MOONLIGHT TV SERIES REVIEW (MAJOR SPOILERS)
On Friday, September 28, 2007, exactly fifteen years ago, the Moonlight TV series premiered on CBS.
The Moonlight 2007 show was a cult-hit vampire romantic drama on CBS about Mick St. John, a vampire private investigator.
He falls in love with Beth Turner, a mortal woman, and reporter, only to discover her rare blood type (and that of his ex-wife Coraline) might hold the key to a cure for vampirism. CBS canceled it after one season despite its popularity and growing fan base.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to revisit this beloved vampire romance show starring Alex O’Loughlin and Sophia Myles.
Ron Koslow and Trevor Munson (who originally wrote the book Angel of Vengeance about the P.I. Mick St. John) created the series. However, Moonlight went through various showrunners, including Chip Johannessen, Gabrielle Stanton, Harry Werksman, Gerard Bocaccio, and David Greenwalt.
Joel Silver produced.
Moonlight’s cancelation left many unanswered questions concerning the unique worldbuilding. But the series ended on a happy note with the romantic pairing between Mick and Beth, and it continues to find new fans today.
So, let’s look back at one of the most romantic shows of all time.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Any private eye knows a lot about other people’s secrets. L.A. private eye Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) has a secret of his own. He’s a vampire, dwelling in a covert netherworld complicated by friendship with an undead finance honcho (Jason Dohring), memories of the alluring ex-wife (Shannyn Sossamon) who turned him into a vampire, and a relationship with a human (Sophia Myles) he feels drawn to protect – and maybe to love.
But no matter how tempting, Mick knows a vampire-human romance is eternally dangerous. This 16-episode, 4-disc set of the series voted the 2008 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama is a sure entertainment bet for all who like their vampire stories sleek, intense and passionate.
The TV series Moonlight had a brilliant cast with memorable characters.
Alex O’Loughlin as Mick St. John
The lead character in the show is the immortal private investigator and vampire, Mick St. John, from Los Angeles, played by Alex O’Loughlin. Mick is a WWII veteran and musician; he’s turned by his ex-wife Coraline into a vampire in the 1950s at 30 years old.
In 2007, Mick partners with Beth, a reporter, to solve crimes -while also searching for a vampiric cure. He falls in love with her but doesn’t believe they can be together unless he becomes human. His personality is cynical, but he’s also an old-fashioned gentleman.
Sophia Myles as Beth Turner
Beth Turner, played by Sophia Myles, is the other lead and is an investigative reporter with a connection to Mick. She was kidnapped by Mick’s ex-wife, Coraline, when she was a child. But Mick rescued her.
Beth later grew up to become a reporter. Despite her childhood trauma, she has always felt safe because she felt like she had a guardian angel.
While she doesn’t remember Mick, the two cross paths again when she’s 27. She soon learns vampires are real and falls in love with Mick. The pair also discover there is more to Beth’s blood than meets the eye, perhaps the reason why Coraline kidnapped her.
Jason Dohring as Josef Kostan
Witty and sarcastic, Josef (played by Jason Dohring) is over 400 years old and is Mick’s best friend and mentor. Unlike Mick, he loves being a vampire.
Josef is paranoid that humans will find out vampires exist and hunt them down. He lacks Mick’s morality and often teases his friend for not drinking from “freshies.” While the two are close, Josef seems to keep secrets from Mick about Coraline and a possible cure for vampires.
Shannyn Sossamon as Coraline Duvall
Shannyn Sossamon plays enigmatic ex-wife of Mick with many secrets. She’s a member of a royal vampire family with powerful siblings. King Louis XVI’s cousin turned her and her six brothers before the French Revolution.
The Revolution was a cover to cull vampires. So, aristocratic vampires invented a temporary mortal cure to pass the test.
Later, Coraline defies her family by falling in love with Mick and turning him. She then kidnaps Beth in the 1980s as a mysterious gift for Mick.
