1 of 2
Itv Pic/Impossible Pictures
Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) escapes a terrifying "Primeval" beast.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Who doesn't love a show about prehistoric monsters chasing people around the modern world?

That's an oversimplification of the BBC America series "Primeval," but it does help explain the series' multigenerational appeal.

"Clearly, we are very aware that we have a lot of kids who love the show, who love the creatures, and all of the rest of it," said "Primeval" co-creator/writer Adrian Hodges. "But, quite clearly, at the same time, the research shows and the figures show that their parents and older people love this more serial side of it as well and the adult relationships. So we really are trying very hard to try to put something in there for everybody."

And don't forget — lots of really cool CGI monsters!

"Primeval" postulates that, for some unexplained reasons, weird, sparkly portals are opening into other eras of Earth's history. In tonight's premiere (7 p.m., BBC America), dinosaurs have come through into present-day England, and not just the little, cute, flying kind but some big, mean, carnivores, too.

Dealing with the problem is evolutionary zoologist Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall), who finds himself at the head of a team that includes his research assistant, Stephen Hart (James Murray); zoologist Abby Maitland (Hannah Spearitt); and sci-fi geek/college student Connor Temple (Andrew Lee Potts).

They fight whatever creatures come through the portals each week and are generally hindered by the government functionaries who are trying to keep all this secret from the public in order to avoid mass panic.

In addition to having to deal with dinosaurs and, in future episodes, giant centipedes, prehistoric crocodiles, killer parasites, pterodactyls and predators from the future, Cutter is also dealing with the fact that his long-missing, presumed-dead wife, Helen (Juliet Aubrey), is actually jumping through these portals and knows more about the anomalies than anyone.

(There's some big mystery there, but we start getting some answers in Episode 3.)

As for the monsters themselves, they're pretty cool. Not exactly the you'd-swear-they're-real special effects we're beginning to expect from big-screen theatrical releases, but considerably better than the junk we used to be subjected to in low-budget TV shows.

And they're more than just special effects meant to wow viewers — the monsters really do matter to the plot.

"I don't think anybody is purely impressed by special effects anymore, even on television," Hodges said. "What you've got to do is make them count, make them as witty, as clever, as funny, as imaginative as you can. And that's what we tried to do."

The level of sophistication to the effects comes as no surprise — co-creator/executive producer Tim Haines is the guy behind the "Walking with Dinosaurs" documentaries, and this show uses the same technology to create its creatures.

"And we mix in some real dinosaurs as well just to keep the costs down," joked Hodges, demonstrating the same sense of humor that keeps that show from getting overly dramatic.

"Primeval" is an exciting roller-coaster ride of a show that's well worth jumping aboard.

E-mail: [email protected]