Friday, March 25, 2011

CDN Television: Blood Ties, Introduction

Shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood are getting a lot of attention right now because vampires are one of the hottest things in Hollywood at the moment.  Twilight cannot take the credit for that because since the very first vampire was put onto film in 1922, Hollywood has had a love affair with the supernatural creatures.  Their popularity has come and gone many times but they've always been around and will return again once they fade from this burst of attention.

There have been many shows on television that have dealt with vampires in some shape, way or form.  Shows such as Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot (originally made in 1979 and re-made in 2004), the UK's Being Human (re-made in Canada for US television in 2011) and Ultraviolet from the UK and Canada's Forever Knight all chose to depict vampires in either the traditional sense or in an updated, more scientific way.  There have even been children's shows based around the vampire legend.  Young Dracula aired for two series in the United Kingdom (and has recently been renewed for a third series) and dealt with issues many children face in a humorous and fantastical, but also realistic way.

Blood Ties was a short-lived Canadian drama of 22 hour-long episodes based on the Blood Books series by Tanya Huff.  Blood Ties was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and aired first in the United States on the Lifetime Network before airing later in Canada in Citytv and Space.  It ran from March 11, 2007 to January 10, 2008 with twelve episodes comprising season one and ten season two.  The show, set in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, starred Christina Cox, Dylan Neal, Kyle Schmid and Gina Holden. 

The series follows Vicki Nelson (Cox), a former Toronto police detective who left the job because of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive vision problem that will eventually lead to blindness.  She opens a private investigation office so she can continue doing the work she loves.  She meets and develops a working relationship with a 480 year-old vampire, Henry Fitzroy (Schmid) who helps her deal with the supernatural aspects of the cases she takes.  Her old partner from the force, Mike Celluci (Neal) provides her with a link to her old life and tension in her new life because of his jealousy and dislike of her new partner, Henry.  Her secretary, Coreen Fennel (Holden), is a former client with an interest in the occult who provides insight and research assistance into some of the strange supernatural aspects of the cases.

The first episode starts off a tad slow but once you are introduced to all the characters and the action picks up and takes off, it really takes off.  I, personally, would say this show is a bit like Supernatural meets the Rockford Files.  You've got a great private investigator story working but it's not the normal kind of cases you'd expect a P.I. to work on.  Every single one of Vicki's cases have a supernatural aspect to them.  Everything from demons to Medusa to voodoo to mummies to Wendigo's.  Jim Rockford never encountered anything like that in a days work!

Vicki Nelson is super tough.  She takes nothing from no one and does things on her own terms despite objections from those close to her and her physical limitations.  She is reluctant to believe in vampires and the supernatural at first.  She becomes quite comfortable with everything very quickly once she sees those 'unbelievable' things with her own eyes (as well as she can see them, anyway) and experiences them firsthand.  Christina Cox does a brilliant job making this character very believable and she most certainly makes Nelson a strong female lead.  Something that is often much-needed on television.

Henry Fitzroy is an interesting vampire.  He doesn't kill but he's not the kind of vampire that has weened himself off human blood.  You won't see him raiding any blood banks or preying on Bambi and Thumper in the woods.  He feeds from willing subjects and never to the point of killing unless the subject wants to turn and he feels turning them would be appropriate.  (One of Vicki's cases involves an old love of Henry's that he turned.)  He's a charming, handsome, soft-spoken guy with a dry sense of humor who just happens to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII (Fitzroy is Henry, Duke of Richmond) and works in the modern day as a graphic artist.  In his 480 years he's known every aspect of life from poverty to extreme privilege.  Henry has a severe dislike for magic because, having been around for almost five centuries, he knows the dangers and costs that go along with it.  Henry's vampirism is traditional (he sleeps during the day, must have blood to survive, cannot be out in daylight and has many supernatural vampiric powers) but there are also a few nontraditional aspects to him.  Crosses and holy water do not harm him, he doesn't sleep in a coffin filled with the soil of his birthplace and he isn't a savage killing machine that exists only to claim as many lives as possible and get as much blood as he can.

All of the characters are very likable in this series.  Even when Mike and Henry are at odds over their relationships with Vicki and fighting like two little boys, you still like them both.  Mike and Henry can actually work together for the greater good without letting their dislike for one another get in the way so their antagonism for one another isn't always being thrown in the viewers faces.  No one is whiny or lingers on the "this stuff can't be real!" lines for too long.  They might complain a bit, then see something that changes their mind and they move on.  The shows are sprinkled with just enough humor to lighten the mood where necessary but not to make the show an outright comedy.  The atmosphere is dark and mysterious which adds to the theme and look of the show and there aren't any silly aspects like sparkling vampires thrown in.

I think it is important to say you needn't be a vampire fan to enjoy Blood Ties.  Yes, one of the main characters is a vampire but the show isn't exclusively based around Henry and his lifestyle.  There's a wide variety of supernatural aspects to this short-lived series.  If you're someone who enjoys a good mystery that delves into the more unusual side of things, I'm positive you can find at least one episode of Blood Ties that is right up your alley.  It would have been wonderful had this series lasted longer than 22 episodes.  The writing was strong, the acting excellent and the stories engaging.  Had it aired a few years later when the vampire craze had fully taken hold it might still be on the air as it had, and still has, a loyal fan base.

There have been rumors that there is a sequel of sorts to Blood Ties being planned.  In April of 2010, it was announced that Fremantle Corporation and Kaleidoscope Entertainment were developing a new series titled Smoke & Mirrors based on Tanya Huff's Smoke series.  (Kaleidoscope made Blood Ties).  It's rumored that Fremantle and Kaleidoscope are shopping around for support of the series which will be about Henry Fitzroy and the supernatural adventures he experiences on a fictional TV series shoot.  As this is all still very new and nothing is set in stone, there is no news as to who might play Henry.  Personally, if this does come to fruition (and being a huge fan of Blood Ties I most certainly hope it does), I wouldn't mind seeing Kyle Schmid on the small screen again.  If the writing and acting quality, and the same dark atmosphere that made Blood Ties so great are all in place for Smoke & Mirrors, I can only imagine that will be one series I'll definitely have to check out!

The entire series of Blood Ties is available on DVD and Blu-Ray in either the complete first season and complete second season or as the entire series.
Complete Series, DVD
Complete Series, Blu-Ray
Complete Series One, DVD
Complete Series Two, DVD

For more information:
Official Show Site from
The Internet Movie Database:
TV Rage:

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