But, in his horror, he sets Coraline on fire and rescues Beth. However, Coraline survives and returns in 2007 – only to be hunted down and kidnapped by her royal family of noble vampires for breaking their rules as she seeks the mortal cure.
Other RECURRING Cast Members
Besides the core cast, other supporting and recurring characters include Lt. Carl Davis (Brian J. White), a detective who gives Beth tips; Maureen (Tami Roman), Beth’s editor; Josh Lindsey (Jordan Belfi), Beth’s lawyer boyfriend, Guillermo (Jacob Vargas), Mick’s contact in the morgue; Logan Griffen (David Blue), a tech-savvy vampire; Benjamin Talbot (Eric Winter), an ADA with a professional interest in Beth; and Steve Balfour (Kevin Weisman) as Beth’s cameraman.
In 2007, the Moonlight pilot received mediocre to poor reviews (typically by critics who disliked the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genres) and didn’t have a ton of advertising behind it, yet it caught my attention.
At the time, I didn’t know much about Moonlight. I had heard Veronica Mars’ Jason Dohring was on the cast catching my interest, but not much else.
So, my sister and I decided to check it out. What I didn’t expect was that I was about to watch what would become one of my favorite shows of all time.
Moonlight also came at the perfect time in my life (I was going through a tough time) – and helped me find my storytelling voice. I realized (or deepened) my love for Byronic Heroes, old-fashioned romance, Romanticism, the beauty and the beast archetype, and so much more!
It’s also when I began dabbling in video editing as a hobby – Moonlight became my transformative video editing muse. I felt connected to the series in a way I hadn’t with many other shows before or since.
(You can see our playlist of old Moonlight videos HERE.)
Now I’m not saying Moonlight is a perfect, flawless series because it’s not. But as Randall in This Is Us says, for me, it was “imperfectly perfect.”
RELATED: TV Writer Kira Snyder Talks New Book, Moonlight (What She Imagines Happens After the Finale), and The 100
Moonlight includes a few of my favorite storytelling elements. My favorite novel is Jane Eyre. What can I say? Moonlight has old-fashioned romance, Gothic Romantic undertones, wit, dry humor, and a beauty and the beast influence. It pays homage to classic films and literature and has a rich, creative mythology.
Moonlight had found a niche audience often ignored – an audience author Stephenie Meyer also tapped into simultaneously – although in a different way.
Moonlight’s hero, Mick St. John, encapsulates the Mr. Darcy fantasy for the modern woman. Take the old-fashioned charm and chivalry of a Romantic or Byronic Hero from a different time, make him immortal, and then have him interact with women in today’s world with all the mannerisms of men from a different era.
Just look at the popularity of Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or even characters like Damon, Lucifer, or Klaus. It’s the perfect fantasy. And one that was missing from the TV world.
But what’s enticing about Moonlight is that it doesn’t just appeal to women. Mick, played effortlessly by Alex O’Loughlin (who went on to do other great projects), was a vampire everyone could like. It didn’t hurt that O’Loughlin had experience with stunt work, making his performance as a powerful, menacing vampire all the more believable.
You can see his strength and likeability as an actor in his later role as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O.
I recall some of the critics were baffled by its decent-sized audience (which, by today’s standards, would be a huge hit, especially for Friday night). The series maintained its audience all season with 7-8 million viewers and an average of a 1.8-2.0 demographic.
Moonlight also won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama. But I wasn’t surprised. Many women had been reading Gothic romances since they first appeared.
Even Jane Austen satirized the genre with Northanger Abbey hundreds of years ago. These “types” of stories were always considered “bad” by society and unfit for women to read. As if women have no understanding of fiction vs. reality.
Still, the genre and its sub-genres (paranormal romance, urban fantasy, etc.) have always had an often ignored but devoted fan base.
Just look at the series Midnight Texas. Critics weren’t praiseworthy of that show either. History always repeats itself.
And yet, the audience (fans of the genre) loved it! Moonlight didn’t receive great reviews initially (they did improve as the series continued) because the critics did not understand the genre and audience expectations.
