Mon 23 Feb 2009
Once upon a time, back in the mid-90s, a significantly-younger Stephanie was prowling the library for an author she’d heard about in the back of another book she liked very much. She found the fantasy novels by said author; the first one was called Sing the Four Quarters, which piqued Stephanie’s interest as she was a piano student. After devouring them, she went after other books by the same author (Tanya Huff), and discovered one of her favorite series ever: the Vicki “Victory” Nelson books. She read them so many times that she nearly had them memorized, and when, several years later, she found out that a Canadian station was making them into a TV series, she was simultaneously elated and dismayed. What if they weren’t quite right?
Well, I put off watching them until the series was over (but I did DVR them, for ratings purposes), but I finally succumbed last week, and absorbed all 23 episodes over a very short period of time. Our basic plot, shared between the books and the show, is that Vicki Nelson had to leave the police force, due to failing vision, and she started her own private-investigation career. One of her cases turned out to be . . . weird, and not only did it throw her back into contact with her ex-partner on the force (and ex-lover) Mike Celluci, but it also had her meeting a vampire, Henry Fitzroy (bastard son of Henry VIII), and encountering a demon. Well, now the ‘otherworldly crimes’ are a specialty . . .
That’s, at least, the plot shared by the books and the show. In the books, they defeat the demon and Vicki goes back to chasing down cheating husbands. The other weird stuff — only three more books’ worth — happens over the course of the next couple years. In the show, Vicki acquires some demon marks, and they start drawing weird stuff to her every week. Clearly, that was a change they had to make to lead to the weekly episodes. They also gave Vicki an office and a sidekick — Coreen, who hired her for the first job. (I can’t even remember if Coreen survived the first book. They also turned Coreen from a slightly-gullible rich girl into a working-class Goth, but hey.)
I know that Tanya Huff strongly approved of the series — well, really, how could she not? — and while I agree that some of the changes were necessary, I still felt like a few things weren’t. Getting rid of all the queer references (Henry’s bisexual; another character, Tony, who had his own trilogy, is gay), sure — primetime TV, after all. But why did they make Henry a graphic novelist instead of a historical romance author? The latter is much funnier. I understand it’s probably a bit hard to get extremely tall, extremely beautiful, cop-looking black-haired Italian guys, but, uh, it can’t be that hard — in other words, they sanitized all of Celluci’s ethnicity. The fact that Celluci swore in Italian, crossed himself, and worshipped/feared his grandmother was practically his entire personality in the books. They also turned his partner, Dave Graham, into a joke. (Also, I’m pretty sure Dave was white and married with kids, and the police chief was the twice-divorced black guy, but they turned him into a woman.)
On the other hand, I loved Vicki (other than her habit of removing her glasses every two minutes — book Vicki didn’t even take them off for, uh, intimate activities), liked Coreen despite her bad makeup and clothes for half the first season, thought Celluci was exceptionally good-looking, and found most of the plots pretty solid and one even legitimately frightening. (To me, serial killers are significantly scarier than werewolves.) The coroner/ME, whose name I never quite caught, was also awesome, and I wanted to know her in real life. Yes, she was pure deus ex machina, but I didn’t care.
Some of the acting is kind of bad — Henry, for example, had two facial expressions, and no vocal ones other than I AM SEXY VAMPIRE. Some of the special effects are borderline cheese, but they’re significantly better than Forever Knight (the last low-budget Canadian vampire show I’ve seen). Fans of Forever Knight might enjoy it, but there’s significantly more (intentional) humor in Blood Ties. Fans of the books could very well find themselves drawn in, despite the differences. I’d recommend the series for fans of things like The X-Files, I guess, and other supernatural cop dramas. I will warn all potential viewers that it ends in a very uncomfortable place; the last four episodes are pretty depressing, actually. 3.5/5 stars (for the whole TV series).