‘Midnight, Texas’ Season 1 Premiere: Home Sweet Hell

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

The latest stab at launching a TV show based on the books of Charlaine Harris, best-known for “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” saga, which inspired the much-beloved “True Blood,” the NBC series “Midnight, Texas” is a whirlwind hodgepodge of horror, dark comedy, romance and mystery, just like its predecessor. But is it as good?

Midnight Texas 21

On the surface, NBC might seem like an odd choice for the show, and indeed, it might have been better served on HBO or Showtime, or at least FX or AMC, where they push the boundaries of what’s allowed on basic cable. However, lest we forget, NBC did give us the wonderful “Hannibal,” which definitely toed the line of what network TV can get away with. So, is “Midnight, Texas” more “Hannibal” than, say, the unceremoniously dumped “Emerald City”? (As in a solid TV adaption of a beloved book series?)

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

In a word, no. But it’s also not the worst thing you’ll ever see, especially in the doldrums of iffy summer network TV programming. Note the distinction between network TV and basic cable, pay cable and/or streaming services, though. The simple fact of the matter is, if you’ve got options right now that include any of those, then there absolutely are better opportunities for entertainment out there for you that are readily available, even if you’re dipping back into older shows that slipped through the cracks before now.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

After all, what is summer for, if not to get caught up on the things you missed, right? Unless you’re into reality TV and game shows, I guess. For those of us who aren’t, and have access to a treasure trove of other potentials, something like “Midnight, Texas” may have limited appeal, as network TV boundaries, even on the laxer NBC, are still major barriers in terms of what the show can get away with, and there’s an awfully lot of shows out there that don’t have such worries to contend with.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

That said, in the unlikely event that you’re caught up on everything you want to be caught up on, or, more likely, if your choices are more limited, then “Midnight, Texas” might get the job done in a pinch. It’s not the worst show I’ve ever seen, and it’s certainly not the worst genre show I’ve ever seen. The road leading away from network TV, pay cable and streaming services are positively littered with terrible genre shows, many of which are far less worth your time than this one.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

To be sure, it has some kinks to work out, and I don’t mean that in a sexual sort of way, though there is some of that implied here that would indeed be better served on the likes of HBO, like the twisted relationship (?) between “Vampire Diaries”-vet Arielle Kebbel’s character Olivia, who looks to be a sort of combination between a hit woman and Buffy, and resident vampire Lemuel, played by Peter Mensah, of “Spartacus” fame.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

No, I’m talking more about basic stuff like character development and solid writing and plotting. Of course, “Midnight, Texas” would hardly be the first show to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Hell, “True Blood” itself was as guilty of that as any show I’ve ever seen, and tonally, it could be all over the place. That said, be that as it may, it nonetheless had a strong sense of character and so far, what I’m seeing on this show is more like archetypes than characters, and “American Gods,” this is not.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

To wit, you’ve got your new kid in town psychic, Manfred (François Arnaud, “Blindspot”); witchy woman Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley, “Jessica Jones/Luke Cage”); guardian angel Joe (Jason Lewis, “Sex & the City”); creepy local Reverend/Pet Cemetary obsessive- or should I say “Pet Sematary” obsessive? – Emilio (Yul Vazquez, “Bloodline”); pawn shop owner and accused murderer Bobo (Dylan Bruce, “Orphan Black”) and waitress-with-a-heart-of-gold Creek (Sarah Ramos, “Parenthood”). Oh, and there’s a talking cat. (No, alas, it’s not named Salem.)

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

As of now, what I listed is about all there is to them. Granted, it’s only the pilot episode, so it’s unfair to expect too much, but that said, the roles don’t feel as “lived in” as you might hope going into a new series. Give it time, though, and you never know, they might. Obvious bad guys are obvious, including “Sons of Anarchy” biker types and the semi-local law enforcement, who only get involved if say, an outsider is killed, as is the case here.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Note the “semi” there. In what is easily the show’s neatest conceit, the town, as you might have guessed from those descriptions, is seemingly almost entirely populated by supernatural beings looking to hide out from the rest of the world and lay low. That’s exactly what brings leading man Manfred there, who is on the run from someone or the other. It would seem a strange place to go to stay out of harm’s way, but his (dead) grandmother highly recommends it, so into town he moves.

Midnight Texas 19

Naturally, no sooner than he arrives than someone ends up dead, in this case a young woman named Aubrey (Shannon Lorance, “Let it Bleed”), who was newly-engaged to Bobo, hence his being the most likely suspect. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that she seems to have already been married, which Bobo obviously didn’t know at the time he proposed. Did he find out and kill her in a jealous rage? Or did her real husband track her down- or one of his lackeys- and kill her instead?

