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With ‘Midnight, Texas,’ NBC Adds to the Eerie File
July 24, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Midnight, Texas, is an outsider’s town where you go when the rest of the world feels too complicated.

Midnight, Texas is also a new NBC summer TV series where you might go if you think the rest of television is too easy to understand.

Launching Monday at 10 p.m. (ET), Midnight, Texas is a dark mystery about what happens in a menacing town that also harbors elements of the supernatural.

François Arnaud (top) plays Manfred, a psychic whose powers and whose specific reasons for moving to Midnight both seem a little vague.

He modestly tells a sympathetic woman that his psychic powers are imaginary, that he’s “just good at reading people” and “tells them what they want to hear.”

Still, there’s something in the way his eyes turn red as he inhales the ghosts of demons that says he’s not your ordinary storefront scammer.

Whatever the path, he quickly becomes a good fit in the Midnight community. While the place looks like an abandoned Middle American ghost town when he arrives, it turns out to have a number of hotspots and a good-sized population of people who are up for a party.

Depending on what your definition of a party might be.

If you think a vampire livens up any social occasion, for instance, Midnight might be your kind of town. Ask for Lemuel (Peter Mensah, right), one of the elder statesmen of the village.

It’s not entirely coincidence that Midnight, Texas is based on the novels of Charlaine Harris, whose work also inspired True Blood. But vampires seem more like part of the ensemble here, rather than the focus.

The show’s larger issue is figuring out what the focus should be.

We meet an eclectic cast of townspeople, including pawn shop owner Bobo (Dylan Bruce), the witch Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley), an angel named Joe (Jason Lewis) and Creek (Sarah Ramos), a writer who discovers she’s been left out of a big secret.

There are ways in which the town of Midnight resembles Westworld or Wayward Pines – places where something is happening, but you don’t know what it is.

Eventually, Midnight seems to take its own direction, when the inhabitants are drawn closer together by the suspicion they trigger in outsiders. As dysfunctional families go, the Midnight crowd can jump the rope and walk right into the room.

What would help, though, would be better clues as to exactly what forces are at work, why and how they clash or intersect, and where it’s all going.

Fans of the books won’t have any trouble. The rest of us will spend a fair amount of the first few episodes scratching our heads, wondering what’s important and what’s just showing off. Is it significant to levitate a police car? Should be we taking notes when the spirits of the dead speak?

For a supernatural story to engage civilians, it has to establish characters who behave like humans we care about. That feels like a slow build in Midnight, Texas.

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