It was virtually impossible to not be skeptical when MTV decided to launch a new television series called Teen Wolf last year. Loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, Teen Wolf seemed to be an obvious attempt by the former Music Television at snagging a piece of the Twilight pie. And who could blame them? Sharing similar demographics as well as a passion for stories spotlighting females with poor acting skills making poor choices, the marriage of Twilight and MTV seemed like a match made in heaven - or at the very least, gym class.
But a funny thing happened between those first commercials advertising the kick off of a new teen horror/drama and the series finale: Teen Wolf actually turned out to be a pretty good series, prompting this reviewer (as well as his wife, who quickly became hooked on the show) to plant his foot firmly in his mouth and give credit where credit is due. Teen Wolf is undoubtedly the best thing on MTV in the past… well, since I was actually in high school. And even then, MTV really wasn’t all that good. But Teen Wolf is a whole lot better than Remote Control or The Grind could ever hope to be.
As a pretty big fan of the original Teen Wolf movie and a 35-year-old father of two, I’m about as far from the target demographic for this show as you can possibly get. I don’t even really watch all that much television. But I am a fan of scary movies and soap operas, and in Teen Wolf, I managed to find the right blend of horror, drama and humor to satisfy the lover of serialized storytelling who still lurks within my heart.
On with the review. Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) is a high school kid who just wants to play lacrosse (despite not being very good at it) and hopefully land a date with Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), the new girl in town. Of course, a bite from a werewolf sort of throws a monkey wrench in his plans and sends him headfirst into a world full of supernatural intrigue, violence, Machiavellian scheming, and yes, even love. With help from his buddy Stiles (Dylan O’Brian) and a mysterious local werewolf who may or may not be trustworthy, Scott hopes to learn how to control his curse as well as take advantage of his new abilities. Unfortunately, Scott’s new girlfriend happens to come from a long line of werewolf hunters and the captain of the lacrosse team, jealous of Scott’s newfound fame due to his suddenly enhanced skills, becomes suspicious of Scott and attempts to expose him. As you can imagine, it’s all fairly stressful for a kid who just wants to be a normal teenager. Mining similar territory as recent films like Chronicle, there’s a Peter Parker element to these stories of unpopular kids with special gifts who still find themselves trapped in the day-to-day struggles of high school life.
Balancing a number of characters and intersecting storylines, Teen Wolf paints a fairly detailed picture of life at Beacon Hills High School. The characters are well rounded, with detailed backgrounds and complex motivations, and for the most part, the writing is thought out and intelligent. And with a few exceptions (most notably, star Tyler Posey when he attempts to do his “tough face”), the acting from these beautiful, CW-looking teenagers is pretty solid as well. Which is not to say that the show is not without its faults: as with any show aimed at a teen audience (or really, any modern television show at all), there’s bound to be a bit of overacting, sappy love stories, really bad music, and mysterious, brooding pretty boys who take their shirts off at every opportunity - and you would be shocked at how often the opportunity to remove one’s shirt presents itself. But in a world full of rock hard abs, who wouldn’t take their shirt off all the time? I know I would. Hell, for all you know, I’m not wearing a shirt right now - the fact that I’m 35 and writing about my love of Teen Wolf and Marvel Comics online probably tells you that I don’t have rock hard abs though, huh? Anyway, the point is that the show does have its share of face palm moments, but in the grand scheme of the show, they are largely forgivable. This is a show about teenage werewolves after all. You knew what you were in for when you turned it on.
I would love to tell you that Teen Wolf functions as a deep and thought-provoking metaphor for the hardships of teenage life, but I can’t. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s just a whole lot of fun (though it does feature the classic and much appreciated “lying adults are always out to manipulate and make life crappy for kids” theme throughout the season). Tonally, the series has much more in common with Lost Boys or Fright Night than it does Twilight, which is probably why I’ve been enjoying it so much, as I am a fan of both. The fact that the DVD set includes a “shirtless montage” in its Special Features is a testament to not only the sense of humor that permeates the program but also the fact that for all the scary stuff, it doesn’t always take itself too seriously and knows exactly what it is.
At the end of the day, color me surprised… and count me as a fan. It took exactly one episode to hook me and halfway through the season, I was on the edge of my seat during every episode. And it isn’t simply a matter of Teen Wolf being the shiniest turd in the punchbowl of MTV original programming; I found myself continually impressed by not only the action and special effects, but most importantly, the writing and the characters. I was surprised by how much I came to care for these kids and their parents as the season progressed. Gore and monsters will only get you so far, but - okay, I won’t lie: gore and monsters will get you pretty far with me. But the relationships and situations presented in the show are what kept me coming back for more.
At this point, I’m not even going to go through the motions of "begrudgingly admitting" that Teen Wolf is a good show. I’m too busy getting this review done in time to catch the premiere of the second season.