Overview Qpass Help New Search NYTimes.com
April 2, 1996, Tuesday

TELEVISION REVIEW;Turf Wars In Which Hunks Vie For Blood


By CARYN JAMES

Maybe it was only a matter of time before Aaron Spelling moved from the glamorous, conniving denizens of his usual soapy hits to characters who have truly earned the name bloodsucker. In the newest Spelling-produced series, "Kindred: The Embraced," the heroes are vampires masquerading as drop-dead-gorgeous humans. Five clans of them live in San Francisco, locked in a "Godfather"-style turf war. The most powerful clan is led by a handsome, shadowy businessman named Julian Luna, the Michael Corleone of vampires. There is a clan of young biker vampires. There are even pumped-up vampires with a Schwarzenegger-style leader. When these characters cry their blood-red tears, it's a fashion statement.


But "Kindred," which might have been wretched and campy -- think "Melrose Vampires" or "Vampires 90210" -- turns out to be a wry morality play with Julian as a dashing antihero. At its best, "Kindred: The Embraced" shares the appeal of "The X-Files" and other trendy tales of the paranoid and supernatural.

Unfortunately, the series begins tonight with a lame 90-minute pilot that focuses on the show's whiny ostensible hero. C. Thomas Howell plays Frank Kohanek, a shabby, vampire-hunting detective who falls for Julian's former lover. The earnest Frank is unintentionally a wimp. As the series develops, though (beginning tomorrow in its regular slot, Wednesday nights at 9 on Fox), the turf warfare explodes and the show seems transformed. Watching vampires feud over family honor is always more entertaining than seeing a cop in puppy love.


Tonight's episode does provide helpful "Kindred" lore. Julian (Mark Frankel) is the Prince of all the clans, and the character most in debt to Count Dracula. He has a widow's peak in his slicked-back hair, and lives in a mansion with gold-tasseled drapes. Yet Mr. Frankel gives Julian a seductive, contemporary air. With his own rigorous code of honor, Julian is determined to keep the peace.


Another clan is led by a miniskirted nightclub owner named Lily Langtry. She is the Lily Langtry, once Oscar Wilde's pal; those vampires age well. The thuggish Brujah clan (pronounced as in brouhaha) is led by the muscle-bound Eddie Fiori, who is determined to wrest power from Julian. And the Nosferatus, in homage to Murnau's classic film, are hairless, with pointed teeth. They all drink blood discreetly; they've had centuries to refine the technique.


The pilot also serves as a glossary of vampire-speak. The "masquerade" is the big joke the vampires put over on the rest of us, by passing as human. To be "embraced" is to be turned into a vampire, one of the "Kindred" (like being a made man in the mob).


In a strong episode called "Romeo and Juliet," to be shown on April 17, the Brujahs take advantage of Julian's niece, and the fun really begins. Julian stomps into Eddie's office and declares war. "My city?" he yells. "Against my blood? Did you think I wouldn't answer?"


Though "Kindred" would be better without Frank and his witless dialogue, it's too much to hope that he will disappear. The noble Julian has guaranteed his life, and, besides, Mr. Howell gets top billing. In tonight's episode, Frank looks into his lover's eyes (he has not yet seen them turn that undead white or watched her turn into a wolf) and says with soft-spoken sincerity, "If you were working for Luna, you'd tell me, wouldn't you?" Oh, sure she would.


If only networks could cross-pollinate. Then Nash Bridges, the San Francisco detective Don Johnson plays in his new CBS series, could hunt the Kindred while he's in the neighborhood. Nash Bridges versus Julian Luna: now that would be a fair, and exquisitely groomed, fight.


KINDRED: THE EMBRACED FOX, tonight at 8. (Channel 5 in New York)


Produced by Spelling Television; created by John Leekley; written by Joel Blasberg, P. K. Simonds and Steve Dejarnatt; Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent and Mr. Leekley, executive producers; Llewellyn Wells and Mr. Blasberg, producers; Mr. Simonds, Mr. Dejarnatt and Mark Rein Hagen, co-producers; Cheryl Stein, associate producer.


WITH: C. Thomas Howell (Frank Kohanek), Mark Frankel (Julian Luna), Kelly Rutherford (Caitlin Byrne), Stacy Haiduk (Lily Langtry), Jeff Kober (Nosferatu Daedalus), Patrick Bauchau (Archon), Erik King (Sonny Toussaint), Channon Roe (Cash) and Brigid Walsh (Sasha).



Organizations mentioned in this article:

Related Terms:
TELEVISION; REVIEWS


You may print this article now, or save it on your computer for future reference. Instructions for saving this article on your computer are also available.


Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company