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This Bites: A Look at CBS' "Moonlight"

I haven't exactly been shy with my opinions about CBS' new fall drama, Moonlight (formerly known as Twilight), which I unfavorably compared to Angel and Forever Knight when I first saw the pilot presentation the network had assembled back in May.

Since then, there's been no shortage of changes to the project, from casting (goodbye Shannon Lucio, Amber Valetta, and, well, nearly everyone else; hello Sophia Myles, Jason Dohring, and Shannyn Sossamon) to the guys steering this series (David Greenwalt joins, then leaves the project, and is replaced by Chip Johannsen).

Not exactly good signs but sometimes a network does have to make drastic changes in order to make a series work. After all, NBC wisely replaced Rachel Dratch with Jane Krakowski on 30 Rock last season. Sometimes, it's good to jettison what isn't working and focus on how to fix what you've got.

In the case of Moonlight, that meant recasting everyone save series lead Alex O'Loughlin, who plays private investigator Mick St. John who has a rather dark secret: he's a vampire prone to long black coats and old convertibles. (Hmmm, if that doesn't remind you of Angel, I don't know what will.) However his vampiric tendencies, Mick does have some compunctions: he doesn't feed off of humans (frequent trips to the morgue and synthetic blood solve his hunger). He's instantly sucked into solving the crime of a murdered college student, who appeared to have been killed by two puncture wounds to her neck. Vampire? Mick decides he'll appoint himself the victim's saviour and investigates everyone and everything involved with the crime.

The only problem is that beautiful internet reporter Beth Turner (Doctor Who's Sophia Myles, replacing Shannon Lucio) is already sticking her neck where it doesn't belong and Mick can't help but fall for her charms. Of course, there's a fairly obvious connection between them, which for some reason reminded me of Beauty & the Beast (not sure why, though Moonlight does come from that series' creator Ron Koslow), and is helped along by the fact that Beth seems to know Mick from somewhere. They agree to team up on this case and help each other out with leads, but when Beth goes undercover at the same study group as the victim (one that seems to deify vampires, no less), it's up to Mick to rescue this damsel in distress. (Spoiler Alert: AGAIN.)

Rounding out the cast are Veronica Mars' Jason Dohring, who here plays the amoral Josef, a vampire who has lived for hundreds of years but who retains his youthful looks and energy lives life as a high-powered fund hedge fund trader; Shannyn Sossamon (Dirt) as Mick's vampire bride/sire Coraline; and Alias' Kevin Weisman as Beth's trusting cameraman Steve Blafour.

With a cast this good, you hope that the underlying material is as strong. I'm sad to say that Moonlight doesn't do its talented cast any favors. For one, it doesn't look to reinvent the vampire drama in any way, shape, or form. Sure, there are tweaks to the mythology here: vampires can walk around in sunlight and stakes and holy water have no effect on killing them (fire and beheading do the trick), but that's not what I call a plot advance. We've all seen the vampire-with-a-soul setup far too many times now (Angel, Forever Knight, Dark Shadows) and Moonlight doesn't so much as use this scenario for dramatic purposes (the push and pull of desire vs. moral duty) as it does as a convenient setup for yet another procedural.

As for the mystery, it seemed fairly straightforward and formulaic and the resolution did nothing to make me feel as though intelligent and independent Beth Turner were, well, intelligent and independent, as it involves her running right into the arms of the killer and having to be saved by Mick. (Yawn.) It's no fault of Sophia Myles, who I thought did a fantastic job with a fairly one-dimensional character (and her accent is pretty flawless to boot), but with some lazy writing.

Ultimately, I applaud CBS for trying to do something other than forensic dramas but I don't think that Moonlight, which feels in every way a throwback to 1990s syndicated dramas, will be the one to find a different audience. In the end, it's unlikely that Moonlight will stick around for many lunar cycles.

Moonlight launches Friday, September 28th at 9 pm on CBS.


The premise of this sounds horribly generic which is too bad because the cast really is stellar. And it does seem like a blatant Angel rip off which is funny since Angel never got big ratings. I can just see the pitch now..."It's like Angel but will appeal to a mass audience!" But, unlike Angel, it looks like this vampire story has no soul.
Anonymous said…
And what's with using a Celine Dion song to promote the show? They really couldn't try any harder to muck this up. Why don't they just put it in the "death" slot on Friday night? Oh, wait... they already did that. I'll miss this show when it's gone. Mostly because I'm happy for these actors to be working.
Anonymous said…
This sounds terrible. I thought it sounded like Angel and Forever Knight and instead it is just a horrible retread of both. I know CBS wants to do something different but why not do something original?
Anonymous said…
P.S. The Celine Dion song thing will be the final nail in this show's coffin. I hope.
Anonymous said…
the only reason I'll be watching this is for Jason Dohring (and his ass). Sigh. Jason, you're so much better than this show. Why?
Anonymous said…
I am totally looking forward to this show and STAYING IN tonight to watch it. Wow. That says a lot. I am a totally Jason Dohring fan, but I also think the lead guy is a hottie and I liked the previews. Come on- give it a whirl people...
Anonymous said…
I found this show to be stylish, sexy, dark, witty, and romantic. It’s a fresh take on the vampire genre. Please tune in and give Moonlight a chance.
Anonymous said…
Well, it started and it blew my socks off!
Nothing like Angel, it's original and extremely entertaining. The cast is superb, especially Alex O'Loughlin.
This is a good example of why you shouldn't pre-judge a show.
Awesome programme. Check it out on April 11th when it returns. You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous said…
If you didn't give the show a chance before, PLEASE reconsider. The show definitely got better if you only saw the first few episodes. Starting with episode four, Fever, it exploded! The lead, Alex O'Loughlin is amazing in the role of Mick St.John and he has bucketloads of chemistry with Sophia Myles, as well as Jason Dohring and Shannyn Sossamon.

There is romance, action, drama and comedy. Something for everyone! Go buy the episodes on iTunes, you will NOT be sorry.

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