What Teen Wolf Gets Right

That weird, disgusting sound you heard last summer was the collective noise of everyone in the world simultaneously rolling their eyes at MTV's announced reboot of the 1985 Michael J. Fox non-classic film Teen Wolf But in the Vein of Twilight. Wait, what? Why. Why on earth, MTV? I mean, we live in gross, reboot-heavy times, so perhaps this project was a statistical inevitability, but still: There was no way Teen Wolf: The Show wouldn't be just another cynical cash grab destined to end up in some dark, unvisited corner of our Netflix Instant Streaming queues, am I right? Nope! I am not right, as it turns out!

Teen Wolf is not going to win all of the Emmys this year or next year or any year. Granted. But I'm here to tell you that after eight episodes, the jury's finally in: Teen Wolf is not terrible! In fact, Teen Wolf is pretty good in a number of ways. Perhaps it's summer and there's not a ton of competition, and maybe my brain is sunshine-damaged and Popsicle-ruined, but file this under Credit Where Credit's Due. Teen Wolf is good TV, and here's why:


1. Teen Wolf looks awesome.

Australian director Russell Mulcahy helped shape the visuals for the show, and he's one of the most criminally underrated genre directors of our times: He made Highlander! And Razorback! And Ricochet! If you're a student of badass cinema, you know who Russell Mulcahy is, and you know that making stylish, scary movies on a shoestring budget is his calling card. Well, Teen Wolf is one of the handsomest, best-filmed productions on television. Last night's episode featured a tracking shot of two characters walking into the woods that was so cool I had to pause and rewatch it twice, or even THRICE!


2. Teen Wolf has a MAJOR crush on The Vampire Diaries.

I wonder how long it took the producers to realize that pitching a show as "Teen Wolf meets Twilight" was a terrible idea. First off, nobody cares about the original Teen Wolf except for, I don't know, designers of ironic T-shirts. Just don't tell me that modern teenagers care about it. So the producers must've looked to Twilight for inspiration instead, but then I guess somebody remembered that the Twilight saga isn't actually a story, it's just a couple thousand pages of some religious lady's rubbin' fantasies. So Teen Wolf's producers eventually settled on another, better source of inspiration: The Vampire Diaries. Obviously Who wouldn't?

Vampire Diaries' influence on Teen Wolf isn't just in the overt references (early on, there was a lacrosse match played against Mystic Falls) or copycat casting (Lydia's mom is played by the same actress who plays Tyler's mom on TVD), but it's also in the show's fundamental elements. Teen Wolf wisely lifted the paucity-of-parenting element from TVD, not to mention its small town incompetence toward crime solving and/or murder prevention, its underpopulated high schools, and characters with asymmetrical faces (Hey Bonnie!). And towel scenes. Tons of towel scenes. But even the things Teen Wolf does differently from Vampire Diaries strike me as conscious decisions to learn from TVD's shortcomings. For example...


3. Teen Wolf's mythology is refreshingly uncluttered.

It helps that Teen Wolf has a mere fraction of the number of characters that Vampire Diaries does, but also it only has ONE type of monster, and a historically uncomplicated one at that. At first I feared this was a recipe for a bore-fest, but it turns out that leaving enough time for casual banter, compelling character moments, and actual dramatic tension can be a GOOD thing? I don't know, call me old-fashioned, but the thing that's always bothered me the most about Vampire Diaries' insane, whirlwind storytelling is that nobody ever gets a simple, random character beat. “No time! We have a thousand new characters to introduce and kill off immediately."

As for Teen Wolf's mythology, all we know so far is that an appealing, dim-witted kid with a crescent moon-shaped head got bit by an evil werewolf and now he must fight beastly urges. Also, he's in love with a girl who is a descendent of an ancient family of werewolf hunters, obviously. And the evil werewolf is still out there somewhere, constantly murdering townsfolk. There you go! With so little backstory, it's no wonder that these characters actually still go to class and have grounded, relatable lives.

Plus, there's an overarching Twin Peaks-esque mystery. WHO is the evil alpha werewolf? Is it Scott's absent father? Is it the shouty lacrosse coach, suspicious animal Vet or nebbishy teacher? There's only like six other characters tops, the choices are limited. THIS is a mystery I can handle!


4. Teen Wolf's characters look and behave like actual teens.

Much like the pumpkin-headed dunces on MTV's Skins remake, Teen Wolf's actors actually look young enough be in high school. Imagine that! From Scott's stilted, adolescent line delivery to Jackson's peaking-in-high-school swagger, these characters come off as vulnerable, mixed-up kids, which weirdly lends credibility to their sometimes terrible decision-making. But unlike the ones on Skins, these are kids with natural charisma and entertaining dialogue. The best characters are obviously the funniest: Holland Roden's Lydia is a pill-popping mean girl who also knows how to make a Molotov cocktail (?), and Dylan O'Brien's Stiles (the show's best character is played by its best actor!) was probably conceived as the comic-relief sidekick, but has slowly become the main character to root for in this whole enterprise.

