I wrote this for the Chicago Tribune’s ‘Geek to Me’ section that ran last Friday (Look Ma: my first assignment for a major in-print publication!), and retained the right to reprint it in full here, cause YGIM boasts some mad contract-negotiation skills. The Teen Wolf premiere in LA was a definite up-fronts high point for me, due only in small part to the fact that the male actors = MTV’s yummiest eye candy ever. In fact, I lament that there is no more “Tiger Beat” catering to the nation’s tween girls who’d give anything to win a date with one of the heart-throbs. Note for you non-geeks: see my ‘binary rating legend’ below.
BINARY RATING LEGEND
0 = Utterly Unwatchable
1 = BEST.SHOW.EVER!
You’ll Want Your MTV (Again)
May 27, 2011
MTV is suddenly relevant and cool again. And not ‘relevant and cool’ in some culture-debasing ‘Snooki’s Super-Sweet-SixTeen-Mom’ sense. The 30-ish not-MusicTeleVision institution reclaims it’s legitimacy this weekend as it expands its brand beyond their trademark un-reality smorgasbord into the scripted realm of supernatural geeky teen-angst fare with the two day debut of Teen Wolf.
Fans of the 1985 Michael J Fox film, please take a breath, pop a xanax and relax. I promise you that Hollywood has not desecrated one of the beloved, iconic institutions from our childhood; instead this cold-boot restart is to the original Teen Wolf what Christopher Nolan’s Batman is to Adam West’s. Outside of the title and a few unchanged character names, there are little, if any similarities to connect the campy ’80’s classic with the sexy re-imagined series. Rest assured there are no van-surfing shenanigans, no cuddly father werewolves with fingers crossed for the were-gene skipping a generation, and no down-to-the-wire, white men CAN jump championship-cinching shots in the Big Basketball Game. In fact, no basketball, period.
This is a story of the transformation every teenager goes through as they come of age and figure out who they are…. its just told with werewolves. When Scott McCall’s best friend Stiles convinces the awkward teenager to secretly join a police search in the woods for the missing half of a dead body one night, he is attacked by something and narrowly escapes with a vicious bite in his side. The next day Scott begins to discover strange new abilities that propel him from social outsider to star athlete, a starter on the lacrosse team he’s only been a bench ornament for until now, who has no problem getting a date Friday nights. As Scott discovers his new werewolf nature, he must struggle to control his darker animal instincts and finds the Lycan bite is both a gift and a curse. If the rest of the season is anything like the pilot episode, we’re in for a fantastic ride that will engage us while keeping us just a little off balance as the plot twists and turns; leaving us guessing about each characters motives, wondering who will survive, which relationships will bend and which will break, and ultimately, which path our hero will follow.
The series stars Tyler Posey (“Collateral Damage”) as the newly bitten werewolf ‘Scott McCall;’ Crystal Reed (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”) as Scott’s beautiful crush and new girl in town ‘Allison Argent;’ Dylan O’Brien (YouTube Channel) as part class-clown, part Hardy Boy and Scott’s endearing best friend ‘Stiles;’ Tyler Hoechlin (“7th Heaven”) as ‘Derek Hale,’ the beta wolf guiding Scot through his transformation; Holland Roden (“Weeds,” “Lost”) as ‘Lydia Martin,’ the popular girl with a secret who may hold the cure to Scott’s Lycanthropy; and Colton Haynes (“The Gates”) as ‘Jackson Whitmore,’ Lydia’s boyfriend, the big man on campus and Scott’s arch rival on the lacrosse team. These talented young actors are not just pretty faces (although they are easily the prettiest faces on TV today), they are the next wave of Hollywood’s elite up and comers. Though the chemistry between the various characters on screen pales compared to the obvious off-screen friendship they have forged over the season, it is clear that this cast takes its work seriously and is committed to delivering compelling, authentic performances.
Executive producer and writer Jeff Davis (creator, “Criminal Minds”) developed the series and brought MTV and Tales from the Crypt veteran Robert Mulcahy (“Highlander I &II,” “Resident Evil: Extinction”) on board as director and co-executive producer to help realize his vision. Sunday night’s pilot, written by Jeff and directed by Robert, who makes a cameo at the end of the first act, demonstrates that the combined whole of these two creative execs is far greater than the sum of their parts. What do they think is the primary difference between the film franchise and the new series? Jeff takes the lead in answering “Well, the film is, I always felt, at its core a basketball flick, and this is more ‘Spiderman’ meets ‘Buffy,’…” Robert elaborates further, “…with ‘The Lost Boys’ and maybe a little of ‘Romeo and Juliet’s’ star crossed lovers for good measure.”
Geekier genre-fans will appreciate that the towns woods, where the bulk of our suspenseful moments and pivotal action occur, reminds them of a cross between Twin-Peaks and Bastogne, and serves as the perfect creepy background against which to stage the show’s myriad special effects, introduce new mysteries and reveal sudden plot twists. And the FX-junkies are sure to be pleased, as this viewer suspects she spotted the use of 3-D technology in a few instances, although she could not obtain confirmation on this from either Jeff Davis or Russell Mulcahy. Make-up effects were done by the Oscar-winning teams Proteus FX (“Star Trek,” “Mission Impossible III”) and K.N.B. Effects Group (“Predators,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”).
Twilight, schmilight! Vamps are so last season: as in cold and dead, both literally and figuratively. Werewolves, on the other hand, are warm-blooded creatures of wanton carnality – now that’s hot. The hour-long supernatural drama debuts its 12 episode season this Sunday, June 5, immediately after the MTV Movie Awards at 11/10c, and will air regularly on Monday nights at 10/9c, beginning June 6. Do yourself a favor and tune in.
Final Verdict: You’ll want your MTV… (again).
Binary Score: 1