Tuned In

Moonlight: It Both Bites and Sucks!

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Cliff Lipson/CBS

I wrote a bit the other day about the various trends of the new season–rich peeople, superpowers, nerds, etc.–but there’s an unusual little meta-trend that crosses a few of these genres: Nostalgia for Shows You Didn’t Realize Anyone Was Nostalgic For. A few shows this season are echoes of cult shows from the past. We’ve discussed the Quantum Leap-ness of Journeyman. Pushing Daisies–a quirky critic’s-darling romance involving magic powers–is a little bit like a hyperstylized version of 1998 quirky critic’s-darling romance Cupid. And CBS’s Moonlight, a detective show that pairs a vampire private eye with a comely web journalist, has more than a few echoes of 1987-90 cult hit Beauty and the Beast.

It shouldn’t be surprising, since Moonlight comes from Beauty’s creator, Ron Koslow. But this plodding, overserious drama doesn’t come close to its predecessor (or at least my memories of it), much less Angel, which redefined the vampire-as-TV-hero in the meantime. Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) has spent the last 60 years as a vampire, having been “turned” by his young vampiress bride. (Because you know how those vampire-mortal mixed marriages go, what with the arguments about how to raise the kids.) Mick is one of the good vampires, he tells us, meaning he doesn’t kill victims but gets blood from a “dealer.” He dispenses with several other myths: holy water won’t hurt him, nor will a stake in the heart (burning and decapitation work); he sleeps in a freezer, not a coffin; he likes garlic.

We learn all this in an incredibly lame expository device, a fantasy-sequence interview at the outset of the pilot–that’s right, a literal interview with the vampire–and things just get more intrusive-voiceover-y and laughably noirish from there. (Sample dialogue: “My guy at the morgue, Guillermo, deals in information and blood. Tonight I needed both.”) Mick spends his nights using his supersenses to solve mysteries and trying to protect people from the less-scrupulous undead, and in the course of one case, he encounters reporter Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), whom he saved from a vampire as a girl, though she doesn’t remember it. He finds himself drawn to her, but afraid to reveal his predilection for quaffing the red stuff.

So: you have your operatic immortal-love story intended to make us weak in the knees, plus a procedural crime element, because this is still CBS, after all. But the mystery in the pilot is unmemorable, and try though O’Loughlin does to sell Mick to us with his big puppy-dog eyes, neither he nor Beth are vivid enough characters to make us feel the love. Vampirephiles are better off Netflixing old seasons of Angel to enjoy on Friday nights. Moonlight is undead on arrival.

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