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Moonlight

Mankind has always held a fascination with what goes bump in the night… in particular, those beings with fangs that drink the blood of others to survive.  Vampire legends have existed for centuries; many cultures have stories about fanged beings/demons/spirits that feed off the blood of the living.  But these creatures are often depicted as evil in nature.  Only in more recent times has the legend, in its various incarnations, taken on the guise of the tortured hero fighting against his “evil” nature in order to help the living.  And let’s not forget the human lover, forever pining for a way to be with her undead love!  Wait – that sounds remotely like the latest craze “Twilight”… but before there was Bella and her vampire love Edward Cullen, we were given Dracula and Mina… Detective Nick Knight and Dr. Natalie Lambert… Angel and Buffy… and Mick St. John and Beth Turner of Moonlight.

“It’s just a different world.  There are no demons, there are no other entities.  It’s a world where there are vampires, and they’re around, and they’re living among us.”
–Executive Producer Joel Silver, on why Moonlight is not a clone of Angel.

Debuting on CBS in the fall of 2007, many felt Moonlight was, at best, another version of the TV cult favorite, Angel.  Like its predecessor, Moonlight‘s hero fought against his baser vampire instincts and tried to live as a human while helping the living.  But this incarnation of the vampire legends has some major differences to it.  Mick (Alex O’Loughlin) doesn’t sleep in a coffin, but in a freezer, supposedly because vampires truly are “dead” (as opposed to “undead”) and to stem the decomposition of their bodies, must “sleep” in a frigid environment.  And drink human blood.  Mick chooses to get his supply of blood from a fellow vampire (who works at the morgue) who acts as his “supplier”.  No “fresh from the tap” blood, if he can avoid it!  And he can be up and about in the sunlight.  Well, for a limited amount of time, as discovered in episode 4, Fever.

Mick solves crimes as a Private Investigator.  Some have a human nemesis, but there are also those with a slightly supernatural twist, involving other vampires.  Yes, there are other vampires, less noble than our hero.  Meet Mick’s best friend, Josef (Jason Dohring).  400 years old, Josef revels in being a vampire, and often chides Mick for not accepting what he, Mick, is.  But Josef’s not all bad; he values their bond, and Mick can always turn to him for support.

Then there is Mick’s ex-wife, and his sire, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon).  Oh my.  Not a nice lady at all, Coraline turned Mick into a vampire 60 years ago, on their wedding night.  So.  Not.  Nice.  Mick leaves her as the result.  Years later, in a desperate attempt to win Mick’s love back, Coraline kidnaps a female child, intending to turn her into a vampire as well, in order to create the “family” that Coraline believes Mick wants.  Mick rescues the child and sets fire to the house, supposedly destroying Coraline.  But in this show, the dead don’t always stay dead… and the past doesn’t always stay in the past….

Sophia Myles and Alex O'Loughlin of Moonlight

Fast forward about 20 years and meet beautiful news reporter, Beth Turner (Sophia Myles).  Beth, we learn, was the child Mick rescued oh so long ago.  But does she remember?  Involved with lawyer Josh Lindsey (Jordan Belfi), Beth’s life is on the fast track to perfection… career, marriage proposal… then she meets Mick.  Together they begin solving crimes.

Beth is a strong female role in the show, despite her petite, blond look.  An internet investigative reporter, Beth has an “in” with the local police via Lt. Carl Davis (Brian J. White), helping her to land her story ahead of others.  Although there are times Mick must come to her rescue, there are also times when she comes to his.  Case in point is episode 4, Fever, where Beth moves beyond her innate fears of his vampirism to let him drink her blood in order to heal, and then there is her identifying… well… better let you watch the episodes to see what else.  Despite her growing feelings for Mick, Beth struggles to come to terms with how to let Josh down gently, but never gains the opportunity and instead must deal with the sudden and tragic loss of his life.  This drives a wedge between Mick and Beth, for Mick could have “helped” Josh (in Beth’s eyes anyway).  Ah conflict – it drives the story and thickens the plot!  Where shall these star-crossed lovers go from here?

“It gets pretty dark.  It gets intelligently dark.  I mean, when they touch on the mythology or they explore the mythology, they really get in there and talk about why people do things… I think that’s what’s interesting about the show.  It’s incredibly well-written and it’s effortlessly funny.  And that’s the way it’s shot – it’s heavily stylized; it’s like watching a film.  I think it can find an easy fan base because there’s something for everybody.  Whether you’re just purely into the mythology or purely following an actor that you like on the show, once you’ve arrived there, I think you’re going to be interested.”
–Brian J. White (Lt. Carl Davis)

Although critics decried it at first, the pilot finished first among total viewers the 18-49 age brackets, and quickly found a strong fan base.  Critics continued to give it negative reviews, citing poor writing and acting as primary reasons.  But the fans held on.  In 2008, Moonlight won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Television Drama.  With this award under its belt, creators Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow instructed their writers to begin writing episodes for a second season.  On December 4, 2007, Les Moonves, then President of CBS, stated that Moonlight was likely to be given a second season.  Sadly, despite the high hopes of everyone involved, Moonlight became another victim of the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America strike, going on hiatus indefinitely with only 12 episodes of the original 13 episode order produced.

Fearful of the show’s fate, fans of the series coordinated with the American Red Cross to hold a series of charity blood drives around the country and Alex O’Loughlin stepped forward as spokesperson for the organization.  Fan-based crusades have, in the past, managed to save a show from cancellation – witness classic Star Trek, Jericho, Veronica Mars, to name a few.  Four new episodes were shown after the strike ended, but on May 13, 2008, CBS officially announced it was canceling the show and the final episode aired on May 16, 2008.

