I sat down this evening to watch The Gates, a new show debuting on ABC, and though it was not quite the gripping reality-TV-docudrama detailing the inner sanctum of Bill and Melinda Gates’ lives and their ongoing battle to achieve consensus on their foundation’s projects that I had expected, I did enjoy it and am considering sticking with it to see if it has staying power over its first season.
To start, neither Bill nor Melinda Gates are even in the show, and for that matter, I’m not even sure that it can be classified as “reality TV.” But I guess the umbrella of that label covers many a show’s head these days, so I’ll not argue the point. Reality or not, the show is about a gated community, but it isn’t just the subdivisions that are gated, the whole town is gated; a security guard has to open the gates to The Gates for you to get in and out, and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. The new chief of police is Nick Monahan,
who is bringing his family to The Gates for a second chance following a questionable shooting incident in Chicago that resulted in his resignation. One imagines that this will serve as a background plot point that should give us at least a few angst-filled flashback scenes going forward. Nick Monahan (Frank Grillo - Prison Break)
is accompanied by his wife Sarah (Marisol Nichols – 24), their daughter, who is not in the pilot long enough for me to remember her name, and their son Charlie, who enrolls in the local high school and instantly hits it off with a girl named Andie (Skyler Samuels – That’s So Raven).
It turns out that all is not well in this lovely gated suburbutopia, however. The show opens with a little girl running out into the street chasing her skateboard and nearly being hit by a truck, which swerves and hits a concrete mailbox. The driver is a local contractor with a nasty cut over his eye. Once he’s asked inside by the Monahan’s neighbor, Claire Radcliff (Rhona Mitra – The Practice, Nip/Tuck, Boston Legal),
(Ever wonder who that beautiful brunette was that is nearly assaulted by an invisible Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man? Yup, this be she.)
he decides to make a pass at her and she decides to drink his blood, what with being a vampire, greatly displeasing her husband, who wants nothing more than for them to quietly assimilate. This sets in motion the initial story arc: a contractor goes missing, the new police chief is suspicious and starts investigating, the vampiric Radcliffs have to cover the contractor’s death, they come under Monahan’s radar, and the powers that be warn Monahan that this is a nice gated community and they don’t need him stirring up trouble by making accusations against citizens who draw a lot of water in this, their eden. “Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski!”
Meanwhile, Charlie catches Andie’s eye with his keen literary analysis in English class, and her boyfriend Brett is displeased by their friendly overtures, meaning he freaks out in football practice and injures another player, then destroys a sink and some mirrors in the bathroom. Oh, and he has heightened senses and is a werewolf. There’s also a couple of competing magic tea shop-owning proprietresses thrown in, which should be good for some cross-fire in the ensuing epic clashes promised by the pilot.
The Gates didn’t blow me away, leaving me feeling that this is a show that I have to watch. I do think it will be entertaining, however, and I see some real potential here. Many will no doubt be turned off by the fact that it’s another vampire show, as there is inevitable backlash following cultural phenomena like the Twilight series, and it does seem like this is coming on the heels of a number of projects (just in recent memory, the Blade series, Twilight, the Underworld trilogy, True Blood)
and can’t help but be a stale rehash, not to mention the fact that, exempting the final two thirds of the Blade trilogy, the forenamed products were really quite good. The size of the Twilight phenomenon may well have owed something to the momentum that accrues to these sorts of cultural wildfires, but nothing gets big enough to reach that tipping point where it can become a cultural conflagration without first being a quality product for at least one major demographic.
The Gates is not the next Twilight, though it will benefit by showing up well before the fire department has even been called for the latter. It does give us a teen love triangle, but insofar as we know, Charlie isn’t a vampire, and I don’t see Andie’s character setting families and communities at odds by forcing us to join “Team Charlie” or “Team Brett.”
What The Gates will offer, however, is a combination of some familiar formulas. We have ‘the myth of suburban bliss exploded;’ ‘vampires v. werewolves;’ and a ‘high school love-drama,' all topped by a thin layer of cop-show mystery. The result is nothing short of a spectacular alter ego: Desperate Vampires' Creek. Now, if they renamed the show with my improved moniker, you would stick around for at least a few weeks longer, wouldn’t you?
Let the internet petition commence.
Single White Sock Puppet