Blade: The Series

Spike's first foray into scripted series is certainly a conceptual bull's-eye with the net's targeted young male audience; if only it were a better show. Picking up, unfortunately, where the "Blade" movies left off, Kirk "Sticky" Jones offers a fair Wesley Snipes impersonation as the half-vampire hunter blessed with "all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses."

With:
Blade - Kirk "Sticky" Jones Krista Starr - Jill Wagner Marcus Van Sciver - Neil Jackson Shen - Nelson Lee Chase - Jessica Gower

Spike’s first foray into scripted series is certainly a conceptual bull’s-eye with the net’s targeted young male audience; if only it were a better show. Picking up, unfortunately, where the “Blade” movies left off, Kirk “Sticky” Jones offers a fair Wesley Snipes impersonation as the half-vampire hunter blessed with “all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses.” Even with comicbook pedigreed producers, however, there’s more emphasis on noise than smarts here, proving the film-to-TV leap by an earlier vampire slayer, Buffy, is more difficult than it looks.

David Goyer, who wrote all three “Blade” films and directed the third, is joined by comics scribe Geoff Johns, but the two-hour premiere still feels more like a bland swig of plasma than the bloody romp that it ought to be.

Perhaps foremost, since Blade is the strong, silent type, they have to introduce some characters to do most of the talking.

It’s there that “Blade: The Series” falls down, bringing in an Iraq war vet, Krista (Jill Wagner), who stumbles onto the world of the undead investigating the mysterious death of her twin brother. Turns out he ran afoul of Marcus (Neil Jackson), a suave vampire being pursued by Blade and his wisecracking, weapon-producing sidekick, Shen (Nelson Lee).

The vampires, it seems, function rather like an underground corporation, and to hide their presence they’re very selective about recruiting new members, as opposed to just feasting willy-nilly. Moreover, they have human allies, though none of this convinces Krista that she might be in over her head, despite Blade’s warnings.

Previously seen in the underrated FX drama “Over There,” Jones can’t do much more than flex his biceps and growl lines like “Sun’s down. Time to make some new friends.” And while the special effects are reasonably good, the whole stab-and-evaporate-’em template has been well established, so neither that nor the chopsocky action yields the response the series could use to raise its “Wow” factor.

The larger problem, alas, is that Blade has become such a techno-heavy creation — a far cry from the character introduced in “Tomb of Dracula” comics during the 1970s who dispatched vampires with wooden knives. Today, the man imbued with powers when his pregnant mother was bitten by a two-legged bloodsucker is a half-assed samurai who totes a veritable arsenal around with him.

Given the movies’ moderate success, the series should benefit from some built-in curiosity, and it doesn’t need a legion of the living dead to qualify as a hit by Spike’s standards. Even so, given the bloodless nature of the material, I wouldn’t stake my life on it.

Blade: The Series

Series; Spike, Wed. June 28, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Vancouver by Marvel Films and New Line Television. Executive producers, David Goyer, David Simkins, Jim Rosenthal, Jon Kroll, Avi Arad; supervising producer, Dan Truly; producer, Gordon Mark; co-producer, Lori Huck; director, Peter O'Fallon; writers, Goyer, Geoff Johns.

Crew: Camera, Robert New; production design, Eric Fraser; editor, Lisa Lassek; music, Ramin Djawadi; casting, Corinne Clark, Wendy O'Brien, Jennifer Page. Running time: 120 MIN.

Cast: Blade - Kirk "Sticky" Jones Krista Starr - Jill Wagner Marcus Van Sciver - Neil Jackson Shen - Nelson Lee Chase - Jessica Gower

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