They judged the procedural element while the fans zoned in on the romance, the actors, the great chemistry, and the unique vampire mythology.
And while Moonlight pays clear homage to Forever Knight and other shows influenced by vampiric and Beauty and the Beast series that came before, Moonlight was still refreshingly unique. What sets it apart from many other vampire series (at the time) is that it’s a romance above all else.
Moonlight is more Beauty and the Beast than procedural of the week or focused mainly on a superhero-like character.
If you were to categorize Moonlight, you’d classify it as a romance first and foremost. Whereas with a show like Buffy or Angel, you would not. There were romances in them, but that was not the focus. Though, Moonlight, like all the best romances, is so much more than just a romance.
If you haven’t seen this series, Moonlight tells the story of the private eye, Mick St. John, as he works cases noir-style in Los Angeles. Only there’s a catch. He’s a vampire.
Over fifty years earlier, Mick was turned into a vampire by his ex-wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) – much to his horror. The last thing he wanted to be was a “monster.”
As he seeks redemption for his monstrous past, he uses his abilities in the modern day to protect humans, often leading to cases involving other vampires.
Mick’s best friend is Josef (Jason Dohring), a powerful, old, and incredibly wealthy vampire who is more than a little paranoid about a future vampire culling.
Josef Kostan: It’s a threat to our secrecy. What is this, the 1720s? We’re discreet! We don’t leave bodies lying around. Now we have to be extra vigilant. We live in an age of fingerprint scans, DNA tests, genome mapping…
Mick St. John: …Josef! Relax!
Josef Kostan: I am relaxed. This is relaxed. You’re only 90. You’ve never been chased by a torch-bearing mob.
And then there’s Beth Turner (her last name is a play on the words “TurnHer”). Mick crosses paths with Beth (Sophia Myles), a human and a reporter, as they both work the same case.
Soon, they’re working side by side with an obvious growing attraction (which turns to love throughout the series). But as we learn in the pilot, Mick already knows Beth – and has been her “guardian angel” in secret for years.
He rescued Beth when she was a little girl from his ex-wife, who kidnapped her. To save Beth, Mick hurts Coraline in a fire.
As to “why” Coraline kidnapped Beth, that’s a mystery the series only partially explains due to the series’ early cancellation. But if you pay attention to the clues, you can figure most of it out.
As Mick and Beth grow closer – in the star-crossed, beauty and the beast way – they meet a mysterious, human woman who just so happens also to be a ringer for his ex-wife Coraline, who’s supposed to be a vampire – not to mention deceased.
The story then begins to reveal the rich and fascinating vampire mythology connected to the French Revolution and Royalty, as well as the seemingly impossible quest to find a cure for vampirism which Mick wants more than anything.
But will Mick and Beth get their happy ending? Will Mick ever be human again? Who is this woman who looks like his ex-wife? Much is answered by the season’s end.
And while the series does end on a few cliffhangers, Moonlight does end on a good note.
Beth Turner: You’re a delicate flower, Mick St. John.
Moonlight has a wonderful star-crossed romance influenced by Beauty and the Beast, classic lit and film, and earlier vampire/human romances that came before.
The chemistry between O’Loughlin and Myles sizzles onscreen. The two were magic together with matching wit and dry humor and were able to capture a kindred spirit romance of equality not often found in television.
Chemistry-wise, they’re up there with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson or Kate and Leo. Both Myles and O’Loughlin came into the series with period drama experience (Myles starring in numerous period dramas such as Tristan and Isolde and Mansfield Park), only helping to enhance their abilities to capture old-fashioned romance onscreen.
Besides the synergistic chemistry between actors, Mick and Beth are layered, interesting characters. Mick captures the imagination of the audience and draws the audience into his pain and quest to be human.
We feel his every emotion and believe every vampiric threat he gives. Mick oozes both gentlemanly charm and masculinity while presenting an underlying monstrosity.
On the other hand, Beth is not just the “romantic interest.” She has her own stories and works as a layered, believable female character, partly due to Myles’ nuanced performance. Beth’s a character you can relate to and believe in when watching.
