Stay Tuned: Not many reasons to visit ‘Midnight, Texas’
A series should give you a reason to come back episode after episode but very little about the mysterious residents and strange happenings in the town of “Midnight, Texas,” entices you to visit again.
Based on Charlaine Harris’ book series of the same name, the story follows Manfred Bernardo (Francois Arnaud), a psychic who can talk to the dead, as he seeks safety in the small town of Midnight, Texas. Manfred is on the run from a dangerous man who his psychic grandmother Xylda swindled. Xylda happens to be dead, which doesn’t stop them from having daily chats. Their interactions are one of the more likable aspects of the show because sweet and sarcastic grandmas, dead or alive, are fun.
Manfred’s other interactions with the deceased are less fun. Midnight is built upon powerful supernatural energy, which weakens the boundary between the living and the dead. This is bad news for Manfred whose house is overrun with angry spirits when he tries to help a recently murdered resident of Midnight. This is also bad news for us because the spirits that overrun Manfred’s house look like they escaped from “The Haunted Mansion” movie circa 2003. Except there’s no Eddie Murphy to crack jokes.
Manfred is a nice guy and we see the town through his point of view. He can’t quite figure out what the residents are all about and that mystery, along with who killed the drowned, bloated corpse he is trying to help, is supposed to keep us interested. But neither the residents nor the murder mystery are intriguing.
The town has a vampire called Lemuel (Peter Mensah); Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a witch; an angel named Joe (Jason Lewis) and the reverend Emilio (Yul Vazquez) who disappears for several nights a month when, you guessed it, there’s a full moon. As far as supernatural beings go, they are a boring bunch. Lemuel is deadly but lacks the seductive charisma of Harris’ “True Blood” vampires. The reverend’s defining quality is his dedication to Midnight’s animal cemetery and the most engaging thing about Fiji is that she has a talking cat. The actors don’t do a bad job but their chemistry isn’t on fire.
A few humans with secrets live in Midnight as well. Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) is an assassin. Creek (Sarah Ramos) is an aspiring writer and Bobo (Dylan Bruce) runs the pawn shop. It’s hard to care about what their secrets are because they are all slightly dull characters. None stand out as charming or eccentric or dangerous.
The theme of outsiders forming a supportive community is as complex as the story gets and while the larger plot is the danger from the unstable supernatural energy that is erupting underneath the town, it’s hard to imagine how its effects would make the show more engaging.
“Midnight, Texas” is on Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT on NBC.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.