Question: I had a chance to watch the pilots for both Moonlight and Reaper. I'm a big Supernatural fan, and these ghost/vampire genre shows, when done well, are a lot of fun. To me, one of these shows demonstrates how you do it well, and one demonstrates how you do it badly. Let's start with the good: I really enjoy Reaper. The stars are likable, the writing is fun, and it genuinely made me laugh. It obviously isn't taking itself too seriously, but the effects are still nice and flashy, and let's face it: You couldn't ask for a more charming Satan than Ray Wise. I hope he gets more screen time. The creators obviously have a clear vision that the look, the music and the story all contribute to. I'll definitely keep tuning in. Now on to Moonlight — yikes! First of all, that voice-over. We get it, you're an angsty vampire. Shut up, already! I think the excessive VO makes the bad writing even worse. Because the writing is bad. So full of clichés! I wanted to laugh at the overly serious dialogue. But the actors aren't bad. I don't know much about Alex O'Loughlin, but I know he was on The Shield; Shannyn Sossamon has some decent film credits; and I like Sophia Myles (although she isn't selling me on the American accent). But watching them in this show is painful. The only redeeming quality is Jason Dohring, who is fun and over-the-top, and the only person involved with the show who seems to realize it's about vampires, so maybe trying to ground it in realism (comparing your blood supplier to a drug dealer?) is a little silly. They seem to go back and forth between film-noir detective story and gothic novel, and neither style really works. What was your take on these two? Can Moonlight turn it around?
Answer: My initial review, filed upon getting the first episodes very close to airdate, pretty much echoes your main points. As I noted, the second episode improved on the first (at least in terms of narrative progression), although since that episode's writer (Angel vet David Greenwalt) has already left the show, there's still no way of being convinced just yet what kind of show this will turn out to be. The good news for Moonlight fans is that it appears to be holding enough of the Ghost Whisperer audience for now that CBS may give it time to find its bearings. I am also dismayed by the clichéd writing and the wretched acting (especially by Myles, this season's Elisabeth Rohm) surrounding a promising lead performance by O'Loughlin. Digression: I was kind of amused when I watched the first episode of Blood Ties' second season (now airing Fridays at 11 pm/ET on Lifetime) to be reminded of how much better the female lead on that show is than the wan vampire character. Both shows strike me as so depressingly mediocre, which leaves me hoping Alan Ball can pull off his HBO vampire project and restore my faith in the genre.

Finally, this note from Kristin F.: "In your dismal review of Moonlight (which I agree was disappointingly clichéd), you mention that it will most likely be compared to Angel. I see another comparison: the cult favorite Forever Knight. Moonlight seems to be a blatant rip-off: sexy love interest turns detective into vampire; flashbacks to previous times; buddies with the coroner (although at least the coroner is a different gender). Even the names of the characters beg comparison: Nick vs. Mick. I'm just waiting for Mick to start eating French fries drenched with ketchup (my favorite scene from the Knight series), since Moonlight doesn't seem to have much originality."

This rip-off charge has dogged Moonlight ever since the show was announced, and while there clearly is some significant overlap, and a sad lack of originality in the newcomer, I still contend that a new show should be allowed to revisit tried-and-true territory in hopes of finding some fresh stories to tell. There really are only so many ways to set up a vampire private-eye show. What matters most is the execution, and that's where Moonlight so far has come up short — although it doesn't seem to matter to viewers like Marianne L., who wrote in to remind me that "trite and clichéd dialogue is what keeps American entertainment going." That may be the most soul-crushing sentiment I've heard expressed since this challenging new season began.