Teen Wolf, MTV’s clever, charming new show, makes you marvel at using the words clever and charming to describe an MTV show. While you’re doing that, you can also enjoy Tyler Posey as Scott McCall, a telegenically gawky high school student who’s bitten by a werewolf. The bite proves to be a gift. Suddenly, Scott becomes an artfully adroit lacrosse player; the confidence that comes from this, his heightened senses, and the general well-being that comes from the knowledge that he can slash any bully into meat cubes makes Scott attractive to the pretty new girl in town, Allison (the pert Crystal Reed).
Created by Jeff Davis (Criminal Minds), Teen Wolf has a lot going for it. Posey is convincing as both a baffled adolescent and a confident wolf-boy, and the series benefits greatly from the smart, funny exchanges between Scott and his best pal, Stiles (Dylan O’Brien, who can rattle off wisecracks and lycanthropy factoids with equal ease). In general, the show pulls off a tricky thing: It capitalizes on the current werewolf trend in pop culture (Twilight, True Blood) without piggy-backing on it, if you’ll excuse the mixed-animal metaphor. When Scott turns into a werewolf, he doesn’t get hairy all over, the way Michael J. Fox did in 1985, or as Michael Landon did in 1957’s I Was A Teenage Werewolf. No, Scott just gets pointier ears and a lupine shape to his face. His pecs remain gleamingly prominent; on a scale of self-consciousness, he looks more like Ben Stiller than a truly hairy beast.
This series is part of MTV’s effort to reintroduce scripted programming as a prominent part of the channel’s identity. (Its other recent efforts, an Americanized Skins and The Hard Times of RJ Berger, were stinky bummers.) MTV knows that it cannot continue to thrive on reality TV, going so far as to allow Teen Wolf to make a joke in its pilot episode about how Scott’s mom doesn’t want to ”end up on some reality show with a pregnant 16 year-old.” While 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore still do phenomenally well, even TV networks have occasional twinges of pride, and want at least a few shows they can point to as having some degree of classiness. In this sense, Teen Wolf is the anti-Snooki. The first episode had a character use the word macabre. Ask The Situation to use that in a sentence, and the best he’d come up with might be: ”There’s no corn on mah cob.” With Teen Wolf, any viewer can, in the words of the slightly more articulate Stiles, ”revel in the awesomeness that you’re a freakin’ werewolf.” B+