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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
TEEN WOLF (MTV)
(written by Jeff Davis; directed by Russell Mulcahy; TRT: 35:05)
The network's description: ""Teen Wolf," stars Tyler Posey ("Maid in Manhattan," "Brothers and Sisters"), as the newly bitten werewolf, 'Scott McCall,' Dylan O'Brien as his best friend 'Stiles,' Crystal Reed as the mysterious new girl in town, 'Allison,' and Tyler Hoechlin ("Road to Perdition," "7th Heaven") as the older and possibly quite dangerous werewolf, 'Derek Hale.' Always an outsider and often unnoticed, Scott McCall yearns to be recognized in some small way that takes him out of his typical state of high school anonymity. When his best friend, Stiles, convinces him to go into the woods one night to join a police search for a dead body, Scott encounters a creature in the darkness. Narrowly escaping an attack with a vicious bite in his side, the next day brings strange surprises for Scott at school and his life will never be the same."
What did they leave out? The pilot was filmed as a presentation, meaning originally only the essential scenes were shot.
The plot in a nutshell: Best friends Scott (Tyler Posey) and Stiles (Dylan O'Brien), like most awkward teenagers, long to be star athletes like Jackson (Colton Haynes) and have girlfriends like Lydia (Holland Roden). Unfortunately they're both sitting on the sidelines of the lacrosse field and have no female prospects on the horizon. Even worse for Scott, his asthma perpetually glues him to his inhaler. That however all changes when Stiles suggests - after overhearing the news on his sheriff father's (Linden Ashby) police radio - they look into reports of a brutally murdered girl in the woods. Ultimately Scott is the one to stumble across the girl's remains, not to mention a very angry looking wolf that appears to be responsible. In the ensuing scuffle he's bitten, a development which will alter his life forever.
The following day Scott finds his senses are overly stimulated at all times: whether it's the faintest of smells or the quietest of whispers, everything just feels more intense. Said changes apply to the lacrosse field as well: he's almost superhumanly agile and aware, a reversal of fortunes which piques the interest of Lydia and new transfer Allison (Crystal Reed) not to mention draws the ire of Jackson, Lydia's boyfriend and top dog on the lacrosse team. His new status however isn't without its pitfalls: he becomes something of an emotional basket case, one which threatens to derail his burgeoning relationship with Allison; and he finds himself waking up in the woods with no memory of how he got there. That, and after Stiles does some research, the reality that he just might be a werewolf... and a full moon is tonight.
What works: The show is ridiculously well cast, as Posey and Reed in particular have the kind of fresh, combustible chemistry you need in these kinds of shows (a flirty scene set to Bon Iver's "Re: Stacks" genuinely pops). And while the plot is more or less your typical genre origin story, the script goes about it in such a workmanlike fashion it's almost charming. Helping matters is a closing sizzle reel (think a purposefully shot "next week on..." for sales purposes) that introduces some more-than-welcome mythology elements, such as bringing mysterious townie Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) into the fold as Scott's werewolf mentor, not to mention giving them both a villain in the form of a group of werewolf hunters, the leader of which is... well, you'll just have to wait and see. I'm less sold on the show's (albeit unfinished) special effects, which make its werewolves look like the vampires from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
What doesn't: I have no doubt this show will be raked over the coals by some for being "Teen Wolf" in name only as the kitschyness of the original concept (sadly, no one dunks in a glorified gorilla costume and sweatbands here) is dropped in favor of playing things in the shadows. And much like MTV's current entry "The Hard Times of RJ Berger," the show operates as an amalgam of various TV and film properties rather than coming from an original voice. To that end, "Teen Wolf" will certainly play as comfort food for those looking for another supernatural teen drama. Whether that translates into a compelling show from week to week however remains to be seen. Thankfully there's promising elements at work here...
The bottom line: ...ones which make me hopeful it will do just that.