1. Penny Dreadful
This horror drama posits that Victorian London was one helluva town, in which characters from classic novels like Frankenstein and Dracula crossed paths with each other — and with an American sharpshooter (Josh Hartnett) and a mysterious woman (Eva Green) battling her own demons. Creator John Logan (Skyfall) says he drew inspiration from ’40s monster mash-up movies, though his take has a premium-cable bent: “It’s highly erotic, very bloody.” Still, there’s a humanity to the horror. “It’s about building a family,” says Logan. “Admittedly, the creepiest family you can imagine.” —Tim Stack
2. Star Wars: Rebels
Fall, Disney XD
These are the stormtroopers you’re looking for. Disney XD’s animated series, the newest entry in the Star Wars saga, takes fans back to the 1977 film that started it all. Rebels will embrace the more grounded look and feel of the saga’s first film for a Rebel Alliance origin story that’s set between Episodes III and IV. Exec producer Simon Kinberg even mined original-trilogy artist Ralph McQuarrie’s previously unused concept art for aliens, planets, and vehicles to help populate the show. “We wanted to have that hand-made quality of the original films,” he says. Expect a mix of familiar characters and new ones — such as the Inquisitor, a villain who’s tasked with killing the remaining Jedi. Says Kinberg, “He’s able to tap into people’s emotional weaknesses as much as their physical weaknesses.” Impressive! Most impressive… —James Hibberd
It’s boom time for fantasy dramas — if you’re Game of Thrones. For Starz, however, post-Spartacus efforts Camelot (2011), Da Vinci’s Demons (2013), and The White Queen (2014) have struggled to gain a foothold with fans. Now the network is storming the castle gates again with Outlander. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s beloved time-travel romance-novel series, the drama brings Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ron Moore back to TV. Moore tells us why we’ll love this game of kilts.
It’s got a simple hook… No need to memorize the genealogies of 73 characters here. Married 1940s battlefield nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is transported to 18th-century Scotland, where she falls in love with a hunky warrior (Sam Heughan) — and that’s it! Moore can even do a five-word pitch: “It’s a triangle in time.”
…And a compelling heroine. Claire’s medical skills prove valuable as she navigates wartime intrigue. “She’s not running around making dopey comments about the 20th century and looking for telephones,” Moore says.
It’s not afraid to play dirty. “We’re not trying to reinvent the 18th century and make it cool for modern audiences,” Moore says. “There’s a temptation to make period pieces look like a costume drama, where everything is clean and beautiful. We’re going for a rougher, grittier feeling.” So for starters, these Scots have actual Scottish accents.
Millions already love the story. Like Thrones, Outlander has a series of popular novels to draw from, including a new one on the way in June. “The general scheme is one season, one book,” Moore says. “Thrones has opened the door for fantasy, but we don’t think of them as competition,” he says. “They won that corner of the world; we want to find our own space.” Preferably one jam-packed with millions of fans. —James Hibberd