Wolfblood: CBBC Drama With Bite

Every generation has had its iconic genre TV. Some were such classics that they were handed down between generations like the family treasures, and some have faded into fond subjects of pub nostalgia for those of us old enough to still know. I’m not talking about Ultraviolet or Red Dwarf — in fact, nothing after the watershed. Children’s programming has always been a melting pot for exploring genre ideas in those formative years before disbelief really required suspending.

Perhaps you had transducer envy when watching The Girl From Tomorrow or enjoyed opening The Box of Delights, were an early fan of witches Grotbags and T-Bag, a regular watcher of Round the Twist, The Tribe, or, like me, selected your friends according to how efficient a guide they would make for your team on Knightmare. Children’s TV was, and still is the place to look for classic supernatural and sci-fi programming.

Give it a few years, and the current generation of CBBC viewers may be looking back fondly on Wolfblood. Rated third in the CBBC weekly rankings by its fourth episode, Wolfblood features two fourteen-year-old werewolves (the Wolfblood of the title is the PC term for it here, and these wolves are born, not bitten), trying to balance the everyday rigors of a schoolyard social life with keeping an ancient secret which will always make them different from their peers.

werewolves of... stoneybridge?Maddy has grown up settled in her identity as a Wolfblood. She hasn’t yet reached an age where she is able to fully transform, but regularly babysits her parents in their lupine forms, keeping the damage they do to the occasional chewed up plimsoll. At school she isn’t in with the ‘in’ crowd (a gaggle of airhead mean girls) but maintains two close friendships with the other outcasts of the school, the football mad Tom, and Shannon – whose journalistic ambitions have her set on discovering the true identity of the rumoured ‘beast on the moors’.

When Rhydian, the brooding new boy at school, turns out to be another Wolfblood treading on her territory, Maddy sets out to drive him from the school. That is until she discovers that he was raised in foster care, with no idea about what he really is. Left to his own devices, Rhydian’s abilities could prove dangerous, to himself, those around him, and to the secret Maddy and her family have worked so hard to keep.

The young acting in this series is impressive, lead by Aimee Kelly as Maddy, able to turn from an exasperated teen into something altogether wilder within the turn of a line. Louisa Connolly-Burnham as Shannon is a comic talent and makes an adorable geeky sidekick, along with Kedar Williams-Stirling as Tom, while Rhydian, played by Bobby Lockwood has a large enough catalogue of heavy-eyebrowed, menacing looks to keep any female viewer in the show’s tween target demographic satisfied. What’s more, the other major characters in the show – the wolves – are handled impressively on a low special effects budget. No cringeworthy fur suits here.

not Michael J FoxThe format for the show came about after the BBC launched an open call for children’s drama scripts, with Wolfblood and one other submission eventually going forward to the screen. New children’s TV writer, the aptly named Debbie Moon, told the BBC Writer’s Room that she’d drawn on a long line of genre influences in shaping the show: “I knew pretty quickly what the story was about: a girl who’d always kept a secret, about her family and herself, and a boy who threatened to betray that secret to the world by refusing to live the way she did. It would riff on werewolf clichés, but it wouldn’t be bound by them. Being a Wolfblood wasn’t a curse, but just who they were; they would have to change at full moon, but could also transform at other times. There would be echoes of The Incredible Hulk, Jekyll & Hyde, and perhaps most all, the X-Men, who often had more problems with just being teenagers than with defeating super-villains…

Perhaps in part thanks to these influences, and no doubt thanks to the history of children’s genre programming as a whole, CBBC now boasts a sharply written, smart, funny and well worth watching werewolf series. A future classic? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, why not check out what else is coming up this Autumn:

Wolfblood premiered on CBBC on 10th September 2012 and airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 5:15pm. The first episode will be viewable on the BBC Iplayer until November 4th, with a DVD release to follow. 

Sources: BBC.co.uk

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