New Mexico has been lucky over the years to serve as the home for a number of successful TV series—from the award-winning brilliance of “Breaking Bad” to the balls-out craziness of “Preacher.” Now NBC is adding to our hometown economy by shooting its new series “Midnight, Texas” in and around Albuquerque. It’s probably safe to say that this supernatural soap opera won’t be taking home as many Emmys as “Breaking Bad,” but we’re glad it’s here, nonetheless.
The show is based on the book series by author Charlaine Harris, who penned the inspiration for the popular HBO series “True Blood.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone watching “Midnight, Texas,” as it’s pretty much the exact same premise with a location slightly more to the west. Like “True Blood” it’s set in a tiny town that serves as a haven for sexy vampires, sexy witches, sexy werewolves, sexy angels, the occasional demonic biker—you know, the usual. Into this haunted burg comes Manfred Bernardo (François Arnaud from Showtime’s “The Borgias”), a real-deal psychic on the run and laying low because he owes a nasty gangster a bunch of money. (Manfred’s reasons for showing up in Midnight eat up all of five seconds’ worth of air ime.)
It isn’t long (like, another 60 seconds, maybe) before the mysterious and standoffish residents of Midnight start introducing themselves as soul-sucking vampires and the like—revelations that don’t seem to concern anyone in the least. “Midnight, Texas” clearly has no patience for subtlety. In very short order, Manfred has met fellow residents Bobo (Dylan Bruce), Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley), Creek (Sarah Ramos) and Lemuel (Peter Mensah). Kudos to Ms. Harris for the wackadoodle names.
There is, of course, a murder mystery to solve, because every new show (including “Riverdale,” for Christ’s sake) must start with a murder mystery. Seems that the girlfriend of Bobo, who owns Midnight’s 24 hour pawn shop (because every tiny town needs a 24-hour pawn shop), was killed. But by whom? Or what? Given that Manfred can speak with the dead, you’d think this would be a relatively short-lived mystery. But the dead girl prefers to communicate in slippery clues—and since “the veil between the living and the dead” is so conveniently thin here in Midnight, our man Manfred is kind of overwhelmed with centuries’ worth of pissed-off ghosts.
Right off the bat, the tone of “Midnight, Texas” is far closer to ABC’s silly, anything goes “Once Upon a Time” than to the sexy, intentionally campy “True Blood.” You can add “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (I wish I were kidding) and a half-dozen other better-produced efforts to the list of shows “Midnight, Texas” cribs from. The special effects are slightly below the average shot-in-Canada Syfy offering, and the sets look appropriately ... set-like. Basically, NBC is pinching its pennies on this summer replacement series.
Yes, “Midnight, Texas” is little more than an inexpensive, broadcast network carbon copy of “True Blood.” But there is a pulpy, comic book-y charm to its threadbare genre silliness. With a bit more self-awareness of its corny premise and skin-deep characters, this could be a lightweight, drunk-fun guilty pleasure for indiscriminate fans of supernatural shenanigans.