PASADENA

Showtime arrived at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday with network chief David Nevins touting a larger subscriber base -- 22 million -- and the buzz for big hits such as "Homeland" and "Dexter."

Nevins said the two dramas, which aired back-to-back last season, will be split up in order to help launch new shows. "Dexter" will return three months earlier than usual, on June 30, just in front of "Ray Donovan." And "Homeland" will launch Season 3 on Sept. 29, ahead of "Masters of Sex."

"Ray Donovan" is a drama starring Liev Schrieber as a Los Angeles "fixer" to the rich and powerful. "Masters of Sex" is a fictionalized biography of 1960-era sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star.

Nevins downplayed the criticism that greeted some Season 2 episodes of "Homeland," which was treated with so much critical reverence in its Emmy-winning Season 1.

"The fact that people are that deeply engaged is a good thing for the health of the show, said Nevins, acknowledging that "we couldn't get away with things in Season 2 that we did in Season 1."

Nevins said he thought some of the criticism "Homeland" received "seems fair," but added that "suspension of disbelief is the scaffolding that all good storytelling is based on."

As for the future of "Homeland" co-star Damian Lewis, Nevins refused to divulge any spoilers. He did say, however, that if the show's producers thought it "made sense storywise" to write his character out of the political thriller, "I could conceivably say yes."

Other Showtime highlights:

-- Nevins stopped short of declaring the upcoming eight season of "Dexter" its last. "There's a clear end game in place, but I can't talk about it just yet," he said.

-- "The Big C: Hereafter," a four-episode conclusion to the Laura Linney cancer drama, kicks of on April 29.

-- "The Borgias" and "Nurse Jackie" return April 14.

-- "Penny Dreadful," a horror series set in Victorian London and featuring some of literature's most famous characters -- including Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel "Dracula" -- will begin shooting later this year.

It's the brain child of the "Skyfall" team John Logan and Sam Mendes. Nevins described it as "very psychological and highly erotic."

-- Matt Damon will star as himself in an upcoming episode of "House of Lies."