If you're of a certain age (we don't have to specify), you already know the premise. And even if you're not familiar with the goofy '80s movie starring Michael J. Fox, the title Teen Wolf pretty much sums it up: boy gets bit by werewolf (or inherits a werewolf curse or whatever); boy becomes werewolf. But with the endless supply of supernatural fare available to MTV's demo nowadays -- Twilight, True Blood, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, even Harry Potter -- is there any reason for teens or anyone else to bother getting invested in yet another variation on that theme? Much to our surprise, the network managed to keep things relatively fresh during last night's premiere.
We begin at the beginning. Scott is a high school outcast (I've never seen an outcast that good-looking, but hey, it's TV), far from athletic and ignored by his peers. His best friend Stiles' father is a cop, so after overhearing his father say that half a woman's body has been found in the woods, Stiles and Scott venture out to explore. Stiles' father quickly finds him and sends him home, and Scott is left alone in the woods, where he's attacked by a wolf. Shocker, he's bitten and the symptoms begin the next day. He's better at lacrosse; his senses are working overtime; there's a girl, a party, a full moon...and next thing we know, Scott's quite literally watching his fingers grow into claws.
Now, as I mentioned, it's not exactly an original plot, so what in the name of Michael J. did MTV do to make this so watchable? The obvious is Scott -- or rather, the casting of Tyler Posey as Scott. He's tailor-made (or Taylor-made) for the teenage TV audience: boyishly handsome, able to convincingly play a nerd and an athlete, earnest and as troubled by his newfound powers as he should be. When Scott tells his purported attacker, Derek Hale, that he doesn't want his powers, and Derek responds that "you will," we believe it. Scott's transformation was, and hopefully will continue to be, equal parts fascinating and convincing.
And speaking of the transformation... it's genuinely fun. The from-Scott's-perspective shots are disorienting and unexpected, and the first time we see Scott hear something from far away, we have no idea what's going on. The scene in which he discovers his newfound lacrosse skills is actually pretty funny, even though we know it's coming. And as he sits in the bathtub wincing from pain on the night of the full moon, we want to see the final product.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, the show has a pulse and currency that we haven't seen from MTV's recent forays into scripted programming. Scott and his sudden bursts of anger and sexual longing feel more real, despite the fantastical setting, than shows like Skins (U.S. flavor) and RJ Berger. And MTV even managed to dig up some decent music to propel the show, which only helps to reinforce the teenage perspective - everything happens quickly; everything has a heartbeat.
However, with all that said, it isn't apparent yet whether Teen Wolf is going to be campy or take itself seriously. Part of the strength of a show like True Blood is how aware it is of its ridiculousness, and part of the weakness of the Twilight franchise is its humorlessness. Teen Wolf needs to choose its path and follow it. Confusion is acceptable in teen boys; less so in shows about them.
Would this show have been more relatable if the star wasn't so damned attractive? Find out in this video:
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