Moonlight (2008)


Every time I pop one of the Moonlight disks into my player, I remember first and foremost what an excellent television show it was — arguably the best vampire program ever, since it approached the subject with sensitivity, imagination, and realism. (And above all, no hideous faces, just pure sexiness with fangs.) Then I feel an instinctive resentment toward CBS for its cancellation since it “wasn’t getting enough viewers.” I thought 8.4 million wasn’t anything to sneeze at, but apparently the idiots who run the station felt otherwise.

Some Christians (maybe even some of you, and certainly my ever-patient mother) want to know how I, as a believer, can justify an interest in anything with vampires in it. The answer is not simple. I could give you a long-winded explanation about the allegory behind vampires that started with the Stoker novel and has continued into modern times (with Stoker, it was a social commentary with religious overtones, and more recently, vampires have shown a surprising allegorical arc when it comes to lost souls searching for redemption — Mick saving people and doing good in order to make up for his past, much like Angel did in Buffy, and Spike literally going to hell and back to obtain a soul — his salvation). I could point out that liking vampires has no negative influence on my spiritual life (believe it or not). Or I could just say this: “I like them because they wear black, are seriously cool, and I have a thing for immortal, emo-types.”

Moonlight revolves around Mick St. John, who was turned in the 1950’s by his bride, the emotionally-psychotic Coraline. (Who happens to be one of my favorite characters…) Ever since, he has worked as a private investigator solving unusual and often vampire-driven crimes among the surprisingly large immortal population of LA. His best friend, Josef, is one of the oldest and most dangerous vampires in the city, although he hides behind pretense and good manners. (My friends and I have lovingly dubbed Josef “the Vampire Godfather.” Money, power, influence, and paid assassins lurk in the wings, along with some personal tragedy.) Mick’s secret is soon discovered by Beth, a young reporter he once saved in her childhood, who then struggles with her growing interest in him as she comes to understand the nuances of his existence. It’s not the last we see of his ex-wife, either…

The series had multiple things going for it… a fantastic (and attractive) International cast (I kid you not — there are English, Australian, and American actors involved), some great scripting (several episodes in particular are among the best I have seen in the genre), and numerous plot twists and turns. Most of all, it was fun. The most fun Friday nights have been since… well, ever. Each week I tuned in with excitement to see what crime Mick would solve, to smile over his cute relationship with Beth, to laugh over the sarcastic quips of Josef and hold my breath, wondering what Coraline would do next. It was sixteen weeks (well, more than that if you include the infernal Christmas hiatus) of pure enjoyment. And then it ended, abruptly, with cancellation. Plot lines were left somewhat in tangles, although they had enough warning to wrap up a few in the final episode. (Thank God it didn’t end where I thought it would!)

I am still somewhat bitter about this. It’s understandable, isn’t it? When you love something, and as a writer, can see how good the scripts are, it’s unfair when the talking heads behind the network don’t care enough about a show to give it a second chance. Was it the writer’s strike that ended one of the best vampire shows on television, or was it general carelessness in CBS’s lazy marketing? I don’t know. Knowing who to blame would make it easier. It also seemed to be incredibly bad timing, since vampires were about to become HUGE. Twilight was due out the following autumn, and HBO was cashing in by launching True Blood. Now even the CW wants in on a little throat action, since they’re bringing their own “teen vamp saga” to the small screen.

That a decent program slipped through the cracks because it was six months ahead of the fad is unfortunate. But I’m glad that we were given a chance to meet the characters, to come to know them, to laugh and cry with them. Cancellation or not, it remains one of my favorite shows. If only for lines like this:

“What is this, nonfat, soy, Vegan blood?”

Priceless. Just… priceless.

3 Replies to “Moonlight (2008)”

  1. For various reasons, I've been lurking around the vampire scene for only a little while, but Moonlight has definitely been my favorite spin so far. Engaging and Entertaining. A perfect combo.

    Charity – Your review is wonderful. It's the reason I gave Moonlight a chance. And I'm really glad I did.

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  2. There is some minor hope for humanity — smaller networks are happier with smaller ratings which, to them, are huge. I remember when we pitched <>Moonlight<> to Sci-Fi, they turned it down for whatever reason, and in retrospect it was probably that they could not afford to take it over and run <>Sanctuary<> too. (Aww, break my heart and make me choose between them? Nooo!)

    But canning a show after only four episodes does seem like jumping the gun. How can a series even get off the ground in four episodes? Almost all successful shows have at least four to six “moderately weak” first episodes. (<>Smallville, Roswell<> even <>Buffy<> was a bit “lame” right on the offset.) It takes YEARS to get a show to where it is incredible, but often things improve in leaps and bounds within a half dozen episodes. <>Sanctuary<> did it — weak first three episodes, followed by ten more that got progressively better as the season wore on.

    <>Moonlight<> was, I feel, much the same way, only it had a surprisingly good first few episodes. But it wasn’t truly amazing until the last four or five, when Mick “became human again.” Ahh, so much promise, so much potential.

    Let’s hope in future, networks give shows a chance to live.

  3. Sci-Fi has been rerunning the show, and I’ve been enjoying it again. The network executives boggle my mind. It has to be massively expensive to start a show–all new sets, writers, crew, and actors; yet rather than stick with a new show that has decent viewership (and <>Moonlight<> arrived at a very difficult time with the writer’s strike) and allow it to grow, it’s summarily canceled for, I believe, <>The Ex List<> which lasted four episodes. I didn’t watch <>The Ex List<> because it sounded like one of those mindless sitcoms, but I can’t understand pulling the plug on any show after only four episodes. It takes that long for viewers to find and settle on a show. Often, a show doesn’t begin to gel until the end of the first season when the actors are comfortable with one another and the writers have a better idea who the characters are.

    <>Moonlight’s<> first few episodes had promise, but it became increasingly better with each episode. As the relationships between the characters developed, it became delightful to watch.

    I need to remember that any show with originality must be replaced with a cop/lawyer show and not be continually surprised when this happens.

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