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Midnight, Texas TV Review – Charlaine Harris Returns To TV With Lighter Fare

Fans of True Blood (and/or Charlaine Harris) will likely be excited for the return of work by a favorite author, but Midnight, Texas is a very different sort of fantasy. While True Blood was entering a very different television scene, and tried its best to keep a straight face, Midnight, Texas finds itself wandering into a post-Blood world, which is one that is populated by Marvel heroes and the likes of Sleepy Hollow and Preacher. Playing things “seriously” in the fantasy world isn’t quite the same thing anymore.

Midnight is a town that has become something of a safe haven for a variety of oddballs. Manfred (François Arnaud) wanders into town because he’s a medium and his dead grandmother told him it would be a good place to hide from the mysterious stranger Manfred owes some money. Of course, he didn’t realize he was heading to a town that sits on a weak point in the fabric of reality that keeps ghosts and demons out of our world (or whatever), and is populated by vampires, angels, witches, and were-creatures.

You’d think that a town inhabited by those who are looking to go unnoticed would make for a great place to lay low, but Manfred barely has time to unpack before someone turns up dead. That draws its own attention, but being that speaking to dead people is sort of what Manfred does, whether he wants to or not, he’s in the thick of figuring out what happened. Plus, he seems to have woken a demon.

To make things worse, these aren’t exactly the kind of locals who take a shine to strangers, especially when it seems like bad luck arrives with them. Lemuel (Peter Mensah), an oddly-benevolent vampire, Olivia (Arielle Kebbel), an assassin with more weapons than any ten people need, and Bobo (Dylan Bruce), the apparently human owner of the local pawn shop, all seem particularly wary of newcomers. Which is not to suggest that the local witch (Parisa Fitz-Henley), angel (Jason Lewis), or were-creature (Yul Vazquez) are exactly friendly.

MIDNIGHT TEXAS — “Pilot” — Pictured: (l-r) Yul Vázquez as Rev. Emilio Sheehan, Parisa Fitz-Henley as Fiji, Francois Arnaud as Manfred — (Photo by: NBC)

The show’s initial stages are a kind of introduction by bombardment, and getting through it all requires viewers to immediately commit to the wackiest of plot spins. We’re up against the cops at the outset, who will learn too much by investigating anything, and have a murder to solve. It’s like a game of clue where every suspect is a monster, they all have five other secrets besides, and no one wants to play in the first place. Manfred is in the wrong place at every time and only has the word of his semi-stoned grandmother’s ghost as a reason to stay in this looney bin. Of course, Creek (Sarah Ramos) makes things a little more intriguing for Manfred, but the town doesn’t give him a lot of time to concentration on potential relationships.

MIDNIGHT TEXAS — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Arielle Kebbel as Olivia — (Photo by: Cathy Kanavy/NBC)

This is a show that feels as though it owes as much to Executive Producer David Janollari as it does to Charlaine Harris, because there’s a Six Feet Under vibe that’s hard to ignore. There’s as much interest in the pure quirk of the characters attempting to exist together as there is to their existing at all, and the effort of the show seems to focus on the secretive as much as the motives and motifs of the various fantasy elements.

It probably shouldn’t be as fun as it is, and it’s obviously an easy show to write off, but something about Harris’ ability to deliver the charismatic makes its way through to the surface of this less-than-serious look at a monster mash. If the premise just sounds too goofy to watch, well, you probably aren’t going to be won over by the quirk and kook of small-town, monster America. But, if any show in the last five years with a bent towards the fantastic has hooked you, this one will as well. Arnaud delivers, and that’s all the show really needs.

Unfortunately, the third episode is really diving a little too deep for such an early episode, which might turn some viewers off, but this one has the makings of a wonderful guilty pleasure.

 

Summary
You have to approach "Midnight, Texas" with caution, but if you're the kind of viewer who can let a bit of fantastical fun drive a quasi-dramatic narrative (for instance, if you like "True Blood"), then you're in for a treat.
8
Great
Written by
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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