Midnight, Texas: S1 E1 Pilot
Written by Monica Owusu-Breen
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
“Usually, I’m the freak in the room.”
I expected Midnight, Texas to be Preacher Lite, and was hoping that it might even be Preacher Different, but to be honest I’m not really even sure what it is yet. The latest television conquest by uber popular writer of various mystery series, Charlaine Harris, MTX feels like a huge mixed salad of every possible supernatural element thrown together in hopes of making the most likable compilation of an urban fantasy (well, shit-kicker Panhandle fantasy) TV series possible. Set in a quirky little town that reads like Marfa, Texas by way of Salem, Massachusetts, the show features all kinds of different characters from every occult walk of life. You know all those big budget summer blockbusters that combine teams of superheroes together? This is kind of like that for the sorcery set, with the main character being played by a guy who got whacked on Blindspot. Here, he not only sees dead people – they are everywhere – they stalk him and demand that he use his sixth sense to solve their problems for them. Unlike most television mediums with their heartwarming empathy, this one is a sometimes sham psychic who cannot only communicate with the dead, he can inhale them and then puke them out. On the run from some as yet undefined mysterious villain, Manfred washes up in Midnight on the advice of his dead grandmother in what just so happens to be a kind of sanctuary city for cryptids, vampires, angels, assassins, a white supremacist motorcycle gang, and a talking cat. This show may not be Preacher, but it does have a preacher: while he can’t compel people to do what he says, he is a werewolf and does run a kick ass pet cemetery.
My taste in television shows adheres to all of the highbrow discrimination and intellectual discernment of a sub-normal 13-year-old boy, so I felt that this is a TV show definitely directed at my tribe. That surprises me, because Harris looks like the kind of person whose creativity would extend only to crocheting toilet roll covers, rather than being the driving force behind a zillion successful book series, one of which resulted in HBO’s popular series True Blood, and another which was made into the Aurora Teagarden shows on the Hallmark channel. She may also be the only person who has successfully bridged the audiences for HBO and Hallmark. Maybe I’m not so unusual a demographic: escapist. Some of her success may stem from her ability to cadge together the kinds of stories and characters that are known to appeal to a wide range of consumers. While her work could be called formulaic, she definitely knows how to take derivative elements and mix them up in a reasonably fresh way. She opts for quirky, comforting, and offbeat, rather than edgy, sprinkles in a fair serving of humor, and her fans love her for it.
Having laid out all that vaguely condescending commentary on MTX and Harris’ work generally, I may choose to continue watching this series. It might get better, it might get worse. The town of Midnight is situated where the veil between the here and there is thinner than most other places, so I guess it’s kind of like Marfa-Salem-Sedona. All of the people possess a kind of chicken-fried hipster vibe, so add Austin to the list of location inspirations. The first episode sets up potential conflict between the supernatural residents of the town and the muggle humans living in the surrounding area, while the white supremacist bikers seem to hate both sides. Throw in a murder mystery to thicken the plot, and feature a drowned corpse that keeps drooling mud for fun. I’d like to see where this goes before I decide whether to bail or buy the T-shirt.
I’m just a wee bit uncomfortable admitting this, but seriously? The thing that pulls me back to watch the next episode the most might just be the talking cat. I am not a crazy cat lady, I’m not even a cat person at all, but that character piques my interest and that surprises me. My dogs talk to me all the time, but mostly they say things like, “Are you going to eat that?” and “Did you hear that? Me neither, but I better bark anyway,” so I am interested in hearing from a more accomplished conversationalist. Maybe the cat character just happens to be better drawn than the humans, or human-like ones. I like my Caesar salad with anchovies to spice it up a bit, and that sarcastic, down-home drawling cat providing snarky commentary on this doofussy show might just kick up this supernatural salad of a TV series so it’s actually worth watching.