It's a testament to the show's confidence in itself that it can regularly put aside the werewolf curse plotline in order to squeeze drama out of ordinary teenage problems: Accidentally yelling at your girlfriend, being late for your parent-teacher conference, getting caught making out with your girlfriend in front of her dad's automatic rifle collection, having your feelings hurt when the gay jock doesn't find you handsome. These are all low-stakes problems, but in this world they seem just as compelling as a full-moon mauling. But with that said...


5. Teen Wolf is genuinely scary.

Everyone knew to expect a romance and a wisecracking sidekick and a ton of obvious hormonal-teenager-as-monster metaphors. But did anyone actually expect this show to be so scary? It's like a weekly horror film up in here! It's crazy, but so few shows have the knack for slow-burn terror and surprising payoff that Teen Wolf does. Take the episode where paranoid jock Jackson found himself trapped in an empty video store with a werewolf and a corpse. It was drawn out, creepily filmed, and didn't end in a cheap scare—not to mention it was just the cold open! Or last week's episode, where our five main characters were relentlessly pursued through the dark hallways of their abandoned high school by the same glowing-eyed beast—one that, unlike the werewolves on True Blood and TVD, looked like an actual monster and not some growling dog. Say what you will about the romance aspect of the show, but the writers seem to understand that the emotional impact of a teen romance is nothing compared to the push-pull, tension-catharsis of good, old-fashioned horror.


6. Teen Wolf would like you to know that ALL OF ITS ACTORS HAVE GYM MEMBERSHIPS.

Okay, got it, thanks for the constant reminders, Teen Wolf!


7. The things that are bad about Teen Wolf are also still pretty entertaining.

The evil alpha werewolf looks like claymation! California is constantly foggy and dark and its citizens take lacrosse VERY seriously. (Fun fact: We don't!) Scott's werewolf makeup makes him look like a child gone trick or treating! Mentor-werewolf Derek lives in a dusty shanty in the woods for no reason! There's always something laughably over-the-top in Teen Wolf, and that's part of the fun. In fact, badness is almost crucial to a good teen supernatural serial, if you ask me. It kind of keeps you on your toes and provides a good foundation for when things are genuinely good.

Of course, Teen Wolf could all go wrong and introduce a moonstone or a useless witch or something. But for now I'm totally still on board. This is one cynical cash grab I'm happy to keep watching.


What about you? Are YOU still watching Teen Wolf?

And if so, what do you like best about it? What would you change?

Finally, and most importantly... Do, Dump or Marry: Scott, Stiles, Derek / Allison, Lydia, Aunt Kate?

Comments (45)
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Do stiles, kate and Jackson(omg he is pretty) Marry Derek Lydia Dump Scott allison

Love the show and the characters except scott and most of the time allison
Why oh why does Scott have to be so Lame?
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Do Derek, marry Stiles, dump Scott
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It's good to see this show get the credit he deserves (and that I'm not the only one that finds it scary!), but I don't really understand all the Scott bashing. Is this a new fashion, you're not supposed to like the hero, it's cooler if you like the sidekick instead? I mean ok, Stiles is funny and all, but Scott is pretty damn adorable! I say do and/or marry Scott, and dump Allison, she's the boring one. Plus she looks way too old to be in high school, unlike the others.
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I agree. Allison is just that well... too nice. (P.S. She's 17 years old.) Hopefully in season 2 (maybe the midseason), there will be a paranormal girl "accidentally" steals Scott's heart. About this statement: Teen Wolf could all go wrong and introduce a moonstone or a useless witch or something.... a useless witch isn't that bad. But a BAD witch or maybe troublemakers who are witches will make this show interesting. However, this show shouldn't copy like The Secret Circle (a teen witch show inspired by L.J. Smith) but at the same time be interesting as these witches stir chaos in Beacon Hills. I'm interested in witches and if I don't see them in the midseason, I'm done watching Teen Wolf! FOR REAL. Hope the writers of Teen Wolf will see this comment I've made.
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I love this show. Glad to hear they got renewed for a 2nd season. Looking forward to it.
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Please write more TVD rewind recaps! I'm going through withdrawal and need something vampire diaries realted :(=
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I was defnitely one of the eye-rolling people last summer when I first heard about this show but have now decided I love it! I think, like the Vampire Diaries, it may prove stronger in the second season as it gets its mythology and "werewolf rules" straight (it's all a bit vague at the moment).



