In the wake of the immense success of Twilight, it’s no surprise that a television series such as Teen Wolf would surface, and on MTV no less. Teen Wolf, a teenage drama adapted from the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, focuses on a high school romance complicated by supernatural forces, not unlike Twilight. Although I fully expected to hate the series, especially given my affinity for the film and my distaste for the Twilight franchise, I surprisingly thoroughly enjoyed it. If anything, I’d say the only thing I hate about Teen Wolf is how much I liked it.
As in the film Teen Wolf, the series follows dweeb-turned-werewolf Scott, who becomes a local sports star and increasingly popular with the ladies as a result of his lycanthropically-heightened physical abilities. The most significant difference between the film and the series lies in the origin of Scott’s lycanthropy, which alters the entire structure of the narrative in its adaptation for television. Unlike the film’s Scott, whose lycanthropy is genetic, a werewolf bite causes the series’ Scott’s transformation. With an ancient order of werewolf hunters on his trail and other werewolves killing innocent civilians, the series’ Scott must keep his lycanthropy a secret even from those he loves as he searches for a way to reverse the infection.
In this way, whereas the film uniquely utilized lycanthropy to address issues regarding the nature of celebrity, the series uses it instead as a catalyst for a more conventional narrative in which Scott attempts to balance his relationships and school work with his conflicted existence as a werewolf. Although the primary focus of the film may be absent, the series’ writers pay homage to their cinematic predecessor by working in some notable events/dialogue from the film every two or three episodes or so. The series’ differing approach allows for a significant horror element not found in the filmic source to arise, however, as townsfolk fall prey to the Alpha werewolf that bit Scott (making a Beta, as it happens). This narrative thread results in the strongest episode of Season One, “Night School,” in which the Alpha stalks Scott and his friends through the darkened high school in classic horror film fashion.
The series, although written well enough, would be nothing without its incredibly strong cast. The supporting cast, including Dylan O’Brien, Colton Haynes, Holland Rosen, and Tyler Hoechlin, often steals the spotlight from stars Tyler Posey (Scott) and Crystal Reed. Not to say that Posey or Reed falter in their performances, merely that the supporting cast members are as much the stars of Teen Wolf as they. Additionally, Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat!) co-stars in Teen Wolf, much to my fanboyish delight, as the town sheriff.
Honestly, though, the series isn’t exactly what I would call great. It’s good, for sure– really good at times even– but not great. After all, the writing has its share of problems, not the least of which is the first season’s antagonist. When they finally reveal the identity of the Alpha, it turns out to be a typical, two-dimensional, relentlessly villainous, trench coat-wearing baddie. That the antagonist lacks any real complexity drags down the end of the season a bit, especially since the writers worked so hard to develop the rest of the characters. Doesn’t the antagonist deserve the same treatment?
The 3-DVD set of Teen Wolf Season One, now available from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, includes all 12 episodes from the series’ first season. Apparently the episodes have undergone some musical changes since their original broadcast presentation, which I’m afraid I can’t speak to, since I didn’t watch the series when it aired. However, the set includes an exclusive, extended version of the season finale, “Code Breaker,” perhaps by way of compensation for the required musical edits. Special features on the Season One set include deleted, alternate and extended scenes; a gag reel; “Following the Pack: Meet the Cast of Teen Wolf,” featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew; “Love Bites,” a featurette mostly about kissing; “Teen Wolf: Working the Red Carpet” at the series’ premiere party; commentaries on with cast and crew on five select episodes; and the surely necessary Season One “Shirtless Montage.” With its wealth of bonus material and the extended finale, the only thing that brings this set down is the terribly photoshopped cover art, since the airbrushed stars gracing the cover look bizarrely more like poorly-modeled action figures of themselves than their real life counterparts.