TCA Recap: HBO Highlights Include Ricky Gervais, 'Game Change,' 'Veep,' 'Girls' and 'Luck'

Girls Jemima Kirke Lena Dunham  Allison Williams - H 2012
Jojo Whilden/HBO

Girls Jemima Kirke Lena Dunham  Allison Williams - H 2012

HBO delivered a heavy dose of star power from the big and small screens Friday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. Ricky Gervais, Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were all on hand to peddle their upcoming fare including Life's Too Short, Game Change and political comedy Veep.

Elsewhere, National Geographic Channel, Discovery, Science, ID, OWN, Animal Planet and TLC, as well as Starz and A&E announced new and developing series -- including a Psycho prequel -- before presenting their upcoming offerings. Oh, and Al Gore turned up in support of Current's new primetime talk show The War Room.

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The 'Short' Straw: Life's Too Short stars Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Warwick Davis go inside fame in the series that serves as a send-up of Hollywood and features Davis playing a fictionalized version of himself. Gervais, between short jokes aimed at Davis, also dished on hosting Sunday's Golden Globes.

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Girl Power: Creator, writer and star Lena Dunham dished on what girls want, how the often-raunchy HBO comedy isn't like Sex and the City and executive producer Judd Apatow's return to television after a decade. This is the first time I've done TV since 2001-2002. I was wounded and sad with my television experience," the Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared showrunner said.

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Political Prowess: Veep showrunner Armando Iannuccisays the time is right for a series about the country's flawed political system. "Watching the political process at the moment, your instinct is to laugh because the alternative is to cry," he told reporters.

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'Game' Changer: Sarah Palin declined to be interviewed for the TV film, based on John Heilemann andMark Halperin's 2010 book, but star Moore said she did her homework to play the former Alaska senator. "One of the things I watched was her reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, to familiarize myself with her and the way she interacts with her family," she said. "That's, frankly, adorable. She's really a caring, involved parent. You don't see that happening on this stage."

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Historical Love Story: TV movie recounting the romance between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn appealed to co-star Nicole Kidman because the war correspondent was the type of woman who defied the odds and "burn bright," she said. 

Random 'Luck': David Milch, Michael Mann, Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman addressed everything from on-set tensions and dividing responsibilities to 3D television and whether or not the drama's horseracing terminology will be something viewers can easily digest.

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National Geographic Channel previewed the new season of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan and executive producer Ralph Macchio's American Gypsies. The cabler also previewed a pair of specials marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Bob Ballard, who discovered the wreckage, offered compelling arguments supporting the ongoing struggle to preserve the site and end the pillaging of the ship. "That's their tombstone," he said of photos depicting pairs of shoes of those who went down with the ship. "You don't pick up their shoes."

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Discovery previewed wares from its various offshoots including Science's Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman, which explores the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, ID's On Death Row, OWN's Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, Animal Planet's Tanked, TLC's Leave it to Niecy andDiscovery's Frozen Planet.

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Current TV: Current TV co-founder Al Gore shot down rumors that the young cable net is for sale and riffed on the state of political news shows and the GOP race. "It reminds me of a reality show where nobody gets off the island," he told reporters. Execs also noted Keith Olbermann will return to cover the election, despite his recent kerfuffle with the network.

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Starz: Magic City creator/executive producer Mitch Glazer revealed the series, which stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a hotel magnate in 1950s Miami Beach, is loosely based on his youth growing up in the region. Fun fact: A teenage Glazer worked at the hotel where the pilot was shot. During the Spartacus: Vengeance session, star Liam McIntyre said the day the series was in production when they heard word of the passing of former Spartacus Andy Whitfield. "It's the saddest thing I've ever had to be a part of," McIntyre said. As to the sword-and-sandals drama's creative direction, showrunner Steven DeKnight said this is the year "where we move Spartacus from an individual to a leader of men."

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A&E: Western drama Longmire, producers say, is a return to the classic American hero reminiscent of characters played by Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Gary Cooper and John Wayne. "The idea was to provide an antidote to the flood of anti-heroes that have saturated the marketplace for the past decade," exec producer Greer Shepard said. Of the series, which is based on the Western crime thrillers by Craig Johnson, former Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff said: "It's kind of nice to not be in a flight suit."

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