Prediction: Penny Dreadful will be the best series of 2014
5 reasons explaining why I think Showtime's upcoming Penny Dreadful will be the most entertaining show of next year
In 2014, new series Penny Dreadful will be hitting our screens, courtesy of a co-production between the USA’s Showtime and the UK’s Sky Atlantic. Despite next year’s string of other highly appealing shows, such as True Detective, Black Sails, and even Girl Meets World, I firmly believe that Penny Dreadful will be the most exciting and talked-about of them all. Here’s five reasons why:
The Creative Team:
All eight episodes are to be written by the show’s creator, John Logan. Without a doubt, Logan is one of the greatest writers working for the stage and screen today. Carefully avoiding being strictly associated with a single genre, he has delivered some incredible storytelling in the forms of Any Given Sunday, Gladiator, Coriolanus, and Hugo. It will be extremely exciting to see what he can do on the small screen.
Acting as executive producer is Sam Mendes, who, like Logan, has a great theatre and stage background, most recently having directed the extremely celebrated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for London’s West End. In regards to cinema, Mendes’ films speak for themselves – American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall. While it seems that he may not be directing Penny Dreadful, be assured that he will be overseeing the entire process with a very careful eye.
Currently not all of the show’s directors have been named but IMDB does confirm that The Orphanage’s Jaun Antonio Bayona will be helming the first two episodes, with episodes 3 and 4 being directed by Dearbhla Walsh (The Tudors, Shameless). That already makes for an intriguing first half.
While the premise of various literary characters colliding in Victorian London may seem either stale or ludicrous, the “psychosexual horror” aspect that has been heavily promoted suggests a much more unique viewing experience.
Speaking to Collider in July 2013, Showtime’s David Nevins claimed that the series was “not going to be gentle with the horror” and that it would “scare the shit out of people”. This is where the psychosexual aspect becomes increasingly more interesting. We all enjoy sex, as we have been designed to. Many existing gothic films and TV series rely heavily on this fact, using sex to romanticise otherwise frightening situations. However, sex can have somewhat of a “dark” side to it too. It can hurt, repulse, destroy relationships, and cause one to feel a myriad of negative emotions such as insecurity. If this dark side to our sexual nature was to be explored within the context of the Gothic, which I predict this show will do, then expect some very sinister storytelling.
Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Doran Gray – all tremendously popular characters whom at first glance would appear to be the main attractions of the series. However, I think audiences will be much more curious about the assortment of “regular” people forced to live amongst this fearsome beings. This includes an African explorer, an Irish immigrant with a dark past, a fake cowboy, and a peculiar Egyptologist. How these characters navigate through everyday life in a London infested with vampires, immortals, and monsters will be the real appeal.
While people are already quick to write off the series as another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I think it’s worth noting that the ways in which these characters will interact with one another is likely to be completely different. The series has also been described as being very realistic, and so I suspect the ways in which these characters all intertwine would also be depicted in a somewhat realistic manner.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Penny Dreadful, that seems to have grabbed the attention of most people, is the cast. An array of actors and actresses from the big screen, small screen, and stage has made for the best casting line-up in recent memory.
Noticeably void of any “stars” currently basking in the world spotlight, the show has assembled a team of actors who all seem to bring their own small but dedicated fan bases. I myself belong to the Hartnett camp as he’s been my favourite actor for many years now. As Ethan Chandler he will play an American fake cowboy who Nevins says has an “intense dark side”, so expect a fierce performance that will surely reintroduce him to the masses. Next to him is the incredible Eva Green as Vanessa Ives who apparently is the “the fulcrum of the show”. We will also witness the return of one of the most underrated Bond’s of all time, Timothy Dalton, as an African explorer on a “deeply personal quest”. And joining them as an Egyptologist is Simon Russell Beale whose stage work has garnered an enormous amount of praise and respect from the industry and critics alike. Also included in the mix are the super talented Helen McRory, Billie Piper, and Rory Kinnear, who, according to IMDB, will play The Creature, though whether or not this means Frankenstein’s monster is unknown as of yet.
Despite the fantastical and highly fictional concept, I would expect some great performances from all involved.
Finally, let’s consider the series’ format. As opposed to the 13 or 22 episode structure we are used to from most shows nowadays, Penny Dreadful will consist of only episodes. This will allow it to play out like a mini-series, or an extended movie. While some may see this as being somewhat short, it is important to consider that Logan has no intention to stretch the story out unnecessarily. What it means is that we will be treated to eight hours of powerful, uninterrupted storytelling. There is enough time to get a fully painted portrait of each of the main characters and have numerous subplots unfold at a steady pace. I would argue that it is an ideal format for such a high concept.
… if you like what you have just read, remember to tune in early next year for what I believe will be a chilling, beautiful, unexpected ride through the darkest streets of London.
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