'Ray Donovan' to launch June 30, 'Masters of Sex' will debut Sept. 29

Looking to give his new series the best lead-ins possible, Showtime topper David Nevins said “Ray Donovan” will follow “Dexter” on June 30 and “Masters of Sex” will premiere immediately after “Homeland” on Sept. 29.

Both “Dexter” and “Homeland” are the pay cabler’s most-watched series, with “Dexter” setting records in its seventh season.

Nevins, who spoke at the Television Critics Assn. panel on Saturday in Pasadena, said there has not yet been a decision on when to end “Dexter.” After Michael C. Hall signed a two-season deal, it was thought the upcoming season would likely be the last.

But since the show is still a ratings winner for the net, that assumption may be reconsidered. However, if Showtime decided to go forward with a 10th season, it would cost the net plenty as Hall’s deal would have to be reworked.

Either way, Nevins said he will make a decision on the future of the show before the eighth season begins in June.

“‘Dexter’ to Showtime is what Batman is to Warner Bros,” Nevins said. “It’s a core franchise and we want to take care of it.”

Showtime also announced that it was giving a series order to “Penny Dreadful,” a psychological horror skein from writer John Logan, who will exec produce with British director Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris.

Production is set to begin later in the year in London, with the hope Mendes will helm the first episode.

Nevins addressed the question of whether streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu should release ratings information for its original programming. Netflix, in particular, has two high-profile series that will be available in the next few months: “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey and exec produced by David Fincher, and the reconstituted “Arrested Development.”

Like HBO, Showtime and Starz, neither Netflix nor Hulu are beholden to advertisers, so there is no necessity to reveal ratings.

“It’s a matter of transparency and showmanship,” countered Nevins. “I’m in the business of making hit television shows.”

Nevins is in the somewhat awkward position of being a producer on competing comedy “Arrested Development,” because he was at Imagine when the show was on the air in 2003. With Netflix making all 14 “Arrested” episodes available on the same day in May, Nevins questioned how the series will be marketed and kept alive in social circles after the debut.

“The test is how they create excitement for their shows, and how they do that on a weekly basis,” he said.

As for not having to deal with advertisers, that’s good news for Showtime in that “Masters of Sex” is said to be very risque. Show stars Michael Sheen and Lizzie Caplan, who play William Masters and Virginia Johnson — the pioneers of the science of human sexuality. Show is set to go into production in two weeks.

“We have the ability to be adults and use the lack of restrictions to sell to advertisers. There are taboo subjects that we can explore. ‘Masters of Sex’ is a show that only pay cable could get away with,” Nevins said.

As for launching new seasons of “Shameless,” “House of Lies” and “Californication” on Sunday, the same night as HBO is returning “Girls” and “Enlightened” and NBC is airing the Golden Globes, Nevins said the competition didn’t play a factor in the decision.

“I want to have something good every week of the year and original programming every week. We haven’t had an original episode of a scripted series since ‘Homeland’ and ‘Dexter’ went off the air before Christmas.” Nevins said. “I don’t see it so much as competition but more that (I want people to say) Showtime gave me something good to watch this week, and I want to keep my subscription.”

As for other premiere dates for the year, “Nurse Jackie” will return April 14, along with “The Borgias,” and the final season of “The Big C” airs April 29.

Showtime is ramping up its docus this year and in the pipeline are “The World According to Dick Cheney” (March 15), “Suge Knight: American Dream-American Knightmare” (April) and “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” (summer).

Nevins also announced Matt LeBlanc-starrer “Episodes” will return in early 2014 and that “The Real L Word” will morph into a documentary rather than remain as a series.

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