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So we lost HBO...now what? A Showtime survival guide

By Michelle Hart, Staff Writer

Student petitions are a funny thing.

At the end of last semester, a seemingly impetuous petition surfaced in which students lobbied for the university to add Showtime to its cable programming. In what can only be viewed in retrospect as wishful thinking, most students assumed that they could have their cake and eat it too—that is, have both HBO and Showtime.

Imagine their surprise when, returning to campus last week, students incredulously discovered the exclusion of HBO, with Showtime instead.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for The Chronicle discussing (and maybe even perhaps, in a rare moment of clairvoyance, predicting) the fall of HBO and the rise of Showtime. The article lamented the fact that HBO's famous slogan "It's Not Just TV" began to seem like a slowly passing daydream, a nostalgic grasp for the way things used to be.

This decline arguably began with the ending of "The Sopranos," although an argument can be made that the downfall had its inception before that. Since the curtain fell on other popular shows like "Six Feet Under" and "Sex and the City," the network has been in a slump, unable to produce the hits that they have been known for.

"True Blood" has tried valiantly to recapture some of the network's glory, and, with the current infatuation with all things undead, the show has performed phenomenally. Yet, a network cannot pin all of its hopes on one show.

To put it succinctly, Showtime has rapidly become the superior premium cable network. Though Showtime's movie selection may not be up to par with HBO's, the shows on Showtime are of a whole different caliber. The network's flagship show, "Dexter," is easily one of the best shows on television if not the best. For those not in the know, "Dexter" follows forensics expert Dexter Morgan and his misadventures in leading a double life. Recently named one of Entertainment Weekly's Best Characters of the Past 20 Years, Dexter is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department by day that happens to moonlight as a serial killer. In its fourth season, "Dexter" reached dizzying new heights as the show deftly paralleled Dexter's family life with that of a more insidious killer. Even though it has become slightly more accessible to audiences over the years, the show has been able to forgo losing its unique spirit.

On the lighter side of things, Showtime boasts some of the funniest, most original comedies on any network. "Weeds," which admittedly has stumbled a bit in its last few seasons, has completely restructured itself, and finds the Botwin family on the lam fleeing from the rapture and rupture of their old lives.

Equally self-absorbed and self-effacing, David Duchoveny brings one of television's coolest (and sexiest) characters to the screen in "Californication," an endearing and vulgar meditation on the artistic spirit and how easy it is to squander away talent.

As for new shows, the network has some promising new titles in the pipeline. "Episodes," a new comedy coming this fall, stars Joey from "Friends" (also known as Matt LeBlanc) as himself in what could quite possibly redeem him for "Joey," the dreadful "Friends" spin-off.  The show centers on two television writers from England whose sitcom garners the attention of executives across the pond in Hollywood. Upon landing in Los Angeles, Sean and Beverly Lincoln are greeted by the disingenuousness of American television, and they soon learn that LeBlanc will replace the main character of their show.

Fear not, fellow television aficionados, we may have lucked out in the long run.

“Dexter” is the premiere show on the Showtime network, rivaling HBO . (Photo Courtesy Creative Commons)

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