Scott D. Pierce: Be careful when entering 'The Gates'

Published: Thursday, June 17 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Vampires and witches and werewolves, oh my!

You'll find that and more behind "The Gates," ABC's new supernatural prime-time soap. And, in the end, it's sort of less than the sum of its parts.

As Sunday's premiere episode begins, you'd swear you're watching a remake of "The Stepford Wives." We're introduced to an idyllic slice of America — a very rich slice of the populace who live in an absolutely gorgeous gated community.

Of course, things look a little less idyllic when one of the local housewives turn out to be desperate. Desperate for a taste of human blood, that is.

Predictably, the plot revolves around a family that's new to the community. Nick Monahan (Frank Grillo) is the new chief of police, and he's got a cloud over him. Seems he was drummed out of the Chicago police department after an incident that resulted in a suspect's death.

Nick and his wife, Sarah (Marisol Nichols), see their move behind "The Gates" — and there literally are gates here — as a second chance.

Meanwhile, their kids make like hundreds of TV offspring who have gone before. Preteen Dana (MaKaley Miller) is too smart for her own good and is pretending she's excited about the move.

And Charlie (Travis Caldwell) is trying to adjust to his new high school. And he quickly falls for a local girl, Andie (Skyler Samuels). She, in turn, has a boyfriend, Brett (Colton Haynes), who's really, really mad about this.

Howlingly mad, if you catch my drift.

Yes, there's supernatural-ness attached to this. But it's still the same old plot we've seen dozens — hundreds? — of times before.

In the pilot, it almost seems like the only people in town who don't have a secret are the Monahans. And they seem like the only ones who aren't aware that certain people have fangs. Or might be prone to howling at the moon.

Or spend their time stirring bubbling cauldrons.

But it doesn't take Nick long to get suspicious. The neighbors, Clair (Rhona Mitra) and Dylan Radcliff (Luke Mably) are hiding something.

All right, this is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT. Not a major SPOILER ALERT, because this is revealed in the first couple of minutes of the show. But Clair is really, really thirsty, so she drinks the blood of a contractor.

Dylan is really ticked off about this. Because of their daughter.

And Nick is just wondering what happened to the contractor.

There are elements of "Dark Shadows" in "The Gates." And "Kindred: The Embraced." And "The Vampire Diaries." And "Eastwick." And "Forever Knight." And "Wolf Lake."

Not to mention every prime-time soap from "Knots Landing" to "Desperate Housewives."

And, of course, "True Blood."

Like HBO's scheduling of that show, ABC is hoping that summertime might be the right time for something like "The Gates." And, to be perfectly honest, it's a little easier to be forgiving of a series that's airing original episodes in the summer.

Maybe it will settle down a bit and turn into something a little better.

I'll give it a couple more episodes. After all, it's summertime, and my tolerance is a little higher than usual.

If you go

What: Horror/soap opera "The Gates"

When: Sunday, 9 p.m.

Channel: ABC/Ch. 4

Bottom line: It looks like the producers decided to mix elements of every horror show ever made in this serialized drama. There are some good elements here, but there's so much going on it actually detracts from any sense of dread or horror.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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