Starz Stands Behind 'Boss', 'Spartacus', Touts 'Magic City': TCA

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA

Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said today at TCA the cable channel will support its struggling series Boss during its second season, but acknowledged the show needs to begin to “resonate” with affiliates and subscribers to survive. Starz’ panels today also featured the new series Magic City and the returning Spartacus: Vengeance, both part of Starz’s effort to brand itself as a home for original programming. But those shows took second seat to Boss during Albrecht’s Q&A session. “Our sponsors are thrilled [with Boss],” he said to some laughter. “I have not heard complaints from any of them.” Starz renewed Boss for a second season before the show had even made its Season 1 debut, and Albrecht said the network would make the same decision again. “We are not doing pilots, that’s a different process,” he said. “The way I’m looking at this, Starz is trying to create a brand. We are going to support the show into the second season. It’s the right thing for Starz to do. It’s easy to pull the plug.” Boss stars Kelsey Grammer as the unscrupulous mayor of Chicago hiding debilitating disease. Albrecht said Starz did not renew freshman costume drama Camelot because “there were too many challenges on the production side of the show.”

But on Boss, we looked at the episodes and said, this is good.” Keeping it on the air, he said, was the only way to find out whether it will build an audience. “That’s going to be our MO for a while. If work is good and the team has the capacity, we’ll stand behind it for awhile.” Albrecht was asked whether, given that philosophy, he regretted not giving Party Down a longer time to prove itself. The series has become the basis of an upcoming movie. “It did have two seasons, it had 20 episodes, that’s not an unusual number for a premium cable series,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, but it just wasn’t gaining traction.” He added: “We are not focusing on half-hour comedies right now. Boss is about as funny as you are going to get.”

Starz remains “completely in sync on the story side” with the writing on Spartacus, Albrecht said. He saw no conflict with Spartacus co-existing with the new Marco Polo series because the financing is different for the expensive historical dramas. “With Spartacus, we are funding it. With Marco Polo, we are licensing it,” he said. “It’s a different kind of investment.”

For Starz’ new show Magic City, set in Miami in the late 1950s, creator/exec producer/writer Mitch Glazer said on the panel the series is different from recent shows depicting the era, including the hit Mad Men and the failed series The Playboy Club and Pan Am. How? Because the Miami setting makes it a more ethnically diverse show, reflecting the Miami of the time. Glazer said the show is about a hotel run by “a Jewish hotel family,” and the show includes a gypsy and Cuban characters. When he was growing up in Miami in this era, Glazer said, his high school student body was comprised of Jews, Cubans, Italians “and Mickey Rourke. There was one blond kid, and that was Mickey Rourke.”

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