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TV Series Review

There goes the neighborhood.

That must've been what the preternatural residents of The Gates—a tony village reputed to be the safest in the country—said when new police chief Nick Monohan and his family moved to town. Because when the whole place is populated by folks who make the Munsters look like the Huxtables, you have to wonder when the nosey, badge-toting mortal might run afoul of the community's, er, coven-ants.

The Gates, a summer series on ABC, is part Desperate Housewives, part  90210 and part Halloween weird. The titular community is populated by vampires, werewolves, witches and succubi—community potlucks must be pretty interesting—and we've barely started getting to know the place. Whom might we meet next? Do zombies run the janitorial service? Do mummies feed the pigeons? Does Dinoshark lurk in the village sewer system?

Obviously, The Gates' producers won't need to clear a spot on their shelves for an Emmy anytime soon. This is as campy as television gets, the summer's guiltiest guilty pleasure—and that's saying something. It hasn't just jumped the proverbial shark, it's invited the thing home and wants to turn the frothy fishy into a lap pet. ("Awww, Toothy loves to be scratched behind his dorsal fin!")

Which, come to think of it, might explain all the chum in town. While The Gates doesn't aspire to be CSI, its residents wallow in the sort of blood and gore you'd expect to see on Discovery Channel's Shark Week. It's not Gossip Girl, either, but sex and romance still play a big part of its social scene. Lust and blood mingle here like long-ago lovers reunited via Facebook. In the pilot episode, vampire housewife Claire Radcliff invites a contractor in for an illicit tryst—and winds up gnawing on the poor guy's jugular instead.

Claire, naturally, feels pretty bad about the whole thing. (Her husband is miffed, too.) But I get the sense that The Gates' producers want us to believe that the town's residents are just everyday folks. We're supposed to forgive these freaky characters' foibles and flaws and, perhaps, feel a little better about our own. "Sure," we say, "our son missed curfew again, but at least he didn't turn into a wolf." Or, "Our daughter may be failing algebra, but we can take solace in the fact that she's not becoming a demon-spawned succubus."

But when it comes to said succubus—which, in classical literature, was a literal female demon tasked with seducing mortal men—"demon spawn" is technically the wrong phrase to use. That's because the The Gates' grotesqueries are naturalistic, not spiritualistic beings. DNA, not divine retribution, made them the way they are.

We learn, for instance, that one teen inherited the succubus gene from her mom. Her father's not so much horrified by the changes in her as much as he's saddened by them … and worried that she might kill one of her dates before Dad can get her into succubic treatment. At the end of the day, then, these creatures are simply struggling souls. Can't we all just get along?

I'll leave it to people wiser than I to answer that last question. As for whether we can get along with this television show, however, let me give you the same advice I'd give any wandering contractor called to do some work at The Gates: Find something else to occupy your time.

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Episode Reviews

Gates: 6272010
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