Watching the new CBS vampire show, Moonlight, one gets the sense that the resurgence of science fiction/fantasy shows on broadcast networks may prove short-lived. It is a truism for television that when something works on one show, many shows and networks aim to copy it. Some of these shows will work and be successful, others will not, and eventually the networks will move on to the next thing. So, sure, Heroes is out there and great fun, and Reaper is a good time, but CBS’s Moonlight could signal the beginning of the end of the resurgence.
The show stars Alex O’Loughlin as Mick St. John, a man whose wife turned him into a vampire 60 years ago (unbeknownst to poor Mick apparently, his wife was a bloodsucker). Mick is a private eye in Los Angeles who takes cases as they come, and sometimes, for reasons of his own, gets involved even when he doesn’t have a client.
The latter is the case in the pilot episode, where Mick catches up to young Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), a young adult who is trying to make a name for herself as an “Internet investigative reporter.” Mick also happens to have saved her life many years ago when she was but a wee kidnapped lass. There are “twists” involved with that, so I will not say more about it.
Now however, Beth finds herself in trouble again, following the story of a murdered co-ed, who, it appears, may have been murdered by a vampire. Mick knows better, as the bite marks on the co-ed’s neck are made to look like vampire fangs, but clearly are not (kind of a “takes one to know one” moment). Beth does the good “Internet investigative reporter” thing, going where she is not particularly wanted, lying about who she is, and getting into all sorts of trouble.
Along for the ride with Beth is her cameraman, Steve Balfour (Kevin Weisman of Alias), who is one of the few characters in Moonlight to be enjoyable enough to prompt a second viewing, but he is only listed as being recurring, not as a series regular. The other interesting character is Josef Konstantin (Jason Dohring), who plays a vampire who looks younger, but is in fact far older than Mick. The audience is supposed to find this “looks younger but is actually older” thing clever presumably. Josef dabbles in the financial markets and is consequently incredibly wealthy, which is not used to any effect in the pilot, but hopefully will play some sort of role in the future.
The real problem with the series is that it is an entirely sanitized version of old material. Vampire as detective and do-gooder has been done numerous times, even on television; see Forever Knight among other things as examples. And our pal Mick is such a goody two shoes that he cannot even bring himself to drink directly from humans (see Louis in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles), so he buys blood from a friend at the morgue.
Though we do not see much of her in the premiere episode, Mick’s ex-wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), does have a regular role on the show, and one can imagine that their backstory does inject a little bit of evil into Mick’s past.
How exactly the producers managed to drain all the life and remove all the fangs from a vampire tale one cannot say. What the audience is left with in the case of Mick St. John, outside of a ridiculous name, is a terribly bland character, who may have lived a long life, but not one the audience is particularly excited to find out about.
Will Moonlight signal the death-knell of science fiction-fantasy’s resurgence on primetime network TV? Is the cold, cruel light of day about to shine down upon the genre, cruelly dusting everything that stands in its way? Oh, wait, in Moonlight, vampires do not like sun, they do not do well in it, but they do not burst into flame either. Is the cold, cruel light of day about to shine down upon the genre, making everything in its way feel kind of icky? Only time will tell.
Moonlight premieres September 28, at 9pm ET/PT on CBS.