Pasadena, Calif. -- Showtime's highest-rated series, Dexter, will return early for its eighth season on June 30, Showtime president of entertainment president David Nevins announced at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday.
Dexter, which had always aired in the fall, will give up its old timeslot to Homeland, now the network's second most-watched series in a bid to "harness the strength of these two shows to launch new series," Nevins said.
Dexter will air at 9 p.m. -- putting it in direct competition with HBO's True Blood -- followed by new drama Ray Donovan at 10 p.m. When Homeland returns for its third season on Sept. 29, it will lead into new drama Masters of Sex.
Showtime announced more premiere dates including Inside Comedy, which returns its second season with new episodes on Louis C.K., Steve Martin, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell on Feb. 11 at 11 p.m.; the film The World According to Dick Cheney debuts March 15; Nurse Jackie bows its fifth season on April 14 at 9 p.m., followed by The Borgias' season three premiere at 10 p.m.; and the four-part limited event series The Big C: hereafter debuts on April 29.
The end of Dexter?
Despite speculation that Dexter's eighth season will be its last, Nevins again declined to confirm an end date for the long-running serial killer series drama.
"I'm not making any announcements today about when Dexter will end. I will make an announcement before goes on air this season," he said. "The decision of when to end Dexter is ultimately a creative decision. I want to take care of it in a way that is respectful to the franchise."
And though the series is returning three months early, production time will be the same, Nevins said. "They had a lot of advance warning."
Though Homeland drew some criticism for the direction it took the story of its two central characters in season two, Nevins defended its creative direction.
"I really liked season two. I read probably everything you guys write. Some of the criticism seems fair," he said. "The fact that people are that deeply engaged, there were things we got away with in season one that we couldn't get away with in season two, I think is a good thing for the health of the show."
While he said that Homeland ended with a clear set-up for season three, he declined to specify whether Damian Lewis, who plays Sgt. Nicolas Brody, will be back as a series regular.
Matt LeBlanc comedy Episodes will be back for a third season, but not until early 2014 to accommodate the schedules of creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik.
"It was not my choice, but I said early on we would produce the show on their schedule," Nevins said, who added the next season will be split between London and Los Angeles.
The mini-movie business
While pay-cable competitor HBO rakes in the hardware on account of its TV movies and miniseries, Nevins said Showtime is concentrating its resources on renewable assets.
"Series are our first priority," he said. "If we get those established to our satisfaction, who knows where we'll go."