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and Shannyn Sossamon) to the guys steering this series (David Greenwalt joined, then left the project, and has now been replaced by Chip Johannsen).
These are 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.) Despite 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, who replaced 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 and who 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 do not have any affect on 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), and 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 28 at 9 pm on CBS.
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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionaryblog.com.