As the show progresses, Mick and Beth solve numerous cases together while Mick struggles with the monster within and his growing feelings for Beth.
Meanwhile, they begin unraveling a larger vampiric mystery surrounding the cure that might connect to Beth’s blood type (and perhaps bloodline).
Throughout the series, there’s also a continuous push and pull with numerous obstacles in their path. Can Mick truly love without mortality? Will they end up like Romeo and Juliet, or can they get a happy ending?
Thankfully, the show does not merely “hint” at a romance between Mick and Beth. Their love story is much more than a slow burn on what writers typically might drag out over many seasons.
However, the romance does not come easy, making them fun to root for as you anticipate what will happen next. Mick and Beth have numerous romantic moments, including epic saves (they both save each other) and a couple of surprise kisses!
But Mick and Beth are the ultimate in old-fashioned romance. So, don’t expect explicit love scenes. As captured by the actors and writers, the emotional connection between the characters makes this romance swoony.
Prepare to swoon with a romance more Jane Austen-like than a steamy romance novel. There are the touches of the hand, the grand gestures, the romantic rescues, the love declarations, the slow dancing, the hugs, the smoldering stares, and even the most sensual and romantic shower scene you’ll ever see!
And just about every romantic moment feels earned. Mick and Beth have a believable story and development, making it easy to root for these two to end up together!
Ultimately, Mick and Beth are Beauty and the Beast meets Scully and Mulder meets Rochester and Jane.
In every episode, you find yourself waiting for their next romantic scene. Like K-Dramas, Moonlight smartly ends almost every episode with a romantic moment. Thereby once again revealing to the audience that this series is a romance! And a great one at that.
Not to mention Alex O’Loughlin is swoon-worthy in the role. In comparison, Sophia Myles captures just the right amount of cleverness and compassion that would make Elizabeth Bennet proud.
The supporting characters are just as wonderful. Mainly Josef and Coraline. You can probably imagine what to expect if you’ve seen Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars. No one does snark better than Dohring – and as a vampire? TV Magic!
My favorite quote?
Vampire Solidarity. Rah rah rah, and all that.
Dohring can bring out some of the series’s dark humor and clever irony. Mick and Josef share blood martinis, for instance, as they bond.
Mick and Josef have a fantastic brotherly relationship, even though it’s clear Josef has many secrets -some connecting to Coraline. The two actors have a great rapport with each other, leading to some of the best scenes from the series.
Josef Kostan: [to Mick] Hey, look. I know you have morals and scruples, and that’s fine, sort of.
Josef Kostan: Well, you, my friend, must get her to stop.
Mick St. John: What do you mean? Like she’s driving along, and suddenly her car explodes?
Josef Kostan: I was thinking you ask her nicely, but… fielder’s choice.
On the other hand, Shannyn Sossamon plays the femme fatale part of Coraline to perfection. You never quite know what she’s up to. She’s a fascinating character who will leave you entranced.
She’s especially captivating when her backstory connects to the French Revolution and the Vampire Royals. Sadly, Coraline’s story comes to a halt in episode 12, and the show was canceled before it could continue.
Now, while CBS didn’t fully get behind the series – partly to blame because of the writer’s strike at the time, they did do one brilliant thing more shows today could learn from relating to marketing.
They gave spoilers to the audience in the form of music video promos.
At the time, CBS had an Eye Lab group, editors who put together music video promos for their shows. Their best belonged to none other than Moonlight. A publicity scheme that helped grow and then maintained the Moonlight fan base. Connecting emotionally to something visually through music makes the original content more exciting.
Now, while a few videos were released promoting the show before the premiere, I think what really hooked the audience was the mini music video that aired right after the pilot premiered. At the end of the first episode, Mick’s reflective voiceover ends the pilot.
Mick St. John: Sixty years is a long time to deny yourself the touch of another, but you do it. Because you just can’t bear the thought of seeing yourself as a monster in someone else’s eyes.