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

I think it’s highly unlikely that Bobo did it, being named freaking Bobo and all, but it’s readily apparent that there’s more to the story going on than meets the eye as well, given that Aubrey’s spirit almost immediately appears to Manfred. Problem is, she was in part drowned, so it’s impossible to understand her, so Manfred attempts to communicate with her via his trusty- and admittedly pretty nifty- Ouija board.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Bigger problem is, it raises all sort of other spirits to boot. I’m not sure if all of them were killed in his house- if so, boy does he need a better realtor- or if they were all killed in the town itself (probably more likely), but either way, Manfred’s house is a-rocking, and he’s not knocking himself out to find out what all of their individual problems are, opting to stay in his RV instead, like the gypsy he is. I’m assuming it’s magically protected, which is why the spirits, save his grandma, can’t mess with him there, despite his proximity to them.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Of course, that’s hardly his only problem. Manfred also has to deal with the police eyeing him suspiciously, given the nature of his arrival and its potentially not-so-coincidental timing with a murder, to say nothing of the fact that he seems to know things about the murder he shouldn’t. He is a psychic, after all. Although the cops aren’t necessarily buying that, either. In addition, the locals are also inherently suspicious of him, though some of them eventually back off when they discover what- or more accurately who- brought him there.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Finally, his crush on Creed, who sports an unnaturally overprotective father, probably isn’t going to do him any favors. But is he overprotective because he’s her father and he’s wary of outsiders, or is there something more to it? Given that most of the denizens of this town have some sort of supernatural ability or another, I suspect it might have more to do with that. Perhaps it’s the sort of ability that’s triggered by sexual activity? Hence his wanting to stave off Manfred’s romantic advances? We shall see.

Midnight Texas 22

It’s a lot to take in, and if the end results are a bit scattershot, I will say that the show moved along at a nice clip and was over before I knew it, and I mean that in a good way. The show’s sense of humor needs a little work- it’s not half as clever as it thinks it is- but some of the special effects aren’t bad (such as the aftereffects of a vampire attack, the angel sprouting wings, and the looks of the various dead spirits) and I liked some of the characters quite a bit, especially the sexy, grumpy Olivia and the suave Lemuel.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Creek is automatically likable in a waitress-next-door sort of way, and I got a kick out of the wily Grandma, played by the sassy Joanne Camp (“Kennedy”). Beyond that, though, it’s a bit iffy, and that definitely includes leading character Manfred, which is a problem. I don’t hate the character or the actor playing him, mind you, he’s just a bit bland, and a little bit too laid back for his own good, given all the crap going on around him. I get that, as a psychic, he’d be used to a certain level of craziness, but what’s going on in this town is a little more involved than that.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

That said, “Midnight, Texas” is passable entertainment, and if your options are limited for one reason or another, then you could do a lot worse. I don’t expect it to be a break-out hit or anything, but it’ll do for summer, I suppose. I imagine Harris and “True Blood” fans will want to check it out, in particular, as well as those familiar with the book series, which I am admittedly not.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

While it may be understandably limited by the constraints of network TV, so far, it’s not that big of a deal yet. There’s not really anything here yet that could be enhanced by copious amounts of sex and violence, though I’m sure some of you will be like, “What ISN’T enhanced by copious amounts of sex and violence?” Well, you know, it’s not always necessary on shows like these. I already mentioned “Hannibal,” and “Supernatural” and “Grimm” are both a lot of fun, so it is possible to entertain without pay cable levels of that sort of thing.

Midnight Texas - Season Pilot

Whether or not “Midnight, Texas” rises to the levels of those shows, much less to the entertainment level of “True Blood” in its prime remains to be seen, but for the short term, I’m in. It’s only a ten-episode season, and the concept and set-up are intriguing enough to keep me interested for the time being. But, insofar as long-term investment goes, “Midnight, Texas” is going to need to step up its game considerably before I’m all in.

Midnight, Texas - Season Pilot

What did you think of the premiere of “Midnight, Texas”? Did you enjoy it, or hate it? Or were you indifferent to it? Was it a waste of time or passable entertainment by summer standards? What did you think about the cast? How about the characters? If you read the books, how did it compare? Let me know what you thought in the comments down below and I’ll check in on the show in a few weeks to see how it’s developed. Thanks for reading!

  • bigref

    toed the line, not towed