In a surprising move, Showtime on Friday passed on Tim Robbins’ well-regarded pharmaceutical drama pilot “Possible Side Effects.”
That makes it 0-4 for the premium cable network, which originally ordered four pilots in this go-round, including “Side Effects.” In the past week, Showtime passed on the other three pilots, the “L Word” spinoff starring Leisha Hailey, the Matthew Perry/Peter Tolan comedy “The End of Steve” and the comedy “Ronna and Beverly,” from Jessica Chaffin, Jamie Denbo and Jenji Kohan.
The dismissal of “Side Effects” is noteworthy because the project was penned and directed by Oscar winner Robbins and attracted top talent, including Ellen Burstyn, Josh Lucas and Tim Blake Nelson. It is said to have tested very high, and with the other three pilots out of contention, it was considered a shoo-in for a series order. Industry observers on Friday were scratching their heads over Showtime’s decision, with some pointing to the show’s subject matter as a potential reason.
“Side Effect” takes a scathing look at the pharmaceutical drug industry, focusing on a dysfunctional family behind a major drug concern. As a premium cable network, Showtime does not rely on advertisers, but its parent company CBS Corp. does, and pharmaceutical companies are among the top TV advertisers.
Like several other pilots rejected by Showtime, “Side Effects” might be shopped elsewhere.