Jungle
Wolf Lake: The Complete Series

Wolf Lake

Studio(s): 
On DVD: 
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Grade:
C
Discs: 
3
Werewolves and Vampires

Before Wolf Lake, producer John Leekley created vampire show Kindred: The Embraced. After Wolf Lake, star Paul Wesley starred in The Vampire Diaries.

Dorothy was afraid of the lions and tigers and bears, but in the forests around the small town of Wolf Lake it is the werewolves you need to be concerned about. This Complete Series release brings together the nine episodes of the aired series and the original unaired pilot for fans of the long cancelled show.

The history of television can probably be written in the names of shows that were cancelled too soon. At the top of the heap is, of course, Joss Whedon's Firefly, and show runner Shawn Ryan is quickly piling up a list of notable cancellations with Terriers, The Chicago Code and it is looking like his Last Resort is about to go down. Bryan Fuller also has an impressive list with Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and now Mockingbird Lane. Producer John Leekley career has also been punctuated with notable cancellations. He took on Wes Craven's Nightmare Cafe and lost. He brought vampires back to television with complex political structures in Kindred: The Embraced, for a third of a season anyway. And with Wolf Lake he sought to put furry shape changers in the living rooms of America.

Seattle police detective John Kanin (Lou Diamond Phillips) proposes to his girlfriend Ruby who then mysteriously vanishes. He spends months searching for her and finally ends up in her hometown of Wolf Lake, where the residents are hiding dark secrets. The town is the home for a pack of werewolves who live among and above the humans, only some of whom are aware of supernatural that surrounds them. Here we meet the sheriff Matt Donner (Tim Matheson) who once married a werewolf but isn't one himself, who is worried that his half-blood children might carry the curse; Sherman Blackstone (Graham Greene), an indian who has been a friend of the wolves for a long time; and the Cates family - Ruby, whom John Kanin seeks, is being hidden; Will, the head of the family and the wolf pack who is ill and soon to be passing on his reign; and Luke (Paul Wesley), Will's son and maybe heir to power.

Unfortunately, and likely the reason it was cancelled, the show is a slow paced family drama with community struggle overtones and a mystery at its core. It probably just wasn't exciting enough for America, or perhaps America just wasn't ready at the time for sexy supernatural monsters. The Complete Series on DVD for Wolf Lake isn't really worth getting for the nine episodes (5 aired on CBS originally with the others airing on channels like Sci-Fi/Syfy) as it is mostly bland and doesn't end well since it was cancelled without an opportunity to tie up loose ends. However, the one thing that totally makes this set worth owning is the opportunity to see the original pilot.

While the series that aired and the original pilot contain many similar elements and most of the same actors, the main plotline, the direction and characters were is many ways radically different. Instead of beginning with the disappearance of a girl, instead we start with two hunters killing a wolf who turns back into a girl. In this original story, most if not all of the town knows about the werewolves, and there isn't one clan containing many families but instead two warring clans currently under and uneasy peace which might be shattered by death of the girl. Lou Diamond Phillips is no longer a man looking for his missing fiancee but instead is an FBI agent posing as a member of another agency looking to reintroduce natural wolves to the area as a cover for looking into a number of open missing persons cases that seem to involve Wolf Lake.

This pilot for Wolf Lake also has commentary from creator John Leekley and director Rupert Wainwright that provides insight into the choices they made. My only criticism of the commentary, at the 30 minute documentary on the original pilot, is there is so little said of exactly why they decided to change the show so radically. Still, it is interesting to watch and listen to.

Great ideas sometimes don't get great executions, and for me that's exactly what Wolf Lake is, and it'll join Kindred: The Embraced on my DVD shelf of cancelled shows that deserved better.

Review by Jason Pace
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