Gotta love all the gratuitous shirtless scenes (but with Tyler Hoechlin & Colton Haynes around, why not!). Unfortunately Teen Wolf has two major weaknesses, the two (supposed) leads. I get bored very quickly when Scott & Allison are on the screen, Tyler Posey in particular is....ummmmm.... not exactly the best actor although I did find his wolfy moodiness in "Lunatic" quite (unintentionally) hilarious.



Personally I would like to see much better use made of Derek and, overall, the star of Teen Wolf has to be Dylan O'Brien as Stiles, that boy is well and truly stealing the show!!



I've also really enjoyed the occasional Stiles/Derek scenes they've had and I wish they would do more, it ha
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I upgraded my classification of this so to "I love this show" Awesome bubble gum tv. I love Stiles. He is one of the best best friends I've seen on TV in a while. I really hated the werewolf make up in the pilot. It improved over the next few episodes but it still isn't my favorite. But what settled me to it is the implication that the older and more powerful a werewolf gets the more wolf like they can become. (or is it just becoming an alpha?) My other favorite character is Allison's Aunt. Now THAT's how a woman makes an entrance.



The werewolf science is a little silly sometimes (that whole hair of the dog thing with the poisonous bullet that nearly killed Derek, made little sense) but I have so much fun watching that I don't care.



As a side note: Number 6 above reduced me to hysterical tears.



Now if these show could just get a little more diversity in their casting.
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Picture recaps are the best.
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I don`t see the film and the series Teen Wolf is based on actual movies and I like it this way, its refreshing and so looking forward to see more of it :D
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Staff
I take exception to you calling the original Teen Wolf a non-classic. #oldman
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"Nostalgia is always dangerous." -Mr. Boogalow, The Apple
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i actually got bored with the stuck-in-school ep wherein there's not much DEREK. looking forward to seeing him have more screen time ;))
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stiles and lydia are my favorite chars. on the show. stiles is a loyal, caring friend and son, lydia is a powerful mean girl, but she is street smart and book intelligent, unlike the typical mean girl stereotype on TV
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DO derek, DUMP scott, MARRY stiles
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Ha, I agree with this!
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i love this show.finally there is a show just based on werewolves and does not have vampires.great show.
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I disagree with the comparison to Vampire Diaries. The producers have stated they take their influences from Buffy and Spider-man. Scott has a lot of similarities to Peter Parker and Jackson is a lot like Eddie Brock. Stiles and Lydia are clearly inspired by Xander and Cordelia. Aunt Kate is clearly channeling Faith Lehane.

Buffy also has that small town that apparently ignored all these murders atmosphere long before TVD. Also other than Joyce, the parents on Buffy were also little heard or seen. Even Joyce was fairly permissive like Scott and Stiles' parents.

I think that's one of the reasons I like Teen Wolf. I loved watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Spider-man the animated series and this show is like a blending of both.
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Good points about Buffy. I'll say that Vampire Diaries also lifted tons from Buffy, so Teen Wolf is basically copying a copy.
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Great Cool and Hot. Though I think they'll have to expand on the myth for future season.

Do or marry Allison.
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is this goin to be a full 22 episode series? i kinda like this one better than twilight....
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I'm guessing only 12 or so. That's kind of the way cable channels do it now.
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marry stiles, obviously!
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I am loooving this show !!
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I love this show!the best thing about it is Stiles!how he's always scared and he always knows what's the right thing to do.how he worries about his dad and the guilt he has cause he knows he can prevent his dad from getting hurt!i think i'm in love!
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Okay. I watch the show. I am a sucker for anything werewolf related. Even if I know it\'s going to be revoltingly bad (Howling 2) I gotta check it off the list. I am also sick of the Vampire crap (Twilight makes me wanna kill myself). I am the guy who wants Alcide to show Sookie what real carnal sex is like.
This show isn\'t terrible, I can watch it and enjoy it without analyzing it too much. I think the werewolf transformation and CGI need some work. I am okay with the unoriginal teenage drama (it\'s far less melodramatic than TVD ugh). The one thing that gets me and makes me wanna reach through my tv and strangle--is how goddamn stupid Scott is. First: He\'s a werewolf and all he can think about is girls. Second: He has a devoted best friend whom he generally treats like sh** and gives no credit to. Third: He has a mother who seems awesome and who, seems to me, would be the perfect mother to break the werewolf news to. COME ON! How nice would it be to have a caring mother (and nurse) to watch your back and cover for you when you get in trouble at school. Moms are the ultimate weapon. Moms are going to believe in the good in you well beyond your hormonal best pal (especially one you treat like sh**).

