I haven’t seen any movies lately. I did see Frozen (I’m obsessed) and Saving Mr. Banks (quite good) but I felt no real desire to write either up. I kind of fell into a pit of lack of motivation. I told myself I was working too much or I had no time or…whatever I was being lazy. But, I was still watching TV.
I could spend this post discussing the revamped American Idol but it’s really more of the same. I could encourage you to, as I did over the summer, catch up on Parks & Recreation because it’s simply brilliant. Or let you know that FX’s Archer has discovered a creative renaissance with it’s Archer Vice revamp. But no, I’m going to tell you to watch a show that you’ve likely not checked out, or, if you live your life online, may have only experienced in GIF form, MTV’s Teen Wolf.
Hear me out. I know MTV is not the paragon of good television. In fact, calling some of their programming “television” at all is somewhat generous. But, one thing that they’ve always excelled at is finding interesting concepts. Remember that, for better or worse, MTV’s The Real World essentially created the reality/unscripted genre. They did however seem to miss the teen supernatural genre begat by Twilight. Until Teen Wolf. Based (loosely) on the 1985 film of the same name, the series plays as Buffy for boys (although very clearly aimed at girls and/or a smaller percentage of the boys in the audience) with very similar tropes and plot beats. What makes it so different though is that considering MTV’s penchant for; crazy editing, whip pans, and over the top visual messes, Teen Wolf is relatively slow, deliberate and steeped in a developing mythology (NOTE: I’m working my way though season 1 right now while season 3 is currently airing).
The show is not for everyone. The cast is operating on a sub-CW acting skills- one actor, Colton Haynes (a fomer model turned “actor”), even departed the show to recurr on The CW’s Arrow which might be an acting “promotion”- with a few clearly being hired for their…”aesthetic merits” rather than what’s usually required for being on a TV show (read: Talent). That said, those aesthetic merits are put to astounding display. In fact, one of the criticisms leveled at the series has been “queer baiting” or an attempting to bring in the gay audience through the use of gratuitous content in that the largely male cast is frequently seen in various states of undress. Sure, an inordinate amount of scenes take place in the locker room or immediately following showers, but would this be a criticism were the genders reversed? (Also, have you seen The Vampire Diaries? Talk about gratuitous!) I doubt it, add to that there is a gay character who’s sexuality is so off handed that it’s said on screen that everyone knows and no one cares (as of currently airing episodes that character now is even in a relationship).
If you’re like me though you’ll find your way into the series through the sidekick/sarcastic jokester character. On Buffy it was Nicholas Brendon’s Xander that first grabbed me and allowed me to fall in love with the other characters in turn. Here it’s Dylan O’Brien’s Stiles. Stiles is a sarcastic, funny, and surprisingly intelligent best friend who not only keeps even the more boring scenes entertaining but also serves as the voice of the audience character (not to mention an only sane man figure in a world of crazy) sometimes explaining the plot to other characters and other times cluing them into the things that we already know. O’Brien is fantastic in this role, with an expressive face reminiscent of Jim Carrey and sharp comedic timing. In fact Stiles is a far more engaging character than the ostensible lead Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) who is so bland that the rest of the cast needs to stretch their…skills?…to compensate- I hear he gets better but his emoting so far has tended toward whining and breathing heavily- for his lack of affect.
That said the show is engaging. The werewolf mythology is sorely underrepresented in pop-culture and the series makes some interesting tweaks to the standard rules. The makeup and effects are just enough to not break the reality of the scene while low budget enough to be used effectively. In fact production has done an admirable job at cutting where needed to keep costs low: transitions through darkness, off camera effects, implied action and that ever dwindling costume budget all help keep the costs streamlined and keep the show affordable as well as impactful.
I mentioned earlier that this show has a large GIF-based fandom. The younger skewing demographic has really embraced this show for all of it’s glorious ridiculousness, especially the gay Tumblr/Twitteratti. For those so inclined there are ‘ships, fandoms, subfandoms, fanfics, and a large amount of not-quite-porn photosets (many taken from the DVD special feature shirtless montages which are a thing and are glorious) for you to enjoy. Some people don’t go in for these types of side pastimes, but for those who do, know that the world out there is immense.
If you’re looking for a new show, and are still hanging out in the world of traditional media (not to knock online exclusives like Netflix’s Orange is the new Black and House of Cards or Hulu’s The Awesomes) and are not planning on binge-watching something that you’ve missed (which I plan on doing with Breaking Bad soon and have recently done with British exports Misfits, and The IT Crowd. I cannot recommend binge watching enough. It’s simply the best. I shotgunned Stargate SG-1 and Farscape a few years ago and both are still among my top 10 of all time) give this one a shot. It’s streaming on Amazon Instant, if you have Amazon Prime, and some are available on MTV.com and Hulu. But, try to get your hands on the DVDs for the full experience. Don’t think too much, just watch and marinate in the crazy of this entry-level mytharc show.