TV Review: Moonlight—a new series with familiar echoes

Once again, Friday night TV has a touch of magic—or a story of romance in the dark with a bite to it! And once again, CBS is the network to watch.

Locale: Los Angeles, today. The promos for Moonlight said, “Discover a new kind of hero.” And in a way, he is—with reflections that seem to hark back to an earlier hero, who also functioned at his best between sunset and dawn. Alex O’Loughlin stars as Mick St. John, whose public persona is a private investigator—but it’s actually a cover for his true identity. He’s a vampire!

But this vampire is a good guy. His personal mission is to help solve crimes, protect the innocent, and keep the authorities off his back. And, like most detectives, Mick owns a gun. He also has a friend or mentor—a 400-year-old vampire named Joseph, who thinks Mick is living dangerously—if “living” is the right term for a vampire. Yes, Mick sustains himself by drinking blood—in a sanitized sort of way. He has a dealer at the blood bank who keeps him supplied with medical vials of blood that he keeps in the freezer in his apartment. Joseph is as close to comic relief as you get on this show. In the first episode, he tells Mick, “That retail stuff will only get you so far.” He thinks Mick will eventually have to switch to the fresh variety.

Of course, there’s a woman. Beth (Sophia Myles), a reporter friend, is introduced in the first episode, and we learn her story in a series of flashbacks. She thinks Mick seems familiar but can’t quite remember. “Haven’t I seen you before?” she asks him. “No—I guess I just have one of those faces,” he says. After he saves her from a dangerous bad guy, she takes another look at him and starts to remember—partially at least. When she was a child, she and her parents were threatened by a vicious female vampire, and at the last moment, Mick broke in and saved her. “It was you,” she now realizes. But she still doesn’t know who he actually is.

In the second episode, Beth’s friend, Julia, is an author who wrote a book, Wronged Man, about a dangerous convict, Lee J. Spalding, who is being released from prison after 35 years. Supposedly, he was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit—except that he’s really guilty, and crucial evidence from a previous case was withheld at his trial. But Mick knows the truth—and blames himself for not finishing off this human monster once before. He tried—but was interrupted by the untimely arrival of a police officer and had to make his escape. And Spalding knows the truth about him.

What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Mick tries to stop Spalding before he kills again. Spalding makes Mick look guilty of assaulting him, and Mick is forced to become a fugitive. But when Spalding finally kidnaps Julia and threatens to kill her, his true character is painfully evident to all. Mick risks his own life to save her—but is wounded when Spalding shoots him with silver bullets, then threatens him with fire.

It looks like the end for our hero. Just then, Beth, who didn’t stay in the car as ordered, arrives with a gun and shoots the villain, saving Mick. But he quickly escapes to his apartment, where Beth finds him desperately trying to restore his vitality. He is crouched on the floor with a fresh vial of blood. “Please don’t look at me!” he pleads with her. But of course, she can’t tear herself away—and sees a side of him she’s never seen before. All of a sudden, she knows what Spalding meant when he told Mick, “I know what you are!”

“What are you?” Beth asks him. And finally, he tells her the truth: “I’m a vampire.”

For any Beauty and the Beast fans out there who remember the 1987-’90 series, this must bring up nostalgic memories of Vincent and Catherine. Remember the first time Catherine laid eyes on the underground hero of New York City’s tunnels? Although Vincent wasn’t a vampire, the similarities are close enough to give us a feeling of deja vu. Why not? Moonlight’s executive producer Ron Koslow was also producer on B&B. It’s another good reason to stay home on Friday nights.

.from the Oct. 24-30, 2007, issue

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