We'll admit it. We kind of laughed when we heard MTV was doing Teen Wolf as a TV show. But when they showed some footage at the Television Critics Association fall press tour and brought the cast and creators out to talk about it, they started to win us over.
(Spoiler alert if you don't want to know details about the reimagining.)
The wolf-outs looked good, but more importantly, the actors taking werewolf stuff seriously looked good. They're already starting a serious story with lots of layers, action and romance. Maybe turning an '80s comedy gimmick into a serious monster show was a good idea after all.
"You could ask the same question of Battlestar Galactica, which became one of my favorite TV shows," executive producer Jeff Davis said. "I love the original and the new version. There are similarities. We are doing a TV show about a teenager who becomes a werewolf. The Stiles character was clearly based on it. We are using sports as an integral part. I personally love the original movie. I recognize the datedness, but I think we're paying good homage to it."
Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) gets a wolf bite and becomes a star lacrosse goalie while gaining other new powers. (It was basketball for Michael J. Fox. We guess kids play more lacrosse now.) They're actually going to show a lot of wolfiness, more than you'll see on network shows like Vampire Diaries.
"If it was a network, we'd be told, 'Focus far more on the relationships. Don't do too much of the werewolf stuff. Yes, he's a werewolf, but we don't want to do too much of that,'" Davis said. "Network sci-fi shows are constantly being told, 'Less sci-fi, more soap opera.' Here they've been telling us, 'Edgier, go for it. We want to see action, we want to see twists, we want to see surprises.'"
With more werewolf screen time, the adapters of Teen Wolf came up with three different breeds of wolf we'll see. "In the series there are three types of werewolves, an alpha, omega and beta," director Russell Mulcahy said. "The omega being a full wolf. What you saw is the beta, and then there's the psychotic, dangerous and totally original different design for the omega, which is the real monster of the show."
Scott will start out as a beta, and both the betas and alphas are bipedal. They walk like humans a la The Wolfman. It's only the omega that runs on all fours. "We didn't want a dog running around," Davis said. "The other werewolf shows and movies have werewolves you could pet. We wanted to have one you could kiss."
Tyler Hoechlin plays Derek Hale, Scott's sort of werewolf mentor. He's only a little further along in the werewolf cycle, a beta on his way to becoming alpha. "He's kind of an older beta," Hoechlin said. "I'll be closer to developing like an actual wolf, whereas Tyler Posey's character will be a little more babyish. It's that whole growing-up thing all over again. You start out as a baby at the werewolf bottom, and you kind of work your way up. As you become stronger and learn how to control it a little more, your powers progress."
They started showing glimpses of betas in transformation. By the time you see all three, there'll be no mistaking them. "They'll be physically totally different creatures," Mulcahy said. "If you had an action figure, they would be different creatures. The creatures will be totally different, totally original. I think our tonality is totally different too. It's very smart humor and also goes very dark, with dead bodies. And scary. We're pushing the envelope in that way."
Don't forget sexy, either. They seem to have assembled the dreamiest, most beautiful young actors they could find. I was always a Boof man, but Crystal Reed and Holland Roden are on my list for next year. The ladies will surely like Tyler Posey and Tyler Hoechlin. Posey knows his place on the show.
"The werewolf that we're doing is completely different from the other werewolves that are going around right now," Posey said. "It's more of a sexier, sleek werewolf. Gotta push that sexy. It's not as hairy as the original Teen Wolf, Michael J Fox. It definitely gives a darker and new feel to this werewolf."
One of the new powers they gave this Teen Wolf is the ability to attract girls. Now, that sounds silly at first, but if you think about it it's actually the most useful superpower of all.
"The werewolf story is a great metaphor for adolescence," Davis said. "We also see it as a way to tell a great story for an outsider. We wanted to do a story about a teenager who wasn't necessarily a geek or dork, but who was kind of the kid who you remember in class but if they got hit by a bus, you'd go, 'I think he sat behind me in class.' He's that kind of guy. So it's a moment of taking the ordinary person and making him extraordinary. Naturally, one of those abilities should be attracting women. When you're talking high school, that's a time of life when it's sexual awakening. It's finding yourself, your identity. I think there's no better time of life to explore those aspects of humanity. Being a werewolf is a way for us to tell a story where desires are kind of heightened, senses are heightened."
If you're not into the metaphor, how about some good old-fashioned centuries-old conflict? There's a clan of werewolf hunters this Teen Wolf has to deal with. So they'll fight a lot. "We see it as a kind of Hatfield/McCoys centuries-long war between these two factions in society," Davis said. "You have your werewolves/lycans on one side, hunters on the other. It was one of the ways to reinvent the werewolf mythology, I think. If you'll notice, we were very specific in choosing their last name, Argent, which is French for money and silver."
When it comes to werewolf violence, Teen Wolf can get away with a lot on MTV. "[We'll] push as far as we can," Davis said. "I don't think there's going to be a rating on it. We'll probably be somewhere in the 9 or 10 o'clock hour, but they'll repeat during the day, most likely. I think we'll be able to get pretty edgy. Could this be on network TV? Absolutely not. It's going to be an MTV show."
To clarify, they're talking about intensity. It doesn't necessarily have to be bloody to be intense. "We're not going to get into the gore and splatter issue, but there'll be definitely suspense and tension and shocks and scares and all that," Mulcahy said. "You can get that under any rating."
With all these plotlines they're setting up, you'll need to catch every episode of Teen Wolf to get the whole story. They've designed it that way, so you really get the most out of watching it each week.
"This is a serialized show, but very much in the way that I would say that Dexter and Breaking Bad are serialized," Davis said. "The stories themselves feel complete. You feel satisfied at the end of an episode."
But they'll leave you wanting more. "We love cliffhangers, especially if they ring true," Mulcahy said. "Not like the old-fashioned cliffhangers where they always faked it."
So if all this is new an improved, why even call it Teen Wolf? Do you want us thinking about Michael J. Fox surfing on the top of a van?
"Personally, this was my exact question when I first met with MTV," Davis said. "They said, 'We have Teen Wolf. We're thinking of remaking it.' I said, 'Actually, I'm a huge fan of the original movie. I loved it. I was a kid. I saw Back to the Future, I saw Teen Wolf immediately thereafter. We just loved it, can't remember how many times I saw it. The question really is, A, it's a basketball movie, and B, it's a comedy. Is that the kind of show you want to make?' They said, 'No, we want to reinvent it for modern audiences but use the same kind of themes of a teenager exploring newfound powers, take the metaphor of the werewolf a little bit further, a little edgier, a little sexier.' To be quite honest, I think I consider myself a creative personally, but also as a businessman, you can't dismiss the power of branding."
Teen Wolf is coming in 2011 to MTV.