President of HBO Programming Casey Bloys speaks onstage at the 2016 Television Critics Association summer tour in Beverly Hills on July 30. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

— If HBO’s new head of programming, Casey Bloys, has an overall vision for the future of the network’s lineup (and the ongoing hunt for its next big hit drama), he didn’t share it Saturday morning with the journalists who attend the semi-annual Television Critics Association’s press tour.

Bloys did drop some HBO-like tidbits during a Q&A: Larry David and his crew are indeed at work on a new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” expected in 2017. An eagerly awaited (still untitled) project from Jon Stewart will take the form of animated shorts that lampoon cable news networks and will premiere this fall on HBO’s online platforms, as well as the regular ol’ cable channel. And the epic blockbuster “Game of Thrones” has an end in sight: Bloys confirmed there will be seven episodes in Season 7 and an undetermined number in Season 8.

Instead of a long and possibly grisly postmortem on the ’70s rock flop “Vinyl,” Bloys turned critics’ attention to “Westworld,” a sci-fi/western mash-up drama based on the 1973 film. It’s about a 19th-century wild west that is actually a futuristic playground populated by realistic-looking robot cowboys and damsels created to entertain human customers. After a glitchy software upgrade, the robots start to go off script.

Critics had brief access to two episodes of “Westworld,” which premieres Oct. 2. At first glance, it is pure, slick sci-fi: thought-provoking on the subject of human nature and technology; also weird and gloomy, but certainly interesting.


Thandie Newton, left, and Ed Harris participate in the “Westworld” panel. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Jeffrey Wright, left, and Anthony Hopkins speak onstage during a “Westworld” discussion. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

And, as a couple of critics pointed out to Bloys, “Westworld” begins like so many prestige dramas (on HBO and elsewhere), with an act of sexualized violence against a woman. Just like (for one recent example) the network’s critically acclaimed crime drama “The Night Of.”

“I don’t necessarily see it as specific to women,” Bloys said. “I think the point is there is a lot of violence in ‘Westworld’ and in ‘Game of Thrones,’ yes. But I don’t necessarily think that it’s . . . isolated to women.” (When another reporter pointed out that depictions of rape against women are different from other forms of violence, Bloys noted that the “Westworld” rape is human-on-robot, so . . . yeah. Robot rape. Next question?)

It’s a bit surprising to see “Westworld” at all. HBO is known for lavishing money and patience on drama development; some shows get filmed and then never see the light of day. This is the second summer press tour that the network has touted “Westworld”; it went back to the shop last year for more tinkering. Executive producer Jonathan Nolan noted that J.J. Abrams (also an executive producer on the show) started talking about a “Westworld” series more than 20 years ago.

“The Night Of” had a similarly slow gen­esis (James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos” was set to star in it before his untimely death in 2013), and although it has the feel of a summer quickie, it also has an undeniably addictive story line that moves in a deliberate, linear path. The story is dark, but it isn’t burdened with psychologically puzzling tangents and thematic bloat. (We’re looking at you, “The Leftovers” – the third and final season of which is shooting in Australia and has been pushed to 2017.)

While HBO yearns for a new must-see drama, its real strength is comedy. That makes sense since Bloys’s previous job was overseeing the network’s comedy series. He took over the top job from Michael Lombardo, who stepped aside in May after overseeing HBO’s programming for the past decade.


Sarah Jessica Parker, right, returns to HBO in “Divorce,” co-starring Thomas Haden Church. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Actress, executive producer and creator Issa Rae speaks at a panel for her coming HBO show, “Insecure.” (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Critics saw a few episodes of two half-hour dramedies that premiere Oct. 9: “Divorce,” a downbeat but sharply written series that stars Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex and the City” as a woman whose husband (Thomas Haden Church) kicks her out after he discovers she’s been having an affair; and Issa Rae’s “Insecure,” about two African American women (Rae and Yvonne Orji) navigating life and love in Los Angeles. “Insecure” amplifies the edge and charm of Rae’s hit Web series, “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”

Elsewhere at the press tour, Netflix spent an entire day last week demonstrating that unlike HBO, they’ve never heard the phrase “less is more.” The global streaming network, which is reportedly spending around $6 billion on original content this year, keeps adding dramas, comedies, documentaries and tons of kids’ shows. (And no, they still won’t divulge viewership data.)

Besides “The Get Down,” Baz Lurhmann’s vivid drama about the genesis of hip-hop in New York (premieres Aug. 12), Netflix’s next big showpiece is “The Crown,” a richly conceived telling of Queen Elizabeth II’s marriage to Philip Mountbatten in 1947 and the events leading to her 1953 coronation. Claire Foy (“Wolf Hall”) plays Elizabeth, and Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”) plays Philip. The series will stream Nov. 4.


John Lithgow, who plays Winston Churchill, speaks on a panel for Netflix’s “The Crown.” (Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP)

And even though PBS is bringing back its homemade Civil War drama, “Mercy Street,” for a second season in January (the first episode of which looks much improved from last season), the network is also doubling down on Anglophilic offerings in the wake of “Downton Abbey.”

The network’s most scrumptious-looking morsel by far is the eight-episode launch of “Victoria,” which will take over the “Downton” Sunday spot in 2017. Jenna Coleman (“Doctor Who”) stars as the 18-year-old woman at the outset of her long rule as England’s queen. Tom Hughes is a dreamy Prince Albert, and Rufus Sewell (“The Man in the High Castle”) plays Lord Melbourne. An airplane hangar plays Buckingham Palace.