"Lost Girl" (10 p.m. EST, Mondays on Syfy) premiered only three weeks ago, but I am happy to say that I am hopelessly addicted to this genre gem.
Hot damn, did I miss having a breezy supernatural-fantasy show in my life. It took the arrival of a confident succubus called Bo (Anna Silk) and her Goth-pixie best friend Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) to make me realize that.
The good news is that it's easy to catch up with the show. Syfy has no plans to put episodes online, but the network is frequently rerunning the first three episodes of the season -- "It's a Fae, Fae, Fae World," "Where There's a Will, There's a Fae" and "Sorority." And my colleagues in Canada have been all over this show ("Lost Girl" is in the midst of its second season there); they've come up with an excellent newbies' guide to all things "Lost Girl."
Even without a catch-up session, you'd be fine just diving in with Monday's outing, which concerns the complex love life of a Fury (i.e., a minor vengeance deity) and her husband. We've got an exclusive clip from that solid hour here.
If you like that episode, the three episodes that follow build out Bo's intriguing world in even more enjoyable ways. If you're a fan of genre programming made with wit, pluck and $3, you owe it to yourself to check out "Lost Girl," which has so won me over that I can't force myself to care about its faults (most of which stem from its apparently slender budget).
No one can say there's been a dearth of genre-tinged programs on television in recent years. The vampire boom of the mid-aughts was followed by the zombie bonanza of the last couple of years; all in all, we're awash in various undead and otherworldly creatures. Newer shows like "Alphas" and "Misfits," and long-running dramas like "Supernatural" have all built on the solid foundations left behind by the Joss Whedon trilogy of nerd worship ("Buffy," "Angel" and "Firefly"), which are still the gold standard in terms of depth, ambition and characterization.
But one of the reasons "Lost Girl" has made such a big impression on me (and half my Twitter feed, apparently) is because the Syfy show does what so many genre programs fail to do these days: It has fun with its premise.
Bo, Kenzi and their pal Dyson (a human-looking Fae who can shift into werewolf mode) have weekly adventures, of course, but no one is saving the world here. Truth be told, that's kind of a relief. Saving the world and/or defeating powerful forces of darkness can be a grand experience, of course, but too many Big Bads these days don't seem worthy of the title. Anyway, whatever happened to the kind of show that wove energetic weekly stories into a pretty interesting mythology and added dollops of clever dialogue, sex appeal and girl power?
The truth is, many genre shows on the air these days have mistaken misery for complexity, but "Lost Girl" strides right by that pitfall.
"Lost Girl" strikes a nice balance between escapism and emotional realism through Bo, who's trying to fit into an underground community of otherworldly creatures called the Fae as she investigates weird crimes in a big city. At its best, it's a knowing, savvy mixture of "Xena," "Buffy" and my favorite USA shows (if you watched the good years of "Stargate SG-1," you know the tone I'm talking about). "Lost Girl" doesn't really go in for navel-gazing and self-pity, and though there are occasional smidgens of angst, they usually arise from Bo's complicated (and sexy) relationship with Dyson (Kris Holden-Ried), who's also a local cop.
Bo, you see, tends to suck the life out of the humans she fools around with. But one of the things I love about "Lost Girl" is that Bo does not regard her life as a tragedy. Being a succubus makes things tricky on occasion, but she's learning to control that aspect of herself, and, as played by the capable Anna Silk, she's vulnerable without being riven by the self-esteem problems that seem to afflict so many post-"Buffy" characters. Bo is a sexually confident woman who is happy to share her bed with either men or women (or both at once, as is the case in Monday's episode). She's even adept at using her power to get what she wants: Her touch can make people wildly attracted to her, which makes questioning suspects a little easier.
When she discovers the Fae community, Bo not only begins to get a few clues about her own mysterious past, she discovers that sleeping with Fae folk won't kill them, and her love life becomes pleasingly convoluted. When injured or "hungry," she needs to feed, and Dyson usually obliges by hooking up with her (which leaves him more than a little depleted). Both of them are attracted to each other on a deeper level, but Dyson, who is allied with a faction known as the Light Fae, won't get more involved with Bo for reasons that aren't clear yet (they probably have to do with the Cold War raging between the Light and Dark Fae).
To keep things interesting, Bo is also attracted to Lauren (Zoie Palmer), a human doctor who works for the Light Fae. (It's no surprise to learn that "Lost Girl" has a sizable GLBT following: Bo not only has great chemistry with both her love interests, she refuses to be marginalized and simply ignores rules that don't make sense to her.)
Bo hasn't picked a side between the Dark and Light Fae; she and Kenzi regularly run afoul of both sides as they investigate cases or "help" humans (in the amusing Feb. 27 episode, Kenzi pretends to be a shaman). The relationship between Bo and her loyal best friend, con artist and thief Kenzi, is one of the best things about "Lost Girl": Here are two women who like each other and themselves, and who are getting by on a mixture of moxie, wit and eyeliner. There aren't a lot of female friendships worth watching on TV, but I could watch these two discuss men, breakup sex and trolls all day long. In true sidekick tradition, Kenzi usually gets all the best lines, which Solo delivers with the perfect blend of wryness and warmth.
But don't expect "Lost Girl" to be perfect: Bo's universe can seem constricted at times, the weekly clients and monsters aren't always interesting and occasionally the storytelling has abrupt moments. But my occasional complaints have been overwhelmed by my growing appreciation of what creator Michelle Lovretta has done with this light drama: She's created a Hero's Journey with a self-confident woman -- a succubus, no less -- at the center of it.
Succubi have generally terrible P.R. -- find a positive depiction of a woman who takes the sexual life force from frequently male victims and I'll give you a shiny new quarter -- but Lovretta has done something subversively impressive with "Lost Girl." She's built a whole show around the idea of a woman who is learning just how much she can or should take from others, and how much she can rely on herself.
And that's what makes "Lost Girl," which is lighter and less ambitious than "Buffy," a worthy iteration of the identity issues at the heart of that show. "Buffy" was the tale of a girl who felt isolated by her special power, yet who found ways to not only build up her self-confidence but also create an entire community around her. "Lost Girl" gives us a woman who knows who she is, but isn't quite sure of where she fits in, and like most people in their twenties, she's having enjoyable, surprising and scary adventures as she figures it out.
Though I love dark stories, it's a nice to find a show that doesn't think it needs to go really dark to make a point. In aspiring to mine deep themes and deliver meaty messages, too many dramas -- genre and otherwise -- have gone the "Heroes" route and made their characters' lives seem like giant bummers. It takes a lot of skill to creatively explore the knotty themes baked into supernatural and fantasy stories, and not every show has the chops for that. The end result is genre programming that is often a little too light (a la the genial "Warehouse 13"), too undisciplined ("True Blood"), lacking in convincing characters ("The Walking Dead") or just lost in a gloomy fog of hopelessness (the declining "Supernatural").
Is it any wonder that I want to hang out with Kenzi and Bo?
Follow Maureen Ryan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moryan