One of those shows that scream "network-initiated genre-crossover series", The Gates is essentially Desperate Housewives meets True Blood. While its renewal prospects are pretty much nil (this being summer, and this being network television), the pilot featured a surprising amount of intrigue, and at least a couple of notable characters. It's still flawed, but it wasn't the trainwreck I was expecting.
The sole reason I tuned in to The Gates was due to the presence of Rhona Mitra, who I adored on both Boston Legal and Nip/Tuck. She's equally as impressive here, unsurprising given that Claire Radcliff is so far the most fully-developed character. There was a lot of tragedy to her, and I liked that the show is presenting vampirism as an addiction, instead of simply replicating the sparkly dopiness of recent incarnations of the mythological creatures. Most of my favorite vampire movies, including Abel Ferrera's The Addiction, put special emphasis on the whole "craving for blood" angle, and I liked seeing that reflected here. Elsewhere, we got little hints to her back-story, as if she feels cursed to live an unhappy life after being sired by her hubby.
The rest of the cast didn't make too much of an impression, but I'm already bugged by the high school storylines. For one, the acting from the teens was universally appalling, and I don't understand why networks constantly demand their shows feature younger characters in an effort to appeal to younger demographics. It's the same with Desperate Housewives: nobody tunes in to see what Preston Scavo is up to this week. Gah. When I was 15, I tuned into TV shows that appealed to me, not just TV shows that featured characters my own age.
The show has an interesting premise in that it's about a gated community keeping monsters "in", rather than keeping the monsters "out". As the pilot went on, we were made aware of not only vampires, but werewolves and (obliquely) witches. While The Gates isn't going to win any major kudos (or even decent ratings, presumably), there's an interesting idea at work here, contrasting the book clubs and flawless lawns with the murderous monsters inhabiting the town. If the show can play that metaphor up, instead of allowing itself to get drowned out in soapy love triangles like in the kids' subplot, it may just work. Rating C+
Guest stars Johnny Messner (Mark Woodbury); Roger Cross (Coach Ross); Brett Cullen (Frank Buckley)
Writers Grant Scharbo, Richard Hatem Director Terry McDonough