TV and film have embraced the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genres these last few years, but Kelley Armstrong was ahead of the pack in penning this particular kind of tale. Bitten, based on her work, made its debut last night on Space in Canada, and it will have its U.S. premiere on SyFy Monday. It stars Smallville‘s Supergirl as Elena Michaels.

Are we watching? Is it worth watching?

Title: “Summons”

Cast and Crew

Director: Brad Turner
Writer: Daegan Fryklind, based on characters and novels created by Kelley Armstrong.

Laura Vandervoort as Elena Michales
Greyston Holt as Clayton Danvers
Greg Bryk as Jeremy Danvers
Paul Greene as Philip McAdams
Steve Lund as Nick Sorrentino
Michael Xavier as Logan Jonsen
Natalie Brown as Diane McAdams
Paulino Nunes as Antonio Sorrentino
Genelle Williams as Rachel
Joel Keller as Peter Myers
Fiona Highet as Sheriff Karen Morgan
James McGowan as James Williams
Sherry Miller as Olivia McAdams
Marc Bendavid as Scott Brandon
Ace Hicks as Becky McAdams
Rogan Christopher as Deputy O’Neil
Ashleigh Rains as Christie Sands
Evan Buliung as Michael Braxton

Full cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

Elena Michaels, reluctant werewolf, wants to live her normal existence in Toronto. A killing near the gathering place of her pack, Stonehaven in Bear Valley, New York, draws her back to people she’d hoped to avoid.

Towards the episode’s conclusion, someone records the killing of a coyote by Elena and another werewolf. Coyotes Toronto has; the presence of wolves in the city will doubtless draw unwelcome attention in Elena’s adopted home, just as the killing has to Bear Valley.

High Points

The show works best when it follows the source material, at least in spirit. We get scenes where Elena’s dual life, in particular, resonates with anyone who has ever felt less than in control of body or desires. The focus, unlike many other popular paranormal romances, is on the woman as agent of her own life, rather than twilight-eyed lover of a supernatural creature.

Low Points

I wish the writers had not felt the need to introduce nearly every character in the first hour, and had cut back on the explanations. “Summons” felt too much like slow prologue, interrupted by a couple of sex scenes and a couple of killings, right when someone thought the audience’s interest might wane.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Bitten adapts Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld novels, earlier entries in a genre now firmly established. It also hits a lot of familiar tropes,. We have, then, a derivative series, though its source material predates some of the more familiar twenty-first century examples of the genre, and it has its own feel.

Effects: 3/6 It’s very difficult to do CGI every week, especially on a budget. These wolves would pass in a videogame; they’re a little out of step in a filmed environment.

Story: 4/6 We’re getting an introduction to a larger story, and this episode accomplishes what what might expect: introduces characters, establishes tone, and initiates the plot.

How much we’re willing to accept in a fantasy depends upon many things: the quality of the adaptation, the level of realism (after we accept the fantastic element as a given), and the appeal of the story and characters. How much you’ll forgive, say, quality clothes hidden in plain sight which nobody finds, depends on your response to the show’s other attributes. Likewise, some will consider a certain information-concealing cut near the opening a bit of cheat. In the end, pilot episodes can be a tricky business, and we have to cut the show some slack.

Acting: 4/6 I was skeptical of the lead; she’s beautiful, but her physique lacks the athleticism of the part, and my minimal past exposure to her acting didn’t overwhelm me. She performs well, however, and she has a look, both otherworldy and beautiful, that serves the part in other ways. The supporting cast varies wildly. The potential villain and his victim engage in the most wooden pick-up-gone-wrong ever.

The show features many men with scruffy beards.

Emotional Response: 4/6 I am not the target audience for this show. My wife intends to continue watching, for now.

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 4/6 Mercifully, Armstrong’s books deal with adults, not pouty teenagers. I can only hope the show lives up to the better aspects of her novels.

In total, Summons receives 27/42