I am tired of the teenage microcosm shows. You gotta at least tell your mom if you\'re a teenage vampire hunter, err.. I mean werewolf. You\'ll get grounded way less.

Last: The show didn\'t do a very good job of showing why Scott would be such a dick to Derrick. If you\'re a new werewolf--Derrick seems to be a pretty sharp, in-control, no-brainer to be your mentor.He definitely has a lot of answers and probably a million pointers for how to get it on with the girl of your dreams without eating her. I didn\'t see the part where Derrick posted naked photos of Scott\'s mom naked. Did you? All he did was tell Scott that he had to get his **** together and focus on controlling himself before he went out popping cherries and beating up bullies.

W\'ere oh w\'ere is Mr. Miyagi when you need him?

*sigh. I\'ll still keep watching.
More+
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Yay I'm still watching. I think it started off a bit lame (the deer or whatever they were, in the forest on the full moon, episode one) but I carried on watching anyway (so it couldn't have been THAT bad). I like Stiles best :P HA. No, really. His character has great lines, he's kinda cute and can you imagine HOW INSANE it wld be if he dated Lydia? :P ADHD + insane pill-popping girl...I might implode, so perhaps they shouldn't go down that route :P

Oh, and they need to sort the Jackson thing out - is he only sorta/slightly/maybe/but not quite werewolf/werewolfy (the scratch), will he ever become a werewolf (probably...all that aggression? I can just imagine) and he needs to be punched in the face.
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You got me with THRICE. Their new song is badass. xD
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I do watch Teen Wolf. I love the show. I am really annoyed with Jackson, though. I'd kill his character off the show. I love the friendship between Scott and Stiles. Their chemistry is good.
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love this show.
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Well... I didn't know about this show... I'll tune in and see what happens.
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Not a fan of the show, too cheesy for me. But i will say that the only 2 good things abt the show are Stiles and Aunt Kate. Seriously, the alpha looks like CGI gone wrong, and Scott's werewolf transformation is so weak and ugly!
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Well, I didn't really like the first episode. Seemed kinda cheesy. The Pilot episodes are supposed to be interesting enough for you to keep watching, but if TV.com says it gets better then I will try to watch a few more episodes. TVD on the other hand was good from the very beginning.
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I love this show, It's refreshing original(Despite the reboot tag) and just plain fun to watch.
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my expectations were not high but after watching it , it really is good even great :)
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It has turned out be very interesting! I love the humor and the storylines, as well. So, HELL YES!! I'm still watching, too.
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Price what happened to you? This show sucks bad! And not in a good way like The Event! You seem to like Teen Wolf more than VD? The suns got to your head man! Or is it the weed?
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i came into the show thinking it'd be crap, so there's nowhere to go but up from there. however it'd be more believable if shows would add not so good looking people. like for serious. they must grow kids these days on "going to be pretty actors" farms. i just think it's funny that before the Twilight films were cast, Stephenie Meyer had Tyler Posey/"Scott" as her personal pick for Jacob lol
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Yeah, I'm still watching... saw the first episode as kind of a joke, because I never thought I'd like it. Turns out it's pretty damn good. Agree with all of your points, but mostly like the number 6, about the gym memberships. That also goes for the women on these shows... it's like there must be a young model/actors list going around where they hire these people, no? But hey, I'm not complaining... Do hope they can keep this level up.
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Love the show and still watching. So glad it got renewed for a second season.
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I'm not knocking it, but I'll just stick with Vampire Diaries as it looks super similiar. I have a 1 Vampire/Werewolf show limit.
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This is a show for teenage girls, no thank you...
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I didn\'t expect much from Teen wolf when I started watching it but it turned out to be the most entertaining show this summer! So hell yes I\'m still watching! I agree completely with all the points made above and the best about Teen Wolf is the dialogue which is just hilariously smart.
Scott and Stiles are bot awesome (Do!). Derek is bit annoying but he is forgiven for good looks. Allison is likeable and Lydia is surprisingly not as big a b*** I was waiting for her to be, she\'s smarter than she looks. Aunt Kate is too self assured but she, beside the alphas, might be the biggest badass on the show.
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I really enjoy Teen Wolf. I like the way it's going. It keeps you on your toes, but there's also comedy and a good storyline. Stiles is an awesome character and Scott's good too, they both actually act like real teens. Derek's great also. I like how mysterious he is. The Aunt Kate character I don't really like, but I mean if it's just for this season then fine, because it does add to the story. But after that she can leave town. She's the only person I think should leave the show.
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