Since last summer MTV has been slowly moving their way back into scripted television, something they stepped out of right around 2000. Their first attempt came in the form of the absolutely terrible The Hard Times of RJ Berger, this was followed by a remake of the hit British series Skins. Unfortunately, while a solid (but ultimately failed) attempt at a remake, the series was met with harsh backlash against its content. The backlash combined with the show’s poor ratings ultimately led to its cancellation this past week. Now here we are, saddled with the network’s latest attempt at scripted drama, Teen Wolf.
This may be a re-imagining of the Michael J. Fox film from ’85, but the differences are major. MTV’s version is more of an adaptation in name only, and while the series is fraught with problems (many, many problems), it does show, much like Skins, that MTV is willing to grow on a creative level because this is the network’s best scripted series to date.
The series is centered around California high school student/lacrosse player Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) who, while searching for the second half of a dead body with his moronic, but lovable best friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) is attacked by a strange animal. The next day Scott begins to realize he has heightened abilities like sight, hearing, smell, stamina and strength. These abilities turn him into a lacrosse superstar and allow him to get close to the new girl in school, Allison (Crystal Reed). But as it turns out, Allison is keeping some secrets of her own.
If you decide to check out Teen Wolf, I implore you to power through the first episode and not judge the premier based on part one alone. The problem with the first episode of the series is that it’s nothing but introduction and exposition. In the opening scene we meet Scott and Stiles and within the first five minutes, Scott’s attack occurs. The rest of the series serves to explain Scott’s new abilities and set up the conflicts that will occur throughout the season between Allison’s father (J.R. Bourne), who is a werewolf hunter; the werewolf that changed Scott into a monster, Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin); and the captain of the lacrosse team, Jackson Whittemore (Colton Haynes).
The second episode is where we get our first glimpse as to the type of series Teen Wolf is trying to be. The best way to put it is that it’s more CW and less Summit. The cheesy high school cliques and romances are out and about in full force throughout the series. But within those cliche elements lies a rather interesting take on werewolf mythology. If there’s one thing that we can all be glad this series takes from the movie that spawned it, it’s that no one is playing the “what’s a werewolf?” game. An element shows like The Walking Dead greatly suffer from. In Teen Wolf, people know the basic idea behind the beast. No need for explanations about full moons and silver bullets.
The second episode also gets into all the enemies that Scott is going to face throughout the season. The most notorious of which is the one that turned him into a werewolf in the first place. Derek is a bad guy who just wants to be left alone. But now that he has to worry about exposure thanks to Scott’s lack of control over his powers, and while his acting doesn’t extend far beyond typical Twilight-esque brooding, it’s still an interesting dynamic to be placed within a series spawned by the same network that houses The Jersey Shore.
Perhaps the biggest complaint to be drawn from the series isn’t the werewolf story line, but rather of the portrayal of the characters. Apparently MTV thinks that a really good looking guy with a six pack, an inhaler and a lack of street smarts equals nerd. If Scott’s a nerd, then I’m a dancing monkey. You’re telling me not a single girl in this school, and not a single player on the lacrosse team has any respect for this kid? That’s some Grade-A werewolf shit right there.
All things considered, Teen Wolf has set up a series that, with the right amount of time and creativity can help grow MTV’s push for scripted programming even further. Like Skins before it, it’s a step in the right direction for the network. But more importantly, the series is worth at least a few episodes of the audience’s time, which is all we can ask for from any television show.
And don’t worry ladies, there’s plenty of ripped, shirtless teenage boys to go around.
To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.