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Logan adds new branch to ‘Penny Dreadful’ family tree

Jeff Pfeiffer
The Showtime series, "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" leaves London’s Gothic Victorian darkness for sunny 1938 Los Angeles.
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John Logan’s (Skyfall) 2014-16 Showtime series Penny Dreadful was a delightfully dark tribute to the “penny dreadfuls” of its title — the cheap 19th-century fiction publications that dealt with often lurid subject matter. Befitting that, Logan’s original series was set in Victorian-era London and featured iconic literary creations of that time, from Frankenstein and his monster to Dracula.

After Logan completed what he planned for Penny Dreadful, Showtime told him they wanted to work with him again if he had another idea. Eventually, an idea did come to Logan for a story that, while far removed from the time and place of the first series, was closely related enough in terms of subject matter and presentation that it could be considered a “spiritual descendant” of the original.

That idea has blossomed into Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (Sundays). With all-new characters and storylines, this series leaves London’s Gothic Victorian darkness for sunny 1938 Los Angeles.

Logan’s latest creation again boasts a strong ensemble cast, including Nathan Lane, Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovatto, Adriana Barrazaand Rory Kinnear, the only returning cast member from the original.

Like its predecessor, City of Angels is set during an era that featured plenty of what by then was known as “pulp fiction” — cheap magazines that trafficked in sensationalistic stories like detective yarns and horror tales. This series incorporates similar themes in its own plotline that begins when a grisly murder shocks L.A. The investigation leads into an epic story that reflects the city’s history while also introducing a supernatural aspect.

“The more I thought about this idea,” Logan explains, “the more I thought it could fit under the rubric of Penny Dreadful, [and that] the sort of melodramatic and pulpy plot elements that also fed the first series could feed this series.”

While the supernatural in City of Angels isn’t linked to characters as famous as Dracula, it is intriguing. It comes from Mexican-American folklore in the form of Santa Muerte, a personification of death usually portrayed as a skeletal woman in a robe, a figure familiar to anyone who has seen a Day of the Dead celebration.

“As much as [City of Angels] is its own beast with its own DNA,” Logan continues, “the same creative vision [of Penny Dreadful] is behind it. To carry that positive energy forward in this show was gratifying for me.”

The actors were also grateful to work with Logan. “The writing is extraordinarily brilliant,” raves Lane, who plays a detective investigating the murder. “It’s [like] Raymond Chandler meets Rod Serling, and it’s such a refreshing take on the detective genre.”


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