There's not a lot I miss about being a teen -- the zits, the homework, the torturous first dates -- but the TV is one thing I wish I'd never outgrown. There's very little of that verisimilitude that grown-up dramas suffer from. From the highly unlikely guardianship of Charlie Salinger to the seriously misguided dating rules of Joyce Summers, teen shows always have some elements of wish fulfillment. Parents are young, attractive or entirely absent. TV teen drama can't be dismissed as silly, the way real life teen drama can be -- its usually an apocalypse, a tragic accident or a mysterious disease, or sometimes all of the above.
'Teen Wolf,' the MTV series that only vaguely resembles the '80s Michael J. Fox movie of the same name, has all the hallmarks of a high school classic.
Leading man-wolf Scott McCann spends a few moments of the pilot talking to a woman I originally took for his sister; of course she's his Mom. But don't worry -- she only appears to hand Scott the keys to the car and sidestep a serious conversation about sex before disappearing from the plot entirely. The only other parents to get screen time belong to Alison, Scott's love interest (a willowy dark-haired Bella Swan clone), whose Dad is, of course, a werewolf hunter.
I thought the pilot was pretty strong. It had some of the stilted moments that can't be helped when all that expository dialogue gets shoehorned in, and a few times the actors seemed unsure about what kind of character they were playing. I was also initially turned off by the cavalier attitude local kids had to the discovery of a dead body in the nearby woods. I know kids these days watch a lot of 'SVU' and stuff, but I thought it unwise to present Scott's best pal as genuinely delighted at the prospect of a local murder. But as the episode went on, it became clear it was just a mishandled plot point, not a character flaw.
Lead actor Tyler Posey is well-cast. He's got a young Antonio Banderas thing going on. He plays dumb with a healthy dose of sweetness -- you feel instantly that it's not a lack of smarts he suffers from, more a lack of experience. The other Tyler in the cast (last name Hoechlin) plays a potential mentor for Scott. I have nothing much to say about his acting, but feel compelled to mention that his looks combine the best parts of Jensen Ackles, Paul Wesley (and how great would a 'Vampire Diaries' crossover episode be?) and David Charvet.
It would be easy to dismiss 'Teen Wolf' as a weekly dose for the 'Twilight' crowd -- at least for Team Jacob. But I think the show has the potential to avoid some of the ways Stephenie Meyer went wrong. (If someone who probably dries her tears with $100 bills can be said to have gone wrong.) Within the first few minutes of the pilot, we got a literary reference to Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis.' Subtle? Not exactly. But it shows the writers are thinking about the bigger picture. The story of Scott's supernatural transformation can serve as a metaphor for genuine teenage transformations. Like good ol' sparkly Edward Cullen, Scott's affliction means he struggles to contain his urges around his new lady friend. It also gives him incredible physical prowess, enough to the point that a lacrosse teammate accuses him of taking steroids. OK, so maybe taking on hormones and performance-enhancing drugs as themes isn't revolutionary, but when Kafka comes up this early, there's clearly potential for at least a glimmer of 'Buffy'-esque brilliance.
On a sidenote, the popularity of supernatural YA fare with adults seems to have shown up on the network radar this year. Several fall shows will be covering similar territory. 'Once Upon a Time' supposes that a 28-year-old bail bondswoman might be the offspring of Snow White and Prince Charming. In 'Grimm,' a homicide detective discovers he is descended from an elite and ancient line of supernatural crime fighters that included the Grimm Brothers. It remains to be seen whether viewers want a little teen fantasy in their grown-up dramas, but I suspect it won't work. I can relate to a teen who suspects she may be adopted, and even embellishes that to wonder if her real parents were the most incredible, amazing beings ever. But that same fantasy in a 28-year-old brain is a bit alarming.
Which is why I'm glad this MTV reboot decided to keep the dated title of the original movie. Werewolves should always be teens -- at the very least, the protagonist werewolf should be. I don't think I could hack a show about a 40-something werewolf trying to hold down his job on Wall Street. And, of course, I remember another supernatural show with an awkward title borrowed from a cult movie, and that one turned out to be pretty great.