As founding partner of The Greenblatt Janollari Studio, Robert Greenblatt had the kind of job many people in entertainment would kill for: He executive-produced HBO's Six Feet Under
and created UPN's upcoming comedy with hip-hop star Eve. And yet he is giving it up to be a network programmer, as president of programming for Showtime Networks.
Greenblatt, who had an eight-year run at Fox before founding the production company, says he yearned to be the decision-maker, picking what gets developed and what makes the airwaves. And he wants to do it at Showtime.
"This is a unique network," he said. At networks with commercial sponsors, he observed, "you're a slave to ratings and sales and broadcast standards and other constituencies that tend to work against the development process."
At premium service Showtime, says Greenblatt, who signed a multi-year deal, his mandate is simply to create "original, compelling, unique shows."
But it will not be that simple. While HBO has hit it big with broad-based shows like The Sopranos
and Sex and the City, Showtime's successes have come with bold but niche dramas like Queer as Folk
and Resurrection Blvd.
Showtime has decided to cut back on its original movies and dedicate more resources to series.
"The direction," says Greenblatt, "is to broaden a little bit out of the niches. And maybe go a bit younger."
But, he stresses, there's nothing wrong with developing niche shows. In the early days of Fox, he and his colleagues put on a niche sci-fi show called The X-Files.
Eventually, it became one of the network's biggest hits.
"We just developed a show that was an extraordinary idea," he recalls.
Los Angeles-based Greenblatt takes up his new post July 14. He'll report to Showtime Chairman Matt Blank, who initially tried to woo Greenblatt to Showtime in April. But Greenblatt, with his producer hat on, couldn't entertain the offer. "I was in the middle of pilot season. Things were busy. It didn't seem like an option."