8:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Penny Dreadful' Renewed for Second Season at Showtime
Showtime is going back to the horror well.
The premium cable network has renewed Penny Dreadful for a second season of 10 episodes -- up two from its freshman run -- for 2015.
The series, which stars Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, features a roster of classic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula and weaves together the classic origin stories while exploring tones that the country is grappling with.
Penny Dreadful hails from three-time Oscar nominee John Logan (Hugo, Skyfall, Gladiator), who wrote all eight episodes and executive produces alongside Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes and Neal Street's Pippa Harris (Revolutionary Road).
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After Showtime picked up the drama straight to series in January 2013, the series debuted in May after two weeks of online sampling to 872,000 total viewers in its 10 p.m. slot on Sundays -- topping Homeland and Masters of Sex without the benefit of a proper lead-in. Including encores, Penny Dreadful increased to 1.44 million viewers for its debut. Of those, about 62 percent were adults 18-49, making the series Showtime's youngest-skewing audience since Dexter's launch in 2006.
"The show has been an interesting combination of genre credibility -- it is simultaneously a gorgeous historical costume drama and a really scary, twisted horror show," said Showtime president David Nevins. "The question was, could we do a genre show that made sense on Showtime that had adult appeal and the psychological sophistication you expect from one of our premium dramas, but still satisfies drama audiences. John Logan has delivered on both."
Nevins stressed the show's ratings growth -- both in linear and nonlinear viewing. When factoring in two weeks of previews, Showtime added an additional 900,000 subscribers, bringing Penny Dreadful's debut total to 2.3 million and ranking as its biggest sneak preview ever and largest online streaming sampling ever for Showtime, topping Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex by 500,000 viewers through premiere week. Subsequent episodes have averaged about 725,000 viewers. The cabler says the series is its most-watched new show ever on Showtime on Demand and Showtime Anytime, with more than 3.6 million viewers through three weeks.
All told, the series is drawing 4.8 million weekly viewers across multiple platforms.
Internationally, the series that films in Dublin, Ireland, debuted as the second-highest-rated launch for an original commission ever for Sky Atlantic. It ranked as the second-biggest program of the week in pay TV homes for its premiere in the U.K.
Penny Dreadful, Nevins said, will have a big presence at Comic-Con in July and has been ripe for merchandising, with horror book boxed sets, cast action figures and tarot cards among the products set to hit the marketplace. "We're looking at this as a big-time franchise to grow over time and the show is only just beginning to lay out the world of Penny Dreadful," he said, noting literary spinoffs are in the works but it remains too soon for any sort of TV spinoff similar to Universal's vast monster library.
Penny Dreadful will be one of two freshman scripted series to debut in 2014. The premium cabler in the fall will debut drama The Affair, starring Josh Jackson, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney and Dominic West. A premiere date should be announced in July at TCA. Rookie comedy Happyish remains on pause following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Penny Dreadful joins a drama roster that includes Homeland, Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan. The cabler last year said farewell to Dexter and The Borgias. Hourlong Shameless, meanwhile, will compete as a comedy at the Emmys. On the pilot side, Showtime is prepping Wall Street drama Billions, from Andrew Ross Sorkin, Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The network's comedy roster includes Episodes, House of Lies, Nurse Jackie and Web Therapy.