Enhancing its original drama slate, the UK’s Sky Atlantic has come aboard to co-produce John Logan’s upcoming period series Penny Dreadful with Showtime. The psychosexual horror series features some of literature’s most frightening and iconic figures as they grapple with alienation in Victorian London. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear, Harry Treadaway and Reeve Carney star, with Doctor Who‘s Billie Piper the latest addition to the cast. She’ll play an Irish immigrant trying to escape a dark past. Penny Dreadful is produced for Sky Atlantic and Showtime by Neal Street Productions and Desert Wolf Productions. Logan, Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris are exec producing. Oscar-nominee Logan created and wrote the series with the first two episodes to be helmed by The Orphanage and The Impossible director Juan Antonio Bayona. Shooting starts in October at Dublin’s Ardmore Studios.
Sam Mendes’ psychosexual horror series for Showtime, Penny Dreadful, will be among the first U.S. TV dramas to benefit from the UK’s newly-approved TV tax relief for high-end productions. Legislation for a 25% tax credit for TV series costing at least £1M per hour to produce — plus animated programs and video games — has been given the state-aid greenlight by Brussels, clearing the last major hurdle before coming into effect April 1. Largely based on Britain’s Film Tax Relief scheme, which has provided about £800M in rebates to more than 800 movies since 2007, the new law requires productions meet a British cultural test. Co-productions made under an internationally recognized treaty may also be eligible, and it’s believed the new regs could inject about $570M into the local industry. But there are concerns that the potential £200M in relief available by 2018 could be gobbled up by U.S. productions that employ British talent on UK shores.
When first announced in March last year, the relief was considered an effort to stem runaway production. Shows like BBC Two drama Parade’s End and the Julian Fellowes miniseries Titanic, were made abroad. Downton Abbey is among the rare exceptions of big-ticket UK shows that have been produced at home, and I’m told it will now look to benefit from the break. But the scheme is also a means to encourage foreign shows to come to the UK. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne consulted both Disney and HBO to lay out the strategy.
With young vampires taking big bites out of movie box office and TV ratings in the Twilight franchise, HBO’s True Blood and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, the granddaddy of them all bloodsuckers, Count Dracula, is making a big comeback. TV history buffs may correct me but, while the legend of Dracula has been mined endlessly on the big screen going back to Bela Lugosi, I cannot think of a single live-action American series about Dracula (NBC’s super-short-lived 1979 series Cliffhangers featured a Curse Of Dracula segment, and the syndicated Dracula: The Series was Canadian). Next fall we may have three.
First off is NBC’s straight-to-series drama Dracula, in pre-production for a possible fall launch. Set in 1890s London, it stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the Count and also features his archenemy, Abraham Van Helsing. At the time NBC’s Dracula was announced last summer, Starz said it is developing Vlad Dracula, a drama series from Spartacus producer Rob Tapert “tracing Dracula’s evolution from a revered ruler to the world’s most feared vampire.”
Last month, Showtime gave a straight-to-series order to John Logan and Sam Mendes’ Penny Dreadful. The drama, also set in Victorian London, features “some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters,” with Dracula and Van Helsing front and center. Two weeks after Showtime’s announcement, ABC gave a pilot order to drama Gothica, from producer Mark Gordon. Like Penny Dreadful, it too weaves together classic horror characters and stories, but in present day. One of the most prominent among them is Dracula, who is the series’ main antagonist. Guillermo Del Toro/Carlton Cuse’s FX pilot The Strain, which will likely go to series, also revolves around vampires.