Cops and Vampires

Moonlight was considered an atypical show for CBS, despite its supernatural lead-in Ghost Whisperer (and DON’T get me started on the recent news regarding THAT show’s fate!).  But I have to wonder… if they don’t want the fans to care about the characters (or those that portray them), then why pick who they do?  Come on – we all know this show was made to grab two specific audiences.  They came after the men by giving it the premise of a cop show… and leggy, svelte women and cute, petite Sophia Myles.  And trust me, I don’t begrudge them that move!  How else would I get hubby to watch the show, hmmm?  And they came after the women with its supernatural romance theme… and hunky Alex O’Loughlin… in sexy, open shirts and covered in water… Wait… did I really write that?  Sure, why not admit it.  I drooled too.  But there was also some good writing involved.  After all, Mick didn’t fly (although he did leap pretty far at times) nor did he turn into a bat.  Ok, maybe not every episode was superlative but – come on, even the longest running series has had a few clunkers!

Oh, and did I mention that Mick gets his wish eventually… he gets to be human again?  Okay, okay, only briefly, and he does get a new sire in Josef (or is that a step-sire?), all thanks to Coraline.  She came back for him… she became Human… for him.  Remember, I said the dead don’t always stay dead….

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ALEX O’LOUGHLIN (Mick St. John) hails from Sydney, Australia, where he started his film career in 2004.  In early 2007, he had a recurring role on The Shield, before being picked for the lead in Moonlight.  Following the ending of the series, he remained under contract with the production company for a year.  He has guested on the acclaimed series Criminal Minds, and was in the short-lived 2009 series Three Rivers (with new episodes yet to air this summer).  You can see him in the 2010 film The Back-Up Plan, starring opposite Jennifer Lopez, and starting this fall in the updated CBS version of Hawaii Five-O, as Detective Steve McGarret (“Book ‘em, Danno”).  And yes, he was considered for the role of James Bond, before it was given to Daniel Craig.

SOPHIA MYLES (Beth Turner) is from England where she was bitten by the acting bug at age 16.  She starred in several BBC series before 1999, when she headed to Cambridge to study Philosophy.  Shortly thereafter, she dropped out of college to pursue acting full time.  Sophia was cast as Johnny Depp’s wife in the 2001 film From Hell, and had a supporting role in Underworld, before co-starring as Lady Penelope in the live-action version of Thunderbirds.  In 2006, Sophia won the lead role, Isolde, in Tristan & Isolde.  More recently she could be seen in the little-known movie Outlander.  And let’s not forget her role as Madame de Pompadour on the BBC’s Doctor Who.

JASON DOHRING (Josef Kostan) spent three years on the TV series Veronica Mars before playing the 400 year old vampire on Moonlight.  Jason was oft known to note that his characters on the two shows were fairly similar… at times.  the oldest of 5 children, Jason has the unique status of being the only single birth child – he has 4 younger siblings, a set of twin brothers and a set of twin sisters.  All five have appeared in television off and on since the early 1990’s.  Jason has recently been seen guesting on CSI, and has a movie coming out in 2010.

SHANNYN SOSSAMON (Coraline) was born in Hawaii but raised in Reno, Nevada.  Immediately after high school, she headed for LA to become a dancer.  Acting was not even a consideration at the time.  Besides finding work as a dancer, Shannyn worked as a DJ with her then boyfriend, and did commercials.  While she was shooting a commercial she found the backing/support to go after the leading female role in A Knight’s Tale, opposite Heath Ledger.  She can currently be seen in the new series How to Make It in America, as Gingy Wu.

TREVOR MUNSON (co-creator/producer) originally conceived of the character, Mick Angel, a “hard-boiled, blood-sucking Phillip Marlowe” and spent two years writing a novel about him.  The unpublished work “Angel of Vengeance” was then adapted into a film script, which was shown to CBS Programming head Nina Tassler.  Nina paired Munson with Ron Koslow and Moonlight was created.  Munson has a MySpace page where you can read chapters from his novel.

RON KOSLOW (co-creator/producer) has, what I consider to be, two excellent references to his vitae – he produced (and wrote for) both the series Roar in 1997 and Beauty and the Beast from 1987 – 1990.  Beauty and the Beast brought him three Emmy nominations, but no wins.  Moonlight was the last series he actively worked on.

The cast of Moonlight

“Well, everybody knows I love vampires, witches, werewolves, warlocks–I love them all… the response to Moonlight was actually more actor-centric.  So I think it certainly measures our decision on the show, but–right now, like I said, I don’t question the choice we made.  As I said, I’m not getting as much mail, and most of those comments were actor-centric.”
–CBS Programming head Nina Tassler

Nina Tassler was cited as saying that Moonlight would never go over to the CW network, despite the fact that CBS and CW actually are owned by the same company, and Moonlight‘s fan base has always been more typically in line with the usual CW demographic instead of CBS.  Gee, Nina – one should never say never!  As was written earlier, the dead don’t always stay dead, because you can watch reruns of Moonlight starting June 3, 2010 on the CW!!  And if that isn’t enough for you, you might want to purchase the DVD, which contains all 16 episodes on a 4-disc set.  Released on January 2009, it received the 2009 Saturn Award for Best Television Series Release on DVD.

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Vital Stats:

16 aired episodes
CBS network
First aired episode:  September 28, 2007
Last aired episode:  May 16, 2008
Actually aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  Close!  It aired Fridays 9/8 Central with a lead-in from Ghost Whisperer.

Catch you at the reruns!

–JoAnn M.

Thanks for the article, JoAnn.  Comments and suggestions, as always, are appreciated.  Back to me next week.

–Tim R.

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