The show closes with Mick hugging Beth and closing his eyes as “My Immortal” plays in the background.
And just as I contemplated how I felt about the first episode, a music video promo for the upcoming season came on screen. It was to Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances.”
The mini music video showed clips we’d already seen and spoilery clips from future episodes. And the best part was that the promo was ROMANTIC.
Well, I had to keep watching to see those “amazing” looking scenes yet to come! And I watched it live.
And while I already loved the “imperfectly perfect” episode, the music video helped to finalize my feelings. It helped build emotional excitement.
Before I had a chance to process the episode, I saw a promo for upcoming episodes with a romantic song showcasing romantic clips, some of which I could look forward to in the forthcoming weeks. In short, the music video promos helped develop the Moonlight fanbase.
Here are the two versions of the promo that aired originally (not in the best quality):
So, if Moonlight had such a passionate fanbase, why was it then canceled?
Well, Moonlight came out right before vampire fever spread through the entire world due to Twilight, True Blood, and later, The Vampire Diaries.
Sadly, the show was a centimeter away from coming out at the perfect time. If only it had premiered one year later…just when the first Twilight movie premiered in theaters.
Maybe it would have been on the air for a few more seasons than just the one (with only 16 episodes).
But I digress.
As for why Moonlight was canceled, numerous theories exist without a definitive answer.
When CBS first canceled it, Nina Tassler of CBS claimed it was because viewers were more interested in Alex O’Loughlin as a lead actor than in the series. However, this reason seems unlikely and objectively false.
The most likely reason (and the currently most accepted) for the cancellation was that Moonlight aired during the famous Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008, putting a pause on all TV shows. Many series didn’t survive the strike. Moonlight was one of them.
The series also had some behind-the-scenes drama, with numerous showrunners taking over throughout the show’s run. And there were rumors of some conflicts between CBS and producers.
Still, Moonlight had decent ratings on Friday night with major growth potential and had a passionate fanbase.
So, it’s unfortunate Les Moonves, and the CBS team didn’t have the foresight to see the popularity of romantic vampires on the horizon and keep Moonlight around.
While a few of the procedural cases aren’t the most original or creative, the series as a whole and as a paranormal romance is one of the best in its genre. The characters, romance, mystery, and mythology are all fantastic.
All in all, I find there’s something special about Moonlight. The themes of redemption, humanity, mortality, love, etc., all ring true while entertainingly capturing my imagination. And I appreciated how the show chose not to go down a vulgar path.
And as far as the production quality goes, the writing is clever – though you’ll probably need to enjoy dry humor, old-fashioned romance, and supernatural stories to appreciate the dialogue and show.
The costumes in the past are also gorgeous with a dreamy quality. The special and visual effects are creative and realistic looking. I also have to give a special shout-out to the makeup artists who created an unquestionably cool and sensual vampire look.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the brilliant, atmospheric soundtrack. Each episode introduced fabulous music, from indie to popular hits. And each song selection was always the perfect choice.
Altogether, my “imperfectly perfect” show will always have a place in my memory and heart. And on re-watch fifteen years later, I feel a surge of nostalgic warmth and happiness.
While I don’t believe Moonlight will ever return for a second season, and I’m okay with that, a part of me will always want to ask in dedication to Moonlight:
Is it Friday yet?
Content Note: The series ranges between TV-PG and TV-14. Mild language, sensuality, and vampire fantasy violence.
You can buy Moonlight: The Complete Series on DVD or stream to buy on Vudu. Unfortunately, it is no longer available to stream on CW Seed. Hopefully, it will show up in a new streaming service soon.
Did you watch Moonlight? Did you love the series and romance as much as I did? Do you wish the show would return in a different format, like a graphic novel? Theories on future plot lines or what might have happened next? Let me know in the comments!
Featured image credit for the Moonlight Series Review: Warner Bros. Television, CBS, and Silver Pictures Television.
Note: This article was first published in 2017 and has been updated and rewritten for 2022.
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