During the day, television is family friendly with bubbly cartoons and funny, relatable sitcoms. At night, however, the tone changes and adult television shows come out to play. Usually these shows premier in the fall, with the season finales coming in spring or summer. In the case of “Penny Dreadful,” summer just got scary.

Written by John Logan, who also wrote the chilling screenplay for “Sweeney Todd” back in 2007, brings to life a few of history’s most well known literary characters and blends them into one plot. Adding actors such as Josh Hartnett (“The Black Dahlia,” 2006), and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows,” 2012), makes “Penny Dreadful” a predicted hit.

In the pilot episode, Vanessa Ives (Green) and African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) come together in Victorian London to fight off a supernatural presence that threatens the inhabitants of London. They recruit Ethan Chandler (Hartnett), a hired gun turned travelling show performer who is a perfect shot with a pistol, and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), a brilliant doctor and scientist who has an eye for reanimation. The four join together to fight off and experiment on a massive enemy, a Master vampire that lurks in the sewers of London, in hopes of saving Sir Malcolm’s daughter.

Some of the characters are original, but the name and some ideas are not. Penny Dreadfuls were real and very cherished in 1800’s London. Each week, underground writers would publish small booklet stories of a lascivious and gory nature that were otherwise kept in the dark. These stories were a penny each, hence the name. What most people don’t know is that these unknown and racy stories were the muses for classic novels like Frankenstein and Dracula. Some stories were single short fictions, others were series, aimed at bringing the working class of London back each week for the newest chapter or part of the story. The most popular of these characters, still well known today, was Sweeney Todd, who first appeared in the penny dreadful series “The String of Pearls: A Romance”. While it hasn’t been proven, there is speculation that the series “Varney the Vampire” was the inspiration for Dracula.

The show itself was phenomenal; dark and gritty London is the perfect setting for the sordid pasts that collide when four different people, all with different stories, come together. Green and Dalton have a good chemistry, showing Vanessa and Sir Malcolm to have a professional relationship that is connected in a grueling way, as hinted during dialogue between the two. Ethan Chandler is the American foul-mouthed ladies’ man who rolled into London with a travelling show, and is approached by Vanessa to be their assassin for the night. The corpse is then brought to Dr. Frankenstein, who is a poor scientist looking for a way to create life from death. All the actors have wonderful chemistry, each one bringing an air of mystery to their character.

Penny Dreadful will be available on Showtime, the pilot having aired May 11th at 9 p.m. For those that don’t have Showtime, the pilot is also available to stream on Showtime’s website and on Hulu for free. The show is intended for mature audiences, as it contains gore, graphic violence, nudity, sexual content and strong language. Episodes will air Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime and will be available to stream on Showtime’s website.




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