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It's not Buffy, but it's close.

TV Review: Demons (2009)

If one were to talk Buffy the Vampire Slayer and overlay Bram Stoker's Dracula on top of it, the result would be BBC America's new show, Demons.  The new series follows the last member of the Van Helsing line, Luke Rutherford (Christian Cooke), as he learns about his past and the evil forces he must vanquish in order to save the world over and over and over again.

Luke is the reluctant teenager who has to be schooled in the ways of evil and good, learn about doing research, and generally be trained in smiting.  Consequently, he needs a Watcher from across the pond… er…, no, that would be just too close to Buffy, wouldn't it?  What Luke needs is his godfather, Rupert – yes, just likes Giles – Galvin (Philip Glenister) from across the pond to teach him everything he knows.  No, Rupert isn't referred to as a Watcher, but his role – at least initially – is the same.  Luke also has a good friend along for the ride, Ruby (Holliday Grainger), even though no one is supposed the know the truth about who he is.

In fact, it is very hard to discuss or watch Demons without thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  There are, it seems, only three main differences from the setup of that series to this one – the chosen one here is a guy not a girl, Demons takes place in England, and this one has the overlay of the Dracula tale.  The story as far as the list bit goes is that the Van Helsings are, and have been for generations on end, killers of "half-lives," or, demons, if you will.  As Rupert explains it, in reality the various half-lives aren't named as vampires or werewolves or boogey men, they are simply given a number and thus become "Type 1," "Type 2," "Type 3," and so on.

The Dracula overlay continues with the appearance of the apparently blind and semi-vampiric even if they're not called that, Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper).  Mina acts as an aide to Rupert and Luke and is aware of where, precisely, many of the files in Van Helsing's library is located.  Just as with early seasons of Buffy, plenty of time in this series seems devoted to the Slayer/Van Helsing sitting in a library researching the opponent and the opponent's history.

If all this talk of Demons borrowing material extensively from Buffy and Dracula makes it seem as though this reviewer is down on Demons, he may have been misstating his opinion.  It must, after all, be remembered that Buffy, The Vampire Slayer was an excellent television series (HitFix recently referred to it as the 19th best series of the decade, noting it would have been better had "Hush" but aired two weeks after it did), and Dracula, quite clearly, has stood the test of time. 

Demons is drawing on great material, and doesn't do a bad job of it.  The plots over the course of the first two episodes are certainly enough to excite any fan of the supernatural genre, and one can certainly see the potential for innumerable other great plots in the future (Buffy did, after all, air almost 150 episodes).  There definitely seems to be a story that the producers want to tell, and they do a good job of establishing the basis for that story in the early episodes.

Of course, on the negative side, Demons does resort to some foolishness in order to get plots going.  In the second episode, "The Whole Enchilada," the evil demon is only able to start his attack because a couple of adults decide to snog near a graveyard while the two kids with them run around and play by the crypts.  In a series like Demons one does have to suspend disbelief to some extent, but not giving the people a decent reason to be at the graveyard does feel a little sloppy.

The one other main complaint with the series is that Glenister, who otherwise is a good actor, does have something of a wavering and awkward American accent in this series.  At least early on the show does not establish any particular need for him to be from America, instead it seems to only be another Buffy reference, and with the unconvincing accent an unnecessary one.

Demons premieres January 2 at 10pm on BBC America and will move to its regular 9pm time slot the following week.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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