How LA’s Mid-1900s Freeway Project Brought ‘Penny Dreadful’ Back to Showtime

TCA 2020: Creator John Logan has a very concrete (well, really asphalt) reason for setting “Penny Dreadful” sequel series in 1938

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John Logan has a very specific reason for setting his “Penny Dreadful” sequel “City of Angels” in 1938 Los Angeles, and it’s one that affects every Angeleno’s life on a daily basis: the freeways.

During the show’s panel Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour, Logan showed two very different maps of Los Angeles: One of LA in 1938, and one in 2020. “The first thing you note is the freeways,” he said, before launching to a bit of a history lesson about the birth of the Los Angeles freeways, known as the Master Plan of Metropolitan Los Angeles Freeways, which began construction in the 1950s.

“What began as a civil engineering project turned in to a sort of de facto social engineering,” Logan continued. “Because of these freeways, we no longer have a Sugar Hill, or Bunker Hill, most of North Main Street, Sonoratown. What we created are quarantined zones for ethnic minorities. So we have Watts, we have East LA. This pattern that began in Los Angeles was then replicated across the country.”

The 110 freeway began construction in, you guessed it, 1938.

“And to suggest the scope of this, one only needs to visit Cesar Chavez Avenue now,” he continued. “If you live at Cesar Chavez Avenue, and you walk to Los Angeles County General Hospital, less than half a mile away, you have to cross 41 lanes of freeway. I found that a compelling story to tell.”

Showtime announced earlier on Monday that “City of Angels” will premiere in April, as well as released the first teaser. Showtime describes the series as “a spiritual descendant” of the original “Penny Dreadful,” which was set in Victorian-era London.