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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
(Fridays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)
The network's description: "MOONLIGHT, from prolific movie producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix," Trilogy), is about Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin, upcoming "White Out"), a captivating "undead" private investigator who uses his acute vampire senses to help the living... instead of feeding on them. In an agonizing twist of fate, Mick was "bitten" 60 years ago by his new bride, the seductive and beguiling Coraline (Amber Valletta, "Hitch"). Immortal and eternally as young, handsome and charismatic as he was then, Mick is sickened by Coraline and other vampires who view humans only as a source of nourishment. With only a handful of undead confidantes for company, including deceitful ally Josef (Rade Serbedzija, "24"), Mick fills his infinite days protecting the living, and trying not to think about how his life would have been if he hadn't followed his heart. However, after six decades of resisting, he wonders if it's time to pursue the love of a mortal. He has his eyes on Beth Turner, a beautiful, ambitious reporter who has been covering the ongoing plague of unusual murders. But would Beth even consider giving up a normal life to be with him, and can Mick risk the pain of seeing himself as a monster in her eyes? As Mick lives between two realities, fighting his adversaries among the undead and falling in love with Beth, he knows he needs to figure out a reason to keep "living." MOONLIGHT is directed by executive producer Rod Holcomb ("ER"). Joel Silver, Ron Koslow ("Birds of Prey"), Trevor Munson and Gerard Bocaccio are also executive producers for Warner Bros. Television."
What did they leave out: The screened pilot was actually shot as a "presentation," meaning it's more of a selection of key scenes (just under 27 minutes by my count) rather than a full blown first episode. Now that it has been picked up to series, the footage will be expanded into a full pilot. Producers are also recasting the role of Beth Turner (played here by "The O.C.'s" Shannon Lucio), while "Angel" co-creator/executive producer David Greenwalt has come aboard as the project's showrunner.
The plot in a nutshell: "You know what - being a vampire sucks," New York City-based private investigator (and vampire) Mick St. John (Alex O'Laughlin) tells us in the first of many moody voiceovers. "Bad joke, but it's the truth." It seems that Mick has been around for some 60 years, during which he's used his superhuman abilities to work outside the law, doing what others can't. But the life of an immortal isn't all it's cracked up to be. "The challenge for our kind is to continually find new reasons to live," says Mick's confidant (and fellow vamp) Josef (Rade Sherbedgia). And so Mick plods through life, more and more unsure of exactly what he's fighting for. That all changes however with his latest case: someone has been kidnapping young women and leaving their drugged, mutilated bodies behind shortly thereafter. It's during said investigation that he crosses paths with TV reporter Beth Turner (Shannon Lucio) and each quickly finds themselves drawn to each other. But like all TV vampires, Mick's romantic history is a minefield. A pair of brief flashbacks - one in 1947 Los Angeles, another in 1985 Los Angeles - introduce us to Coraline (Amber Valletta) who turned the then WWII-era trumpet player and subsequently died at his hands (or did she?) 38 years later. In between all this we're given the intro course to the show's vampire mythology - garlic and holy water "don't do jack," crucifixes are a joke, silver bullets "hurt like hell," a wooden stake will put you down but only fire will finish you for good. The vampire powers side is a little bit more vague - they can detect body heat (vampires don't give off any), sense recent events, fly brief distances and possess a "hypnotic gaze" which can control any living man or beast. But wait, there's more! Vampires sleep in giant freezer-like coffins, shoot up blood like it's heroin and mirrors apparently can reveal their true selves as freakish veiny monsters. (Yes boys and girls it's quite a sampler platter of the various mythologies out there.) Anywho, back in the present day - and because some action needs to actually happen - the curious Beth gets herself kidnapped by the people behind the murders (it seems rich people will pay to watch girls get ritually murdered) and it's up to Mick to rescue her. As one might guess, he saves her but exposes himself as a monster in the process. What ever will these star-crossed lovers do?
What works: While many of the "Angel" and "Forever Knight" fans out there are no doubt sharpening their pitchforks at the prospect of another vampire detective show, on the surface "Moonlight" isn't all that terrible...
What doesn't: ...it's just really, really boring. As you've no doubt gleaned from the synopsis, everything here has been seen and done (better) before. Making matters worse is a cast that sleepwalks through the entire show - there's really no spark or energy to anything. It's just moody narration, Dido needle drop, longing look from one of the leads, wash, rinse and repeat. While I understand it's just a presentation, one hoped to have a little meat to the show. It's more surprising that the show's mantra - his abilities let him do what other's can't - is thrown under the bus of weak plotting. I mean I'm no vampire detective, but I'm pretty sure I could track down missing people if they called and left me a message where they were going to be that night. And I'm pretty sure if I was one, I would use my fancy vampire powers to not get myself stabbed (and subsequently be exposed, as Mick does) by the few lame thugs holding Beth. Okay, so maybe it is kind of terrible. As for the decision to recast Lucio's character, my only rationale is she looks rather young for a seasoned TV reporter, especially when standing next to the scruffy O'Laughlin. Overall, good luck to David Greenwalt and company on righting this ship.
The bottom line: Hope for major changes by the time this premieres in the fall.