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Reading Room / Kindred: the Embraced Reviews

The News-Times

Television News

April 2, 1996



`Kindred: The Embraced,' premiering Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox

By Ellen Gray

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

``You know, I knew we were going to get along when you ordered your steak very, very rare,'' says the cop to the vampire, early in Tuesday night's 90-minute premiere of Fox's ``Kindred: The Embraced.''

The vampire (Kate Vernon), who's already polished off an appetizer in the ladies' room, where she ran into an attractive and unwitting blood donor, smiles politely, apparently oblivous to the single crimson drop on her white dress. No matter. The cop (C. Thomas Howell) doesn't even notice.

That's Aaron Spelling for you. Damn the dry-cleaning bills: His vampires wouldn't be caught dead dabbing themselves with club soda.

The combination of Spelling's name in the production credits and a plot inspired by a role-playing game called ``Kindred: The Masquerade'' is not one I'd normally embrace, but the darkly stylish ``Kindred'' is oddly compelling and (dare I say it?) potentially addictive.

Even to one who never succumbed to lure of ``Dark Shadows'' or Anne Rice or even ``Dracula'' in all his movie incarnations, the vampires - particularly the prince, Julian Luna (Mark Frankel) - were immediately 10 times more interesting than the human cop, Frank Kohanek. (Howell, probably best remembered for the best-forgotten ``Soul Man,'' would have to drink a ton of blood to acquire the amount of charisma Frankel exudes in one tortured glance.)

``Kindred,'' which starting Wednesday night slips into the more appropriate 9-10 p.m. ET spot vacated by ``Party of Five,'' is, like ``Party,'' set in San Francisco, although it's hard to imagine the orphaned Salingers and the warring Kindred existing on the same planet, much less the same city.

``The Kindred's'' San Francisco is a surreal place where vampires live and work side by side with humans who seldom seem to notice the deception the vampires call ``the Masquerade.'' One thing that makes that possible is that the rules have changed a little. Yeah, a cross through a vampire's heart will still kill (I'm not sure about silver bullets), but like the underworld organization it most resembles, the Kindred generally preys on its own kind. Blood contact with a vampire doesn't necessarily kill a human (although it may leave us woozy) and any vampire who wants to ``embrace'' a human is supposed to get the prince's permission.

Without the cheat sheet supplied by Fox, I might have been quickly lost in a tangle of Kindred ``clans'':

- The Ventrue: Julian Luna's clan, the aristocracy (the network calls them ``Kennedy-like,'' but I'm guessing JFK or Bobby, not Ted, for Julian).

- The Torreadors: Artistic types, led by Lillie Langtry (yeah, I thought she was dead, too), a beautiful vampire played by Stacy Haiduk. In the first two episodes, Lillie can mostly be found wrapped around Julian.

- The Nosferatu: The only ones who look as if they could really stand more time in the sun. Headed by Daedalus (Jeff Kober), who's Julian's hit man, a post he seems uniquely suited for (although in Wednesday night's episode he reveals a sweeter side).

- The Gangrels: Bikers and rockers, led by Cash (Channon Roe), who becomes Julian's bodyguard.

- The Brujah: Their name sounds as if it comes from ``brouhaha,'' and the Brujah certainly seem to like kicking up trouble. Of all the Kindred, they dress (and act) the most like mobsters.

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You can reach Ellen Gray by e-mail at elgray(at)phillynews.com, by fax at 215-854-5852 or by mail at the Philadelphia Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.

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(c) 1996, Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-04-01-96 1110EST

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