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Werewolf Angst

CBS' new lycanthrope soap WOLF LAKE hopes to take a bite out of the competition with its blend of human drama and werewolf action

By Michael Tunison     September 19, 2001


The cast of the new CBS series WOLF LAKE
© 2001 CBS Worldwide Inc.
Mix THE HOWLING, a generous portion of TWIN PEAKS, and the occasional pinch of DAWSON'S CREEK and what do you get? If you're CBS, you hope you get a hit.

Debuting this week, the genre-bending dramatic series WOLF LAKE concerns a rural American community much like any other... except for the fact that werewolves make up a sizable chunk of the population. That's right, werewolves. We're talking fur, claws, fangs the whole works. And you thought Saturday nights were wild in your town...


For generations, the residents of Washington's state's remote Wolf Lake have managed to keep their little secret from the outside world, understandably fearful of what strangers might do if the word ever got out about you know what. Now a Seattle police detective (Lou Diamond Phillips) is poking around, asking the wrong kinds of questions in a search for his missing fiancée. Meanwhile, the local sheriff (THE WEST WING's Tim Matheson) has his own worries, including a daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is exhibiting strange animalistic urges as she comes of age.


Thus begins an inter-species family

Lou Diamond Phillips and Tim Matheson, stars of WOLF LAKE

saga pitting Wolf Lake's besieged lycanthropes against threats both inside and outside their secluded enclave.


"It's THE SOPRANOS with fangs," as Diamond Phillips puts it.


For inspiration in developing storylines, the show's creators looked at how real-life wolves interact in nature, says executive producer Alex Gansa. An early plot strand, for example, stems from the werewolf pack's "alpha male" (Bruce McGill) being diagnosed with a rare form of lupine cancer.


"What's really interesting about wolves is when the alpha male falters, the entire pack becomes highly sexualized, because they know there's going to be carnage and death, and they want to make sure the clan continues," Gansa says.


One of the show's pivotal characters, played by veteran actor Graham Greene (DANCES WITH WOLVES), is neither wolf nor human.


"He's been with

Graham Greene and Lou Diamond Phillips on the titular lake

this clan of wolves since the beginning of time, and he's kind of their shepherd" Gansa says. "He's not a wolf himself. He's more of a deity. But at the same time, he's the most human of all the characters."


In a departure from most werewolf stories, WOLF LAKE will dispense with many aspects of standard wolf-man monster mythology. For example, the show's lycanthropes will be as vulnerable to bullets or other damage as normal humans. And forget about only transforming during the full moon and getting the werewolf disease from other wolves.


"The only way that you can be a wolf is pass it down through the genes," Gansa explains. "We've decided to explode the regular myth. There's no full moon. There's no silver bullet. There's no biting anybody and they become a wolf."


The show's 10 p.m. EST Wednesday time slot means the fur will be flying between it and two network heavyweights, LAW & ORDER and N.Y.P.D. BLUE pretty scary competition for a series based on a concept as out-there as WOLF LAKE's. Still, Gansa is confident the show's unusual blend of elements will allow it to claw out its own viewership.


"I can only say that between LAW & ORDER and N.Y.P.D. BLUE, who have been around for a long time, we're going to offer something that is nothing like those two shows," he says. "It's just a completely different tone and a completely different way of storytelling, and hopefully it will attract an audience."

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