Showtime, knowing it has a potential hit on its hands, is going the extra mile with “Penny Dreadful,” making the first episode of its new horror series available for free across various platforms: YouTube, Hulu and Showtime.com.
Gauging from the pilot, which includes two on-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes in the first 20 minutes, the series is likely to end up on critics’ top 10 lists.
It’s that good, chilling and well acted.
Created by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (“Hugo,” “The Aviator,” “The Gladiator”), the eight-episode first season officially begins at 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime. The drama takes its name from a type of 19th century British serial that targeted working-class adolescents.
In Logan’s story, Timothy Dalton plays Sir Malcolm Murray, a legendary explorer who encounters supernatural roadblocks in trying to find his kidnapped daughter. He has enlisted a group of specialists -- powerful psychic Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Old West gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and young Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) -- to help him.
At one point, Murray tells Chandler to “not be amazed by what he sees” and to not “hesitate” when it comes to using his revolver.
And, yes, it’s that Frankenstein, the one who reanimates corpses in Mary Shelley’s novel. Characters from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” also populate Logan’s tale.
That’s the hook here, as we see how Logan weaves these characters into his horror story. It’s reminiscent of the “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which also featured a slew of literary characters coming together in a graphic novel and movie.
What makes “Penny” click is the chemistry among the characters, especially the psychic and the gunslinger, who end up seducing the viewer with their seductive encounters. They make you forget this is an action show. Grade: A
Across the remote
* Lincoln couple Steve and Heidi Nolan will be featured on HGTV’s “Caribbean Life.” Their episode airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Time Warner Cable channels 59, 150 and 1150. According to HGTV’s site, the Nolans are leaving Nebraska for the island life of the Turks and Caicos, trading in their motorcycles for hobie cats.
* Fox renewed “American Idol” for a 14th season but canceled comedies “Enlisted,” “Surviving Jack,” “Dads” and the Greg Kinnear legal drama “Rake.” All the recently canceled shows were new, leaving “Sleepy Hollow” as the only newbie returning next year.
New shows already greenlighted include “Gotham,” a Batman prequel; Lee Daniels’ hip-hop themed “Empire” and Steven Spielberg’s “Red Band Society,” starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as a nurse in a children’s wing of a hospital. Fox will announce its 2014-15 season Monday afternoon.
* After an ill-fated attempt to become a movie star, Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) will return to TV to front NBC’s new CIA drama “State of Affairs.”
Other new shows greenlighted include the Russian spy thriller “Allegiance”; the action-drama “Odyssey” about three families embroiled in a military conspiracy and “Marry Me,” a comedy starring Ken Marino (“Childrens Hospital”) and Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”) as a newly engaged couple.
NBC’s most recent renewals are “Law & Order: SVU," "Hannibal" and new comedy "About a Boy." Canceled are "Community," "Revolution," "Growing Up Fisher," "Believe" and "Crisis." "Parenthood" and "Dracula" remained on the bubble at press time. The network will announce its 2014-15 season Monday morning.
* ABC will bring back "Once Upon a Time," "Castle," "Scandal," "Grey's Anatomy," "Modern Family," "Revenge," "The Middle" and newbies "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Resurrection" and "The Goldbergs."
"Trophy Wife," "Mixology," "The Neighbors" "Suburgatory" and "Super Fun Night" were canceled. "Nashville" and "Last Man Standing" were still in limbo as of Friday afternoon.
ABC, so far, has ordered nine new series including a legal thriller from Shonda Rhimes ("Scandal," "Grey's Anatomy") and an alien invasion drama from Spielberg. It announces its season on Tuesday.
* The CW renewed bubble shows "Hart of Dixie," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The 100." The network canceled "The Carrie Diaries," "The Tomorrow People" and "Star-Crossed."
The network will announce its new season Thursday. Four series already have been ordered, including "The Flash," the superhero drama spun off from "The Arrow."