Midnight, Texas (NBC) pilot preview: True Blood, without the sex & the fun

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Created and executive produced by Monica Owusu-Breen (Charmed, Alias, Brothers & Sisters, Fringe, Agents of SHIELD). Based on Charlaine Harris (True Blood). Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (Game of Silence, Under The Dome, Unforgettable). Also executive produced by David Janollari (Six Feet Under). For NBC & Universal Television. 58 pages.

Description: Midnight, Texas, a remote town where your neighbor could be a vampire, a witch, a werewolf, and even an angel. Mystery, horror and romance combine to both enthrall and frighten any outsiders who decide to venture into this unusual place. Like the new man in town, Manfred Bernado, a psychic hoping to start anew but the ghosts of his past and those of the town won’t let him rest…

With François Arnaud (The Borgias, Blindspot), Dylan Bruce (Orphan Black, Arrow, Heroes Reborn), Arielle Kebbel (Life Unexpected, The Vampire Diaries, Ballers, 90210), Sarah Ramos (Parenthood, American Dreams), Jason Lewis (Sex & The City, Charmed, Brothers & Sisters) Kellee Stewart (My Boys, The Soul Man), Parisa Fitz-Henley (Jessica Jones), Yul Vasquez (Magic City, Treme)…

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Can you believe Grimm is on the air for 5 years already? I would never have bet on this one. At some point this season, it was clear the supernatural procedural was poised to find an end soon. But despite meh ratings on fridays, NBC just decided to give it a 6th season –mostly for syndication purposes since they fully own it– possibly the last and possibly reduced to 13 episodes. Nothing’s set in stone right now. What it means for supernatural pilot Midnight, Texas, clearly an underdog from the get go, is: either it’s incredibly good and NBC takes a chance on it, hoping it becomes their next Grimm; either it’s doomed and at the very best they send it to sister-cable network SyFy, where it would fit perfectly. And the second solution may be for the best. Because it’s not “incredibly good” on the page. It’s okay.

When you adapt a story from Charlaine Harris, whose True Blood series was a hit in libraries and on HBO, you expect three things: lots of sex; lots of fun; lots of creepiness. I’m sorry to tell you Midnight, Texas has nearly none of this. Let’s start with the sex. It’s pretty simple: we’re not on HBO or other cable outlets. On NBC, you just can’t have the same amount of sex scenes and they certainly can’t be as graphic as they were in True Blood, with a lot of gentlemen’s very fine asses, perky boobs, orgies and raw fuck. In this pilot, we follow the arrival of Manfred Bernado in Midnight. As sexy as he is supposed to be, he’s not fucking every women of the town yet. He quickly finds his Sookie though, a charming, timid, innocent lady called Creek. She’s a waitress. Like Sookie. In the only diner/bar in town, like Sookie. He’s not a vampire like Bill, neither a monster. But he’s a dark man too, with many secrets. He’s tortured because of his visions, because ghosts can litteraly jump under his skin, invade his brain. So their relationship is similar to Bill & Sookie. And it was not the best part of True Blood. There are other romances, and a tiny bit of sex thanks to them but really, don’t expect that from Midnight, Texas. That’s too bad. They assembled a very sexy cast! It will get frustrating. You’ve been warned!

Told you it lacked fun. Let me be clear about that: when you’re doing a show where there is a psychic, a vampire, an angel, a werewolf, a witch and a talking cat (yes, a talking cat like in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch!), the least you can do is having fun with all this. Like True Blood did. Like Supernatural does for 12 years. This pilot is way too serious in my opinion. You get an occasional joke and the character of the vampire is clearly designed to be the funny/cynical one –as always, hum– but he can’t do all the heavy lifting by himself. He needs help and he doesn’t get it. That’s something that can be worked on though. They can add more humor in subsequent episodes…

Regarding the creepiness, apart from the ghosts, it’s very soft. No horror. There are strange and horrible things supposed to happen. We’re teased about them but we don’t see them yet. We’re told the town of Midnight has been built where the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest. It explains why supernatural creatures decided to live there, together. At peace. At least until a murder happened and caused the attention of the media. ‘cos of course there’s a murder in the middle of this… What did you expect? There was a serial killer in True Blood season one too. Charlaine Harris tends to tell the same story all over again anyway… There is the exact same atmosphere in Bon Temps and in Midnight. It’s reassuring in a way. But we’ve already been there, haven’t we?

Midnight, Texas is simply a network version of True Blood, a cousin of Grimm, which doesn’t take any risks and leaves us mostly indifferent even though there’s a bunch of interesting relationships and a lot of stories to tell starting from here. Not an incredible pilot, but potential nonetheless. If you have never seen True Blood, maybe you can tolerate it. NBC has way better and/or safer pilots to bet on this year. Except if they’re planning a summer run or a midseason start after Grimm ends, if Grimm ends. 

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