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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Moonlight' can't draw blood from genre clichés

A vampire detective story seems promising, but this show is easily seduced into silliness.

September 28, 2007|Mary McNamara | Times Staff Writer

Oh "Moonlight," "Moonlight," how you taunt with promises you cannot keep. A vampire private detective, so noble he's played by Alex O'Loughlin, he of the high Renaissance locks and anguished eyes. It seemed a perfect marriage, a modern "Night Stalker," appealing both to fans of "Buffy" and of "CSI." But something got lost between concept and execution, and instead of suspense we get silliness, as if the creators (Ron Koslow, Trevor Munson, Chip Johannessen) were determined to use only the clichés of both genres.

So we meet Mick St. John (O'Loughlin) in full interview-with-a-vampire mode, explaining to an off-screen . . . reporter? documentarian?. . . the modern rules and regs of his kind. Garlic tastes good on a pizza, crucifixes are cool "if you're into that kind of thing." A stake through the heart won't kill him, though fire and beheading will; sunlight makes him sick, though he can bear it. Oh, and Mick isn't a predator -- he has a guy who hooks him up with what he needs. (Later we learn he prefers A-positve to O-positive, though no word yet on imported over domestic.)

He also cruises the Internet, so when he learns via Buzzwire that a young woman has been found dead in a fountain in downtown L.A., her neck punctured most suggestively, he is all over it. As he tells us in his Dracula-meets-Mickey Spillane voice-over, every good detective story begins with a girl.

Mick cares about this particular girl for two reasons. First, her murder naturally raises the media profile of L.A.'s discreetly undead population, which is -- and who's really surprised? -- considerable. There's Josef (Jason Dohring), for example, who, as one of the oldest vampires in L.A., has nude women lounging by his pool, yells at people over his cellphone and says things like "You look good; you been working out?" Josef tells Mick he'd better get on this before the public gets wise.

"You're only 90," he says. "You've never been chased by a torch-bearing mob." Which is maybe the show's one good line.

The other reason Mick is drawn to the case is Beth (Sophia Myles), the scrappy young Internet reporter who runs around stealing stuff from the dead girl's apartment, taking pictures of things with her cellphone and infiltrating the vampire class that the dead woman attended. Yes, vampire class. The dead girl was, it seems, a faux vampire. (Mick has to take only one good sniff of her corpse to learn that: "There's no smell of vampire on her.")

There's a ghoulish college professor involved, also some requisite goth girls, yet it all manages to be quite wearisome and disappointing, even when the connection between Beth and Mick is explained. It doesn't help that Myles is no Sarah Michelle Gellar, relying on her ability to make her eyes really wide rather than anything like, say, acting, or that the professor has a vague Transylvanian accent and says things like, "But remember, take this truth with you: We are all vampires."

A conclusion is reached, Mick saves the day and we're all supposed to be sad because love means never telling anyone you're a vampire.

Only the real reason we're sad is that "Moonlight" just makes us miss "Buffy" and "Angel" all over again.

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mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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'Moonlight'

Where: CBS

When: 9 to 10 tonight

Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for coarse language and violence)

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