“The Nevers,” Joss Whedon’s steampunk brainchild and HBO’s latest original series, drew over 1.4 million viewers across linear telecasts and digital during its premiere on Sunday night. The show scored the best debut for a new original series on HBO Max and surpassed viewership for other popular shows on the streamer, including Misha Green’s horror drama “Lovecraft Country” and David E. Kelley’s psychological thriller “The Undoing.” This preliminary number will likely increase significantly as viewing across HBO’s platforms and additional telecasts are factored in.
Per the logline, the fantastical, sci-fi period drama set in Victorian London takes place after the supernatural events of August 1896, in which certain people — mostly women — are granted extraordinarily abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But, no matter their particular “turns” (aka powers), all who belong to this new underclass of “The Touched” are in grave danger. It all falls to mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and brilliant young inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) to protect and shelter these gifted “orphans.” To do so, they will have to face the brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind and protect those who are like them.
“The Nevers,” which was ordered straight to series in July 2018, stars leads Olivia Williams (Lavinia Bidlow) and Nick Frost (Declan Orrun/The Beggar King). The cast also includes James Norton, Tom Riley, Ben Chaplin, Pip Torrens, Zackary Momoh, Amy Manson, Rochelle Neil, Eleanor Tomlinson, Denis O’Hare, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Elizabeth Berrington, Ella Smith, Viola Prettejohn, Anna Devlin and Martyn Ford.
Back when the show was ordered, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” creator had described “The Nevers” as “the most ambitious narrative I’ve created.” By November 2020, Whedon, who was to serve as writer, director, executive producer and showrunner, exited the series after directing three out of the show’s first six episodes and writing its pilot. In a statement, he cited exhaustion, a desire to focus on his personal life and an inability to meet the physical challenges of creating a large show amid a pandemic. At the time, Whedon was embroiled in an investigation by WarnerMedia (HBO’s parent company) over allegations of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” misconduct on the set of “Justice League” made by star Ray Fisher on Twitter.
In December, WarnerMedia announced the investigation had concluded and that “remedial action has been taken.” By the following month, Philippa Goslett (“Mary Magdalene,” “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”) was announced as the new showrunner of “The Nevers.” Whedon is still under fire for accusations of workplace discrimination, harassment and abuse, raised by “Buffy” and “Angel” actresses Charisma Carpenter, Michelle Trachtenberg and Amber Benson, among others.