On a big weekend with a glam awards show and all, we must pay attention to a hot new Canadian drama that arrives with lots of buzz and anticipation. Let's assess.
Bitten (Saturday, Space, 9 p.m.) is about "a sultry and intelligent female werewolf," which is a grabby premise right there. Not only that, this female werewolf is the only one of her kind in the whole wide world. And her home base is Toronto.
Based on Canadian Kelley Armstrong's novels, Bitten is actually a lot more than a grabby premise. Great populist TV with smarts, it's loaded with layers of meaning that you can notice or merrily ignore as you watch the gothic entertainment unfold. The first episode is mighty sexy.
Laura Vandervoort plays Elena, the female werewolf. As things open, she's having excellent intimate time with her boyfriend. (There are lots of bare bums and barechested, strapping fellas here, take note. There's even an eye-popping threesome in a hotel room.) Then she feels certain physical urges and must leave. This is the female werewolf kicking in. Doesn't happen often, apparently, but it must be curbed. What then begins to spin is the story of Elena's connection to a secretive group of studly male werewolves. The Pack is under pressure because a rogue werewolf is scaring people in their area, and they are worried about their secret identities being revealed. They want Elena's help. She's way reluctant.
What we've got here is a drama about the "beast within us," except the beast is a young woman. She's tortured by her state. She's worried about "wolfing out" and becoming ravenous, always on the prowl for prey. She's a big meat-eater, something she tries to hide because it doesn't look good on a comely young woman of her age.
And the subtext is clear: Elena is always fighting urges and those urges are really about men, sex and food. She's trying to keep the beast within from breaking loose. The drama is lightly charged with images of sex and food. She works as a photographer and, in one scene with her boyfriend's sister (Natalie Brown), she looks admiringly at photos of men's tight torsos and thighs. You can cut the erotic tension with a knife.
There's an awful lot to admire in Bitten. Screenwriter Daegan Fryklind has done a fine job adapting the overwrought novels for TV, keeping the tone playful but fraught and sexually aflame. Vandervoort is great as Elena, a character who is a toxic mix of steeliness and fears. Downtown Toronto looks chic in the show, and there's even an effort to make it emphatically local – when Elena says Toronto is her home, she pronounces it "Toronna." Nice.
Bitten matches the expectations and, as it starts airing in SyFy in the U.S. next week, we're looking at a good, deserved international hit.
Also airing this weekend
The 71st Golden Globe Awards (Sunday, NBC, CTV, 8 p.m.) has been called "the loosey-boozy awards show," which it is, and a good deal of the appeal is the inclusion of TV awards. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are returning to host, hopefully adding enough snark to prevent the proceedings from descending into Oscar-style pomposity. The frock opera of red-carpet coverage starts on E Canada at 6 p.m.
There's a quality passel of new and returning dramas on Sunday, too. On TMN/Movie Central, Shameless (9 p.m.) begins anew, followed by the season-openers of House of Lies (10 p.m.) and Episodes (10:30). HBO Canada also unveils the sublime True Detective (9 p.m.), and Girls returns for its third season (10 p.m.). For more on these series, see elsewhere in this section today.