The Gates -- TV Review

"The Gates"
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Never trust a television character first shown cutting roses. And if she's got a British accent, run.

Then again, in the case of Claire Radcliff (Rhona Mitra), stick around a few minutes: It's all a bit of spooky, weird fun. Claire -- British, bud-snipper -- and her family have a secret that isn't immediately evident, but once it raises its anti-coagulating head, it's a real doozy, and one will want to be there. And they're not even the oddest family residing in the hermetically sealed suburban village hidden behind "The Gates."

Getting a network series to leap on the latest cultural zeitgeist --here, the humanization of monsters -- is all but impossible; it usually is thinking about jumping just as the tail of the comet passes overhead. So kudos to ABC for getting in on the "Twilight" point on the curve. With its new hourlong ensemble drama, "Gates" presents a gumbo of horror-story characters, all living in semi-peace and harmony in a gated community that's creepy even when it's sunny. (As one teen notes, she's being "raised in captivity.")

Into all this roll newcomers the Monohans, who have their own secrets and have fled Chicago for a new job and a luxe mansion (pool and Jacuzzi in back, natch). But they've made a Faustian bargain: Nick's (Frank Grillo) new job as police chief with a high-tech department as well as the house -- all for playing dumb about the neighborhood goings-on. "But what if the problem is on the inside?" asks Nick, referring to the happenings inside the gates. Indeed, what if?

That's a lot of potential gothic soap, but fortunately "Gates" presents a surprisingly well-written, intriguing scenario with a head-swimmingly large ensemble cast. Part of the initial fun is trying to figure out just who the monsters are and whether the Monohans might be the only "normals" around.

But any script that can throw in a Flannery O'Connor reference and tweak the monster canon at the same time is all right by me. More important,

the grown-ups and kids are smart, if not instantly heroic, adding a realism to the unreal that makes the show compelling and delightful.

Sure, this is no quirky dive into the supernatural a la Joss Whedon, but it's got a freshness that's worth exploring. Just do it in the daylight -- and avoid British housewives bearing brownies.

Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Sunday, June 20 (ABC)
Production: Fox Television Studios
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Frank Grillo, Marisol Nichols, Luke Mably, Travis Caldwell, Skyler Samuels, Chandra West, Colton Haynes, Janina Gavankar, Justin Miles
Executive producers: Gina Matthews, Grant Scharbo, Richard Hatem
Creator-writers: Grant Scharbo, Richard Hatem
Co-executive producer: Gabrielle Stanton
Consulting producer: Robert Wolfe
Producers: Scott Nimerfro, Dennis Murphy
Director: Terry McDonough
Director of photography: Arthur Albert
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Costume designer: Amanda Friedland
Casting: Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood
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