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June 30, 2010

The Gates: These are not the vampires you're looking for.


Well, okay, who am I to judge? Maybe these are exactly the vampires you're looking for. But they certainly weren't the ones I was looking for. I've written here before that I'll try anything with vampires. (My best friend's response: "This is what's wrong with America today." I know, I know.) But "try" doesn't necessarily mean "become a fan of" or even "keep watching." My love of certain vampire properties (the Buffyverse, Vampire Diaries, the Vampire Academy books, etc.) is something of a double-edged sword here. It means that I'm more likely to try other vampire stuff, sure. But it also means that my standards are higher, or at least more particular. When evaluating a new vampire show, there's always a question at the back of my mind: When I'm in the mood for vampires on my TV, will I ever pick this over reruns of Buffy or Angel or The Vampire Diaries or even Moonlight?

And the answer in the case of The Gates is - well, probably not. It's hard to say after just one episode, so I'll probably watch a few more, but this is one of those shows that I inevitably start hoping get cancelled quickly so I don't have to really decide whether to commit to watching. I mean, it isn't awful. It's just . . . blah. There are vampires and werewolves (or shifters?) and various other as-yet-unspecified magic types, but none of them were particularly interesting in the pilot. Virtually none of the mythology or mechanics of the world have been explained yet, so it's hard to know how to react to some seemingly-significant actions. (Are vampires expected to feed on people? Does the little girl know she's controlling her skateboard with her brain? etc.) The show splits its time more or less evenly between teens and their parents, which is a concept I rather like, but the parents, so far, are just boring. The high school social dynamics are vaguely interesting, but you can get that on a lot of shows.

The pilot did touch upon two ideas I found intriguing. The first was how a high school with a large concentration of children with special abilities - and special abilities that are different from one another - would work. On most shows, there are only a few supernatural folk, so they're outliers, and the focus is usually on staying secret and/or fitting in. Here, where abilities seem to be an open secret (and not a secret at all, among some), they can play with issues like how to coach a football team made up of a mix of humans and werewolves without having any of the kids wind up seriously hurt because others don't know their own strength.

And the other issue, basically, is whether having a school, and a town, like that is worth it at all. A vampire couple discusses how the wife feels that she doesn't fit in with the affluent suburban lifestyle of her neighbors, but the husband is worried about what would happen to their (telekinetic? maybe?) daughter anywhere else, especially among less civilized vampires. (They would eat her, he implies. Vampiric codes of conduct weren't really established yet in the pilot.) Should children be confined to small slices of a carefully-selected world in order to keep them safe, or is it worth trying to integrate into the larger society, even if their differences might put them in danger?

If The Gates can actually use its Stepfordian setting and sundry supernatural characters to examine issues like these, rather than getting bogged down in the Desperate-Housewives-with-fangs melodrama, then it could turn out to be worth watching. But this is ABC, on Sunday nights, in the summer. So I'm not holding my breath, and I'm dusting off my Buffy DVDs, just in case.

Posted by Kat at June 30, 2010 01:00 PM
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