My Turn (To Review)!

Not a book review, sadly, but TV. I mentioned in a previous post the proliferation of vampire-related shows on television these days, so I thought I’d take some time to discuss some of them. So, here are my thoughts, in case anybody cared…

The Passage — This program premiered on ABC this last Spring. It’s based on a novel (all the best stuff is, even if they change a lot of the elements from the base material) about a top-secret government research program, the goal of which is to come up with cures for various disease and prolong human life. As so often happens whenever such things come into combination, the experiment goes wrong. Enter Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) an agent of this rogue government program, and young orphan Amy Bellafonte (played brilliantly by Saniyya Sidney). It’s Brad’s job to bring Amy to the top-secret facility so that government doctors can experiment on her (she’s young, so she might react to the experiment differently than the other victims — I mean, subjects). Brad eventually balks at this scheme, thinking that it’s wrong to experiment on unwilling children, and embarks on an adventure with Amy, which doesn’t go as planned. They end up at the top-secret facility, where Amy is eventually given a dose of the experimental medicine. Does Amy turn into a vampire (oh, I’m sorry, “there are no such things as vampires”, right?), or does something else happen? The Passage is an exciting and sometimes creepy thriller that had me hooked from the first episode — it hit full throttle right off the bat. The vampires here truly are monsters, but one is reminded that they were once human, as well. If you like your vampires scary and monstrous, and plenty of action alongside some well-done character development, then on-demand this show. I hope there’s a season two…

A Discovery of Witches — Also based on a series of novels. This is a romantic supernatural thriller in the same vein as, well, pretty much every other romantic supernatural thriller ever. Beautiful heroine Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a historian and witch, stumbles across a powerful ancient manuscript that might mean doom for vampires. Vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) comes alongside to help her uncover the mysteries of the ancient book before darker competing forces force Diana to use it for their own destructive purposes. I have called this the ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ version of True Blood — pretty heroine has powers but doesn’t like them, falls in love with a handsome and brooding vampire, and complications ensue. In this series, there are three specific supernatural species (yes, they call them ‘species’): witches, vampires, and demons. When they introduce the concept of a lab run by vampires that looks into the DNA of the various species, I rolled my eyes and said to myself, ‘oh, dear God, no, not midichlorians again!’. There are good and bad witches, with varying powers. The demons don’t really seem terribly demonic, or even very interesting; one demon in particular lives in a large house in the Scottish Highlands, and that’s about it. I did like the political elements, and the fact that these vampires are not typical (they can hunt by day and have their full range of powers, and they don’t seem to have fangs, but just use their regular teeth), but other than that, I found this series to be somewhat tedious. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I like my vampires, witches, and demons to at least be interesting.

What We Do In The Shadows — This series is both based on and made by the same people who made the brilliant 2014 New Zealand mockumentary of the same name. The series moves the action from Wellington to Staten Island where three vampires (Nandor, played by Kayvan Novak; Laszlo, played by Matt Berry, and Nadja, played by Natasia Demetriou) live with Nandor’s familiar, Guillermo (played by Harvey Guillen) and a fourth room mate, the psychic vampire Colin Robinson (played wonderfully deadpan by Mark Proksch). The three more traditional vampires seek to get along in 21-century New York, while Guillermo pines to be turned into a vampire himself, but is ignored (humorously) by Nandor. Naturally, hilarious misadventures ensue. This series plays on all the traditional vampire tropes — they can only go out by night, they sleep in coffins, they can turn into bats, et cetera — and, in doing so, often places the three vampires in awkward situations. The one atypical vampire, Colin Robinson, is not well liked by his housemates, and is one of the only beings that has power over other vampires by being able to suck their energy, which is another source of hilarity. All together, they make What We Do In The Shadows a hilariously bloody treat and one of my personal favorite vampire shows of all time.

That’s all I have time for, right now. In a future post, I’ll discuss a couple other shows, including AMC’s NOS4A2 (spoiler: it’s good!).


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