The first thing I can tell you about MTV’s upcoming new drama series Teen Wolf is that with a few minor exceptions, the series appears to be nothing like the film on which it’s based, and for that I am grateful. Maybe it makes me a traitor to my generation to say this, but I don’t think TV needs a show that’s completely modeled after the characters and story of the original Teen Wolf.
I’m what the majority of MTV’s current viewership would likely consider to be “old,” as I was not only alive when the original Teen Wolf film premiered, but I’m old enough to remember it with fond nostalgia. For Michael J. Fox, 1985 was the year of Back to the Future and the movie about a kid who got really good at basketball and van-top surfing when he inherited his dad’s Lycanism. That’s the theme, more or less, to the original Teen Wolf and it worked well for the times, but times have changed.
As much fun as the original film was, trying to make a show about a relatively harmless kid covered in fur, showing off on the basketball court and biting beer cans open with his teeth wouldn’t fly in today’s television. MTV takes the story of a kid discovering he’s a werewolf into this century with Teen Wolf. In an age where supernatural shows are often served with angsty romance, troubled characters and lots of drama, Teen Wolf appears to be set up to fit right in.
We’re introduced to Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a teen we’re told (but not really shown) is a bit of a high school nobody until he and his friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) head into the woods in search of a dead body they hear is (partially) missing. Scott ends up getting bit by “something” and the next day, he begins to develop super powers, including excellent hearing, and the ability to communicate with dogs (or glare at them until they stop barking at him). And, as being a victorious high school athlete will probably always be a trademark of teen success by American standards, Scott soon finds his skills on the lacrosse field have vastly improved.
If’ you’re looking for film-to-TV comparisons and you’re keeping track, Scott’s a lacrosse player, not a basketball player. He was bitten rather than born to be a werewolf. I’m not even sure he has a father figure in his life, so we can probably rule out the father/son wolf bonding too. There’s also no “Boof” character. Rather than a female best friend who’s been pining over him for years, Scott’s love interest is Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), an exceptionally pretty new-girl who takes an interest in Scott right away.
Being a werewolf isn’t all super-skills and milk bones. Scott’s opposition comes in two forms. In school, there’s a budding rivalry with Jackson Whittemore (Colton Haynes), the high school’s alpha, who dominated at lacrosse until being recently challenged by Scott on the field. It doesn’t help that Lydia Martin (Holland Roden), Jackson’s gorgeous girlfriend, has also taken notice of Scott. Out of school, Scott’s opposition is much more threatening. While the film’s Scott had to fear a jealous and less than tolerant principal giving him flack, MTV’s Scott has a Van Helsing-type werewolf hunter wandering the woods with weapons. Fortunatley, Scott is not entirely on his own as a werewolf. Tyler Hoechlin plays Derek Hale, another young wolf who’s willing to school Scott on his new lifestyle. Given that one of the drawbacks of being a werewolf might be bloodlust, it could be good for Scott to have someone helping him along, depending on Derek’s motives, of course.
If there’s one place this series falls short (other than originality, but given that this is sort of a remake/reboot, it gets a pass there), it’s that we get almost no introduction to who Scott was before he was bitten. Between Scott and Stiles’ comments, added to how everyone seems to be newly aware of him once he starts showing his abilities, it’s more or less implied that he was a social nobody, but we don’t actually see it. He’s better than average looking and while he might not have been a star athlete, it’s hard to appreciate the vast transformation from nobody to somebody here. With that said, this version of Teen Wolf appears to be focusing more on the transition from regular teen to super-strong and potentially dangerous werewolf as opposed to a classic underdog tale. Enough story elements are introduced in the first episode to give viewers a fair idea of the conflicts ahead for Scott.
One of the things I love about Syfy’s Being Human, is that the series balances a story of characters struggling with the threats and challenges that come with living as a supernatural being in today’s world, with the normal challenges of being a human in today’s world. Teen Wolf has the potential to be something similar on a younger scale and I believe it can be, if the writers decide to keep things grounded on some level of reality as Scott tries to balance his normal life and the relationships he has with Stiles and Allison, with his new life as a werewolf and all of the perks and problems that come with it. It also has the potential to dive face first into supernatural drama, forgetting that Scott is a kid and giving the story some “normal” teen elements.
Regardless of what the show becomes, I suspect a lot of people will tune in to the premiere on Sunday night either because they love supernatural dramas or for nostalgic reasons. If you’re tuning in solely for nostalgic reasons, you’re better off skipping it and watching the film. But, if you’re a fan of the modern take on supernatural dramas, you’ll probably like what you find in Teen Wolf. There’s plenty of potential for this to be a must-watch summer series for people who like their drama with some fur and fangs.
Teen Wolf premieres on Sunday, June 5th (immediately following the MTV Movie Awards) 11/10c on MTV.
The series will begin airing in its regularly scheduled Monday night time slot starting Monday, June 6th at 10/9c.