Have any of you been watching MTV's new series Teen Wolf? I thought I might give it a go as it premiered right after the MTV Movie Awards which we wrote up here (live blog) and here (fashion). I think with Mad Men missing from my summer schedule, I'm searching for a TV show worth writing about - not that an MTV high school show based on a cheesy 80s movie is equivocal but I was curious. I mean how long can the current vampire/werewolf craze last? Zombies reigned for nearly an entire decade of pop culture so perhaps this trend has got a few more years in it.
As with Game of Thrones I decided three episodes was enough before sounding off...
episode 1 (pilot) "Wolf Moon"
It begins, as many monster movies, do with an investigation: cops, flashlights, woods, dead body ...or half of one at least (ewww). We are then introduced to the lead character Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), who is shown shirtless fixing his LaCrosse gear. So he's already coded as "hot jock". His best friend Stiles (Dylan O'Brien), a cop's son, calls to urge him to sneak out and see what all this dead body business is about. Weirdly, Stiles has Scott who is a severe asthmatic, hold the flashlight while they run up and down forest hills in the pitch black. Pant pant. Cough cough. BITE BITE. wolf attack! Well, you saw that coming. The next morning at school there is this amusing but entirely implausible* conversation, as Stiles berates Scott for being such a nerd.
"Dragging me down to your nerd depths. I'm a nerd by association. I've been Scarlet Nerded by you."
The creator of the show cited Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an influence in a recent interview -- another reason I tuned in -- and in dialogue exchanges like this you can feel it reaching for the smart geeky pop culture fun of that classic.
But in no way shape or universe is a guy on a high school's #1 sports team who looks like this a nerd.
No that is not a key party invitation from a cougar. That is a sex talk with his mom! (Cuz, you know, people generally have those talks with their mom while dripping wet and wearing only a towel.) Of course the mom uses this opportunity to make an MTV in joke -synergy!
I'm not going to end up on some reality show with a pregnant 16 year old."
ANYWAY... I was talking to Joe after the show about all this sexiness and I said 'Remember in 80s and 90s movies how the people playing nerds were sometimes not regulation hotties who have personal trainers on speed dial.' And he says...
Oh, you mean the bad old days?"
So... uh, well, Joe won that argument.
Trust: I'm not complaining about looking at Tyler Posey. But when your casting director fills an entire high school with beauties, it's hard not to giggle at the conversations about who's hot and who's not. There is one moment in particular in episode one that had me totally LOL'ing where I was supposed to be sympathizing: A super hot black girl (unnamed... this school is lily-white but for her) stares at the new girl chatting up the most popular couple in school. She asks Scott and Stiles why the new girl gets to hang with them on her first day and they tell her 'Duh, she's hot!' So basically three hot 20somethings pretending to be highschoolers are staring at three other hot 20somethings pretending to be highschoolers, whilst bemoaning their fate as the Unhot?
The things you're hearing are hilariously irreconciliable with what you're seeing. Hey, maybe the show is a sly satire on body dysmorphia?
But if there's one thing this show is not, that's subtle. [Lots more after the jump, including more Buffy comparisons.]
While Scott is slowly discovering his new wolfishness, his English class is studying Kafka's "Metamorphosis". Meanwhile, Stiles is wisecracking, worrying about their lack of popularity and doing research on lycanthropy making him both the Xander and the Willow of this particular show.
The pilot is actually a pretty deft balancing act, all told, somehow introducing a ton of characters, providing plenty of beefcake (7 minutes... I counted OUT OF SCIENTIFIC CURIOUSITY, I assure you), mapping out all the central relationships and even getting to what one assumes will be the antagonists, the wolf hunters. They shoot Scott with an arrow nailing him to the tree (SPOILER: He escapes so that he may bolt towards Episode 2). In some ways they should've saved some of this for later because episodes 2 and 3 don't actually add much information. Pilot: B+
Episode 2 "Second Chance at First Line"
The second episode is weirdly sports-centric. Didn't Michael J Fox play basketball in the movie? In this one the werewolve plays Lacrosse and no I don't care if I'm spelling that wrong since sports confuse me. It looks like a cross between soccer and hockey to me but that's about as much as I can say about it. See, the problem is when Scott's blood pressure rises, the wolf comes out so playing soccer-hockey with the boys and playing tonsil-hockey with Allison (Crystal Reed) are both dangerous activities.
In this episode it becomes clear that the locker room is asking to be to this show what the library is to Buffy. The problem is that the library on Buffy -- always empty but for the Scoobies -- was a genius joke about how uncool it was to be our heroes. The locker room really makes no narrative sense here but for the fact that the characters play sports. In the very first scene Scott and Stiles have an EXTREMELY LOUD CONVERSATION in which they recap the first episode while their teammates walk around in the background, somehow obvious to all the werewolf and werewolf hunter talk. And then later DIRECTLY AFTER THE GAME there's what's meant to be a scary scene where Allison enters the locker room looking for Scott and he transforms into his bad hairy self and will possibly be eating her. Now, correct me if I'm wrong because, again, I'm no sports expert, but don't teams return to the locker room when their game ends. This is a lengthy scene that takes place immediately after a game and nobody enters until the scares have ended and then only Stiles for a punchline. Where did the team go? Did they just decide to go home in their stinky sweaty uniforms? Nobody wanted to rinse off?
Nevertheless there are a few good moments in this episode, some more werewolf knowledge involving the wolfsbane plant, and one actually good scare involving skype and that dread spinning ball when your Mac freezes up. (Strangely there is only 30 seconds of fleshploitation in the entire episode). B-
Episode 3 "Pack Mentality"
In the third episode, Scott has a terrible dream and when he wakes up he thinks he has killed his girlfriend (is this entire show going to be about dead girls or girls that might die. Because if so: yuck!). The victim turns out to be an old man and it's not really clear who killed him but somehow Scott was there in his wolf form.
As if there's weren't horror enough, Scott is forced to go bowling on a double date.
Aside from Stiles (absent) these are the main characters. I'll sum up their personalities for you from left to right: Allison (Sweet Love Interest), Scott (Main Character), Lydia (Queen Bee Mean Girl), Jackson (Angry Superior Jock). The show would be INFINITELY better if that sum up were harder to do. Or if the main character had a personality. I'm still wondering what it is.
We spend more time with the other werewolf on the show Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin from Road to Perdition, all grown up into tall dark and swarthy hunkiness) who Scott hates even though Derek is trying to help him. They have a lot of really inane conversations that go a lot like this...
These two also get into a wolfen brawl in a burnt out home. They're brutal on the wooden scenery which is nearly indistinguishable from their acting. One is meant to chew on the scenery, not become it. C-
Will I keep watching? It's unclear. I'm lazy and now it's on my DVR. Plus I like Xander, excuse me, Stiles a lot (he had a really funny bit in the third episode loudly worrying that gay guys didn't find him attractive.) and it's vaguely interesting in a really programmatic way that the wolf hunter's are led by the wolf's girlfriend's dad. But it's progressively less interesting and more repetitive and that's rarely a good sign. TV shows are supposed to get better as they get going, finding their footing and filling in details. The pilot raced through the details and now the show seems to be idling.