins said during the Showtime exec Q&A on Saturday. “And, once it became clear, we decided quickly the show should go on without him.”
Days earlier, Showtime announced it had ordered a third season of its political docu-series minus Halperin, the network being among the first to cut ties to the political pundit after allegations of sexual harassment also cost him his gig at MSNBC.
Back in October, Showtime hinted The Circus could survive, but was definite about Halperin being out. The network had previously said it was “reevaluating” its relationship with Halperin; the ax fell a day after pundit Halperin posted an apology on his social media, conceding his “aggressive and crude” behavior towards women while at ABC News.
Days earlier CNN reported five women had accused Halperin of sexual harassment while they worked at ABC News during the 1990s and 2000s. The number grew to more than a dozen, with two women claiming unwanted interactions with Halperin as recently as 2011, after his ABC tenure.
There has been “an intensity these last couple months over this issue” in the industry, Nevins said. “I don’t think of myself as naive, but…I’ve been somewhat taken aback by some of the intensity and heaviness of this,” calling it “an ongoing process” for the industry.
Asked to define “ongoing process” at Showtime, Nevins said, “re-doubling” and “making sure your policies” are smart, are accessible to everyone in the organization, and that everyone knows what is the protocol to report and seek help, and that the “people in power” know how to respond “in the best way possible.”
On The Circus, John Heilemann is back as host, ditto Mark McKinnon, and the pay cabler said Alex Wagner, best known as an anchor and correspondent at CBS News and contributing editor at The Atlantic, has been added as third host for the new season. On Saturday, Nevins told TV critics that plans to add Wagner had already been in the works before the Halperin story broke and was not related to dumping Halperin.
Showtime also dropped Morgan Spurlock in December as EP of its upcoming five-ep docu-series The Trade after his public confession of sexual misconduct. The Trade spotlights the opioid crisis through the eyes of the growers, addicts, cartel bosses and law enforcement hopelessly caught in its web. It’s directed and executive produced by Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land). That move followed Spurlock’s exit from his production company, Warrior Poets, in the wake of the controversy.