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Published: 04/02/96

'Kindred' a Drain Even for Diehard Vampire Buffs

Byline: By John Youngren

In an apparent effort to help Aaron Spelling achieve what looks to be his goal of programming every hour on every network's schedule, Fox introduces the latest from the producer's schlock factory, ``Kindred: The Embraced,'' tonight.

The series, which premieres with a special 90-minute debut at 7 p.m. on KSTU-Channel 13, is set in modern-day San Francisco, where contemporary, sexy and sophisticated clans of vampires love, hate, betray and sometimes bewitch each other through -- and pardon these puns -- soulful glances, smoldering gazes and otherwise otherworldly methods. Right. If you're thinking Anne Rice (Interview With The Vampire) crossed with ``Melrose Place,'' you've pretty much got the idea.     

That's not to say that ``Kindred'' -- which settles into its new time slot with another new episode Wednesday at 8 p.m. on KSTU -- doesn't take itself or its characters seriously. Indeed, the major problem with the show -- created by John Leekley, based on a book by Mark Rein-Hagen -- may be that it takes itself a bit too seriously, as the owner's manual of expository material sent to critics previewing the show may best attest: A ``Kindred,'' you see, is a being (in this series, ``vampire'' is a naughty word) who was once human, but has been ``Embraced'' by another Kindred. They appear human, but they are not. ``Embracing'' is the process by which a human becomes a Kindred (drinking the human's blood is the most common means). The Kindred are conveniently gifted with various supernatural powers, including shape-shifting, flight, animal senses and, of course, longevity.   

At the center of the five clans of Kindred in various states of unrest for tonight's premiere is police detective Frank Kohanek, played by actor C. Thomas Howell (who seems doped-up and far out of it here). He strikes an uneasy truce with the Prince of the Kindred, Julian Luna (played with elegance by the silky Mark Frankel, who promises peace among the broods. 

In tonight's pilot, Howell's character becomes romantically involved with a -- horrors! -- Kindred woman (played by Kate Vernon) who was once Julian's lover. ``I knew we'd get along when you ordered your steak very rare,'' Howell tells his new vampire girlfriend at one point, and with an entirely straight face. Later, he tells her, ``You gave me your heart . . . I'm keeping it,'' apparently unaware of how literally possible that transaction may be.

Of course, this tortured romance leads to all kinds of trouble for all parties concerned: Howell's girlfriend will eventually change into a wolf dog -- didn't you just know it? -- though she tells him, ``I am not a beast. I was once a woman.'' Characters spontaneously combust; a young woman smooches a corpse in its coffin; a killer Kindred forces a medical examiner to slice his own veins open (easier drinking his blood that way, you understand) and Julian morphs into his dead wife's grave, ``to lay with her'' for a while (of course!).

Stylishly photographed and poetically -- if melodramatically -- written, ``Kindred: The Embraced'' tries its best to succeed in its mission to be contemporary, sexy and sophisticated. It comes off more effectively, however, as uproariously stupid, unyieldingly boring and unwittingly hilarious. While I have no doubt that this is the kind of show that will develop something of a, uh, clan following, forgive me if I haven't been embraced. I give this a D. 


Copyright Salt Lake Tribune

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