A creative overhaul in the pilot phase need not be damning for a new TV series. Sometimes you get a show like "Brothers & Sisters," which started off rough, but came out of its troubled genesis as a stronger finished product. More often, though, I suspect you get something like "Moonlight."
Since CBS first presented "Moonlight" to advertisers, the vampire private eye drama has been almost completely recast, completely reshot and gone through several different showrunners. If ever there were a series that could be excused a little preliminary unevenness, it's "Moonlight." Unfortunately, based on the first episode, which premieres Friday (Sept. 27), "Moonlight" isn't uneven. It's straight-up awful.
The only actor to survive the original "Moonlight" casting purge -- in which Jason Dohring replaced Rade Serbedzija, Sophia Myles came in for Shannon Lucio and Amber Valetta became Shannyn Sossamon -- was leading man Alex O'Loughlin, who plays Mick, the Los Angeles-based gumshoe with an appetite for blood. Yes, Mick is undead, but the revisionist mythology developed by creators Ron Koslow and Trevor Munson strips him of anything meaningfully vampiric. Once the main character doesn't mind garlic, holy water or crosses and can't be killed with a stake to the heart and is able to attend a day-time funeral with only the most minor of inconvenience? What are you left with? A pale guy who pops in colored contact lenses and pointy teeth when he gets really agitated.
Mick's a relatively young vampire and he hangs out with centuries-old Josef (Dohring), a wealthy vamp with a personal investment in keeping his sanguine proclivities on the down-low. Romantic complication comes in the form of intrepid Internet reporter (excuse me while I double over in laughter) Beth (Sophia), a young woman whose past with Mick makes the idea of their potential coupling seem downright icky.
Since its plot is a shameless rehash of "Angel" and "Forever Knight" with a dash of Koslow's earlier "Beauty and the Beast," CBS' desire to put "Moonlight" on air must be largely based on O'Loughlin. After only a brief sample, I'm at a loss for why. He's obviously handsome, but a vampire working as a hard-boiled detective ought to have some sort of edge, right? O'Loughlin doesn't and his attempts to speak with a regionless American accent prevent his dialogue from having any inflection.
Myles, whose resemblance to Rachel Weisz is periodically distracting, suffers the same fate, working so hard to cover her rounded British tones that she can't bother to act. That her character is ridiculous isn't even a problem yet. It's distressing to realize how much of Logan's bad-boy charm came from the writing on "Veronica Mars," because faced with a milquetoast script like this, Dohring is powerless.
It would be reassuring if somebody -- anybody?!? -- on the show's creative team seemed to have a coherent vision of what "Moonlight" is meant to be. The pilot script, by Koslow and Trevor Munson, is full of unbearable sub-Chandler voiceover ("Some cases just suckerpunch you. You think you know what you're getting into and then... Wham." or "Whether it's a missing child or a murdered coed, victims always leave a trail. You just have to find it."). That would serve as an invitation for director Rod Holcomb to try out some neo-noir stylings, but Holcomb instead tries for empty visual pyrotechnics in a failed effort to upstage the weak writing.
Thus, "Moonlight" premieres on Friday with an episode in which the procedural aspects are predictable, the romantic aspects are clunky and the vampire aspects are superfluous. Maybe CBS just wanted to find a show that would make "Ghost Whisperer" look Emmy-worthy in comparison?Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times