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'Teen Wolf' makes for howling good time

MTV’s supernatural TV saga scores; boasts stellar cast, spine-chilling story

When MTV opted to reboot the critically skewered ‘80s film franchise Teen Wolf as a television series, few could have predicted the program would go on to become one of the most gripping dramas to hit the TV airwaves this decade. Although the show hasn’t yet garnered the massive mainstream attention awarded to lesser supernatural series like HBO’s True Blood and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, MTV’s Teen Wolf offers a hipper script, stronger storyline and more compelling cast of characters than any of the program’s counterparts in the supernatural creature subgenre.

At the center of the show’s story is Scott McCall, played by Tyler Posey. Scott is a ho-hum high school student and lackluster lacrosse player whose life changes irreparably when a mysterious animal bite transforms him into a teenage werewolf.

Season one focuses largely on Scott’s initial transformation and his ongoing struggle to control his newfound powers on the lacrosse field, in the classroom and in the bedroom.

But in season two — which began early this summer and concluded in mid-August — the show kicks it up a notch, focusing on conflicts with higher stakes. Rather than simply resisting the urge to sprout fur and fangs during class and evading the wrath of his girlfriend’s werewolf-hunting parents, Scott must now face off against a vicious shape-shifting monster and a world-renowned werewolf killer, who also happens to be his girlfriend’s grandfather.

Teen Wolf has not abandoned its fun and easygoing roots in its second season, however. Much of the pleasure of watching the program derives from the sex appeal of the series’ actors, and season two never disappoints in this regard. Only drop-dead gorgeous women and men with razor-sharp cheekbones, six-pack abs, and swoon-inducing smiles attend Scott’s school, which could well be an undercover training camp for Abercrombie models. The show takes every opportunity it gets to display its chic cast members in as little clothing as possible.

But sexiness can only go so far as a means of appeasing fun-starved viewers. The show’s heart resides more in its moments of witty comedy and high tension than in its shots of scantily clad 20-somethings posing as 16-year-olds.

Most of Teen Wolf’s best scenes revolve around Stiles Stilinski, played by Dylan O’Brien. Stilinski is Scott’s goofy best friend and confidant, who shirks sex appeal in favor of clever quips and charming incompetence. As the show aims to strike a steady balance between quirky comedy, steamy sensuality and high-octane action, characters like Stiles help stabilize the program’s surprisingly complex tone.

Apart from Posey, who fails to imbue Scott with any depth or charisma, all cast members perform well. Although O’Brien’s terrific turn as Stiles overshadows some of the show’s slighter supporting performances, Crystal Reed and Colton Haynes more than hold their own as Scott’s lover and rival, respectively. The series’ older actors also fare startlingly well as the parents and teachers of the primary players.

Whereas other shows of the same ilk struggle to strike a stable tone, set up a coherent mythology and pack a punch, Teen Wolf excels in every area, overshadowing the franchise’s earlier failures.

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