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Reading Room / Kindred: the Embraced Reviews

John Carman Banner
Feuding Vampires By the Bay
JOHN CARMAN
Wednesday,áApril 3, 1996

This explains everything, from quarters-only parking meters to the loss of Will Clark.

As anyone who watched last night's debut of ``Kindred: The Embraced'' on Fox now knows, San Francisco is in the clutches of vampires.

``Kindred'' doesn't make it simple, either, with a few stray vampires trolling the Wharf for tasty tourists. No, the city is run by five separate vampire clans -- feuding, jockeying for power and keeping ``Kindred'' just about totally incomprehensible to the TV audience.

Julian (Mark Frankel) is the prince of vampires and head of the Ventrue clan. Lillie Langtry (Stacy Haiduk) used to be the famous actress but now she runs the artistic Torreador clan. Cash (Channon Roe) is from the hot-tempered Gangrel clan, whose members are bikers. Eddie (Brian Thompson) heads the thuggish Brujah clan and wants to unseat Julian. Daedalus (Jeff Kober) is head of the Nosferatu, who have bald heads and serious earlobes.

VAMPIRE POLITICS

Got all that? It was badly garbled last night, and not at all easy to figure out for San Francisco cop Frank Kohanek (C. Thomas Howell), who got caught up in vampire politics.

Tonight, ``Kindred'' settles into its springtime slot, at 9 o'clock on Channel 2, with a second episode that's easier to follow but no more dramatically satisfying.

Joining the cast, after missing out on last night's pilot, are Kelly Rutherford as Caitlin Byrne, an editor at the newspaper owned by Julian -- possible motto: largest daily blood circulation in Northern California -- and Brigid Walsh as Sasha, a nonvampire who falls for Cash but is forcibly initiated into the rival Brujah clan.

(Speaking of clans, Brigid is from the real-life Walsh clan of San Francisco, and her younger sister Kathleen, also an actress, appears opposite her tonight in the CBS movie ``Summer of Fear.'')

You might expect ``Kindred'' to be dark and spooky. It isn't. The series is from producer Aaron Spelling, whose specialties fall more along the lines of hair color, makeup and fashion accessories.

Generally, the real mystery of a Spelling show isn't who's draining whose veins, but why people seem to vanish at the age of 35 or so. Spelling used to hire older icons for ``The Love Boat,'' but I think he finally got them all onboard and sank the ship.

``Kindred'' is an oddball effort to do another Spelling show, ``Melrose Place,'' without so much bothersome civility. Here, fangs are literally bared and the back-stabbing moves to face-to-fang encounters.

VAMPIRE RIVALRIES

Spelling dispenses with coffins and creaky hinges, creating instead a glossier milieu of good vampires (Julian is practically the soul of reason), bad vampires, hot and cold romances and Mafia-like clan rivalries, along with Spelling's usual quota of shallow characterizations and sodden writing.

The show isn't especially bloody, considering what blood means to it. But it's not altogether antiseptic, either. At least we're spared the gushers of most modern vampire movies.

And when these vampires do get around to supping, they mainly feast on each other. That admittedly crimps the cuisine, but won't turn viewers against the more benign vampire clans.

 

ę San Francisco Chronicle

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