Every so often, someone has the bright idea of taking all manner of previously separated supernatural beasties and sticking them together. Universal is trying it right now at the movies with Dracula, The Mummy, et al, with almost no success, but cast your mind back just a little bit and you’ll remember Sky/Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which brought together the likes of Frankenstein, his monster, Dr Jekyll and Dorian Grey.
Cast your mind ever further back and you’ll hit HBO’s True Blood, which gave us a world populated by vampires and subsequently fairies, et al, as the series progressed, and when you hit 2010, you’ll come across The Gates, an almost forgotten ABC show about a gated community in which vampires, werewolves and the like all tried to co-exist peacefully, but usually failing miserably in the attempt.
Now NBC is giving it a whirl, this time by following the True Blood route of adapting a series of Southern-set Charlaine Harris books. Here, the eponymous Midnight, Texas is merely an informal point where over the years, all manner of “different” people have decided to settle down. As well as having its own Hellmouth™, there’s
- An energy- and blood-sucking, blue-eyed vampire Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
- Local vicar Yul Vazquez (Seinfeld) is a werewolf
- Tattooist Jason Lewis (Sex and the City) is a fallen angel, albeit one who hasn’t gone to Hell
- Parisa Fitz-Henley (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage) is a witch with a talking cat, albeit not a teenage one
- Arielle Kebbel (90210) is a freelance assassin with no apparent special power other than to run around in a bikini with a bow and arrow
- Potentially all manner of other, equally odd individuals
All seems quiet, even when the Sons of Lucifer are around. But then along into town comes psychic François Arnaud (The Borgias), persuaded by his fraudulent fortune-telling dead grandmother that he’s better off hiding out in Midnight, Texas, from whomever’s after him.
Unfortunately, just as Arnaud turns up, someone is murdered and before you know it, the police are investigating, sometimes with the help of Arnaud and his ability to speak to and raise the dead. Will they discover the town’s great big secret? And if they do, what will the denizens do to ensure their secret is kept safe?
A southern drawl
As with True Blood and Harris’s work in general, the first episode doesn’t really speed along, so much as meander, chewing tobacco and winking to the pretty ladies and gentlemen as it passes. It’s clear the show doesn’t take itself in any way seriously and is all out for fun, and while it comes perilously close to Mary Sue fan fiction at times, it does manage to do some fairly interesting things with its range of characters, principally Arnaud. Indeed, despite its playfulness, it does come quite close to doing being slightly frightening at times, with both its vampire and its ghosts, who are all delightfully rancid.
Despite this Harris stamp all over it, Midnight, Texas is actually a lot closer to The Gates than True Blood in character. Perhaps that’s unsurprising since it’s on network TV rather than cable, but a good third to a half of the show is a murder-mystery, with the cops investigating the townsperson’s death and Arnaud communing with her and the netherworld to find out what really happened. It’s still all tongue in cheek, but this isn’t the sex-fest civil rights metaphor that True Blood was.
The playful nature of the show means that it’s also less than compelling to watch. The characters are fun enough and even likeable at times, and the occasional bit of vampire super-speed goes a long way, but by the end of it, I don’t feel like I needed to see what happened next. The fact the episode had dawdled around the party so much that we basically have a voice over in the last couple of minutes explaining “This guy is a werewolf… this guy is an angel… sorry, we didn’t quite have time to tell you all of this during the episode” doesn’t make me think that the storytelling in following episodes is going to rank up there with the classics.
It’s got a fun cast, an interesting scenario and plenty of humorous moments, but I doubt I’ll be watching Midnight, Texas much when I get back from my holidays.