ITV1 - 3rd January 2009 - 7.45pm
The debut of ITV's new fantasy drama Demons was utterly eclipsed tonight by the furore and hype around Matt Smith's casting as the eleventh Doctor and so this first episode has struggled to get its head above the water. And what soppy helpings did we indeed get?
Sadly, a re-hash of Buffy-The Vampyre Slayer mixed with a bit of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Essentially, Luke Rutherford is your average teenager (if indeed average is being stunningly gorgeous and gratuitously walking round with his shirt off for not one but two scenes) – until his dead father's best friend, Rupert Galvin, turns up. Galvin has come to tell Luke his secret destiny: he's the real-life great-grandson of Abraham Van Helsing, the vampire hunter in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Luke is set to inherit the family mantle as a warrior against the supernatural entities swarming the earth.
...a pretty dire American accent that keeps vanishing in the vicinity of Yorkshire
So, Luke is a male Buffy played by luscious lipped Christian Cooke who is very easy on the eye and just about scrapes together a performance by the end of this, and Rupert Galvin (again another steal from Buffy, an American protector, rather than an Englishman, with access to a big library) is played by Philip Glenister. Oh, dear. Phil is doing a pretty dire American accent that keeps vanishing in the vicinity of Yorkshire and I have to say he's bloody awful in this and is dished out some utterly excruciating lines so it isn't entirely his fault. And the lighting makes him look like someone's taken a shovel to his face and I know he's not conventionally handsome but he often has some charm. He's not even left with that here. They've deliberately made him look ugly. Zoe Tapper gets a cough and a spit as blind pianist Mina Harker who basically has the key to the Van Helsing vault and access to all the cool weapons that make demons explode into pretty purple clouds.
...you might cut yourself on one of Christian's very prominent nipples
The worst bit, in a mindlessly calculating, 'oh, that's a clever idea' (not) is to play Kaiser Chiefs 'Ruby' on the soundtrack because Luke is frantically searching for his kidnapped girlfriend and her name...is...er Ruby. In fact, strike that. She's not his girlfriend because she's not pretty enough next to the full-on male whore that is Christian Cooke and is likely to become this series token lesbian in yet another rip-off of the Buffy format. Careful, you might cut yourself on one of Christian's very prominent nipples. He gets them out often enough. The opening attack in the hospital is quite amusing, especially when the secretary goes into the office and finds a little demon shredding confidential documents. That's a nice touch. Then we get the rotten titles with that grating theme song and it all goes a bit wrong. It's a shame really because I actually prefer the demons to the heroes in this. Red Lips looks like he's wandered out of The Mighty Boosh and that ain't no bad thing. There's an oddness that's entertaining. Mackenzie Crook basically steals the first episode as the villain Gladiolus Thripp, complete with 1950s lounge lizard look and a stonking great false nose and seems to be the only character in the script that, you know, is a proper character with witty lines and shit.
Fluffy - the Vampyre SlayerSo, Luke has to take on the mantle of Slayer, juggling this with homework and trying not to let on to his mother whilst Galvin/Giles calls on him to fulfill his destiny as the last of the Van Helsings. Joss Whedon better sue. Bits of this might have made an interesting series and even this first lacklustre script might have been enough to get some interest going but it's so anaemically directed that it kind of floats in front of you for 45 minutes like a soap bubble that threatens to burst at any second. It's more like Fluffy - the Vampyre Slayer. The fights aren't particularly well directed and much of everything lacks verve and energy. Some nice London locations will help sell this overseas, no doubt. Granted this is just an opening episode but they're going to need to get creative with the format very soon judging by this flimsy effort. I don't think Matt Smith has anything to worry about come 2010.
Cathode Ray Tube Demons They Bite