Among the burdens of shows associated with MTV is a need to feel youthful and occasionally on the cutting edge. The drama “Eye Candy” falls well short of those marching orders, casting Victoria Justice as a young hacker trying to find her missing sister, and simultaneously hunted by a sadistic predator. Basically, it’s Nancy Drew meets “Stalker” (nearly rivaling that CBS show in terms of grisly killings), and winds up being most notable for Justice graduating from Nickelodeon roles (“Zoey 101,” “Victorious”) to its Viacom sibling. Assuming the studio advocates cradle-to-grave employment, at least she can count on a TV Land gig in her district-attorney years.
Adapted from R.L. Stine’s bestselling novel into a 10-episode series, “Eye Candy” begins on a grim note, as Justice’s Lindy watches her younger sister get snatched right in front of her. Three years later, she’s 21 and still seeking clues, while using her unique “gift” to spot connections online to help others in a similar predicament, via an Internet site titled Never4gottengroup.com.
Still, Lindy isn’t the only one with mad computer skills, and pretty soon she realizes a killer is tracking her movements. Or as she puts it, “What if someone is using virtual to stalk and maybe kill people?”
For starters, you have a serialized drama that — in one of its more disturbing touches — actually lets said stalker, whoever he is, provide some of the narration. “The Internet: God’s gift to psychopaths,” he hisses.
As developed by Christian Taylor, who wrote the premiere with Emmy Grinwis, “Eye Candy” (which derives its name from the sign-on Lindy uses to contact possible suspects through a dating site) is certainly tense, in a “Scream” kind of way. But it’s almost completely derivative — “Veronica Mars” with a high-speed modem. That includes Lindy’s pals (Kiersey Clemons, John Garet Stoker), who spend most of their time prodding her to have a social life.
There’s also something rather cynical in assuming that simply casting younger leads will be enough to reel in viewers in Justice’s demo when she’s wrapped in a package that otherwise wouldn’t look out of place on CBS or TNT — “CSI” for the student-loan crowd.
Justice has obviously grown up, and she has the right surname to headline a crime show. Yet her character seems woefully overmatched in the early stages, perhaps because this is one of those unseen killers who somehow manages to be everywhere at once, as the body count and collateral damage mount.
So while the fact that MTV is delving into crime and thrillers given the genre’s durability might feel like TV 101, “Eye Candy” mostly lives down to its title — reminding us, in TV terms, that nobody gets to be victorious forever.