I've mentioned it before, but there used to be a game that my friends and I would play when we were bored that's still a lot of fun. It goes like this: take a pair of one-sentence descriptions of any two people and then add the phrase "They're both detectives." No matter what the descriptions are, it will sound like a pitch for a TV show. Try it, it's fun. "He's an old jazz musician who never quite made it. She's a wealthy widow who collects rare orchids. They're both detectives." Or how about "She's an ex-homicide detective with a degenerative eye disease. He's a 450 year old vampire. They're both detectives." This last one isn't a joke though, it's a real series. Made in 2006, Blood Ties lasted for a total of 22 episodes, and the entire series will soon be out in a nice four disc Blu-ray set. While the series has some interesting episodes, it never quite lives up to its promise or develops sufficiently
Vicki Nelson used to be a top homicide detective until she contracted an illness of the eyes that made her leave the force. Sure, she could have stayed on, but she would have been assigned to a desk and that's not what she wanted. So she quit and became a private investigator.
One night while walking home after a miserable date, Vicki sees a man being attacked across the street in the middle of a dark alley. By the time she runs across the street, the attacker is gone and the victim is dead, with all of his blood drained out of him. The next day the victim's goth girlfriend, Coreen, confides in Vicki that she's sure a vampire is to blame and hires the detective to track him down.
Vicki does find a vampire, but not one who has killed anyone lately. Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, likes to keep things quite. He's a nice vampire (and comic book scribe), and mainly drinks the blood of willing women. He picks them up, beds them, and then hypnotizes them to leave. They're happy to have gotten a good lay from a stud, and he gets to eat. If another vampire is killing in his territory he wants to know about it and stop them. He's got a good thing going and doesn't want it ruined.
Vicki and Henry cross paths and eventually discover that a geek has summoned a demon and put a stop to it. They work so well together that they decide to team up and stop the supernatural baddies that have started to invade their city.
In the course of their adventures, they battle zombies, witches, ghosts and other evil creatures while trying to figure out how they feel about one another. They're attracted to each other, but Vicki also has the hots for her ex-homicide partner Mike, and Coreen (who comes to work for Vicki since she knows so much about the supernatural) would love to get closer to Henry. Heck, battling invisible telekinetic creatures is more straight forward, and easier, than dealing with the various love triangles, so that's what they concentrate on.
This series actually reminded me of the first season of Buffy quite a bit. In that first set of shows the series was still feeling its way around, trying to be hip and cool, but also a bit unsure of what to do with the characters. It wasn't until the second season that Buffy really clicked and turned into the series we all know and love. Blood Ties is a lot like those early Buffy episodes. There's nothing wrong with them, but it largely feels like a monster-of-the-week show. The problem is that the show never really advances on past that, which is too bad.
It also tries a bit too hard to be cool and hip. Henry creates graphic novels and the writers throw around the names of other comic scribes and graphic novel series to show that they're in-the-know and hip. (Henry's work is described at one point like Warren Ellis' except more intense.) The problem is that they have nerdy comic geeks deliver those lines so that they're basically insulting the very people they're trying to win over.
The characters are also pretty bland and never really come to life. Henry is surprisingly dull, especially for a vampire. He's not tormented, fighting against his dark side, nor does he really have an evil part to him. He's just there as muscle. Even in the romantic parts with Vicki there aren't any sparks.
Which brings me to Vicki's other love interest, Mike. He's a GQ pretty boy who is dumb as a box of rocks, though he's not supposed to be. At one point in the series Mike has seen a demon emerging from the pit, experienced the effects of an invisible monster, and actually fought with a ghost who was trying to kill his boss. Yet when Vicki comes up to him and confides that she thinks there's a Succubus on the loose, he laughs and says that there is no such thing. Geeze! What does it take to convince him that monsters are real?? Then there's Vicki's eye disease that's mentioned every few episodes even though she is able to see perfectly fine. She even takes her glasses off in some scenes to get a better look at evidence. She's suppose to have almost no night vision, yet every night she's out running about with her vampire buddy not seeming to notice that she can't see squat. I could go on, but the main point is that there really isn't a lot of attention paid to details.
Even with dull characters and curious plot holes (Vicki, who minored in history, isn't excited when she discovers that her pal is Henry VIII's son) there are some good stories. They team encounters some spooky creatures, and some of the set ups are fairly eerie. The show does get better as it progresses too. The final episodes are a marked improvement over the earlier entries. While I was always interested to see the next episode I was never really hooked on the show though. All the disparate parts never really came together the way I was hoping they would. By the end of the series, I couldn't help but think that the show would have been more interesting if it was a mystery show rather than a creature feature.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The entire 22 episode series comes on four Blu-ray discs which are housed in a single 4-pack case.
The 1.78:1 MPEG-4 AVC image is encoded at 1080p, though for some reason the back cover lists it as a 4:3 image encoded at 1080i. That's a pretty significant error, especially since the DVD release of the show wasn't anamorphic. How they could let a glaring error like that get to the final product is beyond me. In any case the show looks fine, though it's not a stand out. The skin tones are accurate and the level of detail is good in the many dark and murky scenes that frequently make up the show. The image isn't quite as crisp as the best Blu-rays however and never really pops. Digitally it looks fine, with no trace of aliasing or blocking.
Unfortunately the show only comes with a stereo DTS-HD MA soundtrack. In 2006 they made a show like this without a 5.1 audio track?? That's disappointing. There is some separation in the front though and this lossless audio track will suffice, though I can't help thinking that a 5.1 track would bring the show to life and really add something to the viewing experience, especially during the fight and demon-summoning sequences.
There's not much in the way of extras included with the set. There's a purely fluff Behind the Scenes piece where the actors explain their characters and the premise of the show and also say really nice things about each other. *yawn*. In addition there's a trailer for the series and a photo gallery.
Blood Ties is a decent show that has a lot of potential, but never quite lives up to it. Though I found myself easily starting the next episode every time one finished, the show never really grabbed me by the throat, so it speak. Fans of vampire series should definitely check it out, but make it a rental.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.