Being a teenager can be perplexing enough without discovering you have a very important secret destiny, but it’s certainly been fertile territory for a lot of lucrative fiction. Enter “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” another slick ABC Family drama from the Alloy Entertainment gang, in which the title character’s 16th birthday suddenly transforms her into a cat-like heroine, complete with retractable claws and agility. Despite only marginal spring in the exposition-heavy pilot, the promised mix of action, angst and serialized mystery should make for a purr-fect little summer escape.
Poor Chloe (Skyler Samuels) is a true sweet 16 — as in “never been kissed” — with a support system that includes a goofball pair of outsider friends (Grace Phipps, Ki Hong Lee) and her single mom (Amy Pietz, about as useful as every fantasy mom since “E.T.”).
Suddenly, though, odd things begin to happen, from Chloe leaping out of an errant bike’s path — and landing on a car’s hood — to sprouting claws when she repels a mugger. Answers come slowly, but as scripted by Dan Berendsen, emerge in a rather unwieldy burst toward the end, when Chloe is filled in about the Mai, a mystical race (the progeny of an Egyptian goddess) living among humans.
By any measure, the premiere is an especially busy hour, squeezing in a potential love interest (“Friday Night Lights'” Grey Damon) along with Chloe’s pals and her role in this larger mythology. Like any number of kids thrown into a similar predicament — Harry Potter, Peter Parker, MTV’s new version of “Teen Wolf,” etc. — Chloe rises to the occasion, with the appealing Samuels bringing the requisite mix of confusion and excitement to her newfound abilities.
Indeed, when one of her friends gushes “You’re like a superhero” in the second hour — which proves a little slow going, story-wise — Chloe seems more burdened than buoyant, even though the observation is understandable.
While skewing a bit younger than some of ABC Family’s more successful and challenging dramas — and thus perhaps more tonally in line with the Disney Channel — there ought to be room on the network for a show like this, built around the not-entirely-secret life of an American teenager.
Of course, if Chloe winds up 16 and pregnant, she might just drop a whole litter.