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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Blade' takes being a series very very seriously

Someone ought to mix a shot of liquid Prozac into Blade's magical serum. As played by Kirk ``Sticky" Jones in the series based on the ``Blade" movies, he is one very depressed human-vampire hybrid. It's not just Blade's dark sunglasses and mournful leather coat that give him away; his delivery is so wooden it could kill a vampire for all eternity.

Certainly a superhero needs to have gravitas, but Jones takes it too far -- further than Wesley Snipes in the ``Blade" movies. ``Blade: The Series," which premieres tonight at 10 on Spike, is too dreary and weary for its own good. By the middle of the second hour of the long two-hour opener, the tone lightens slightly and the action -- the blood sucking and ax bashing -- takes on more narrative drive and purpose. But until then, the road is slow and aimless and so shadowy you'll want to squeegee your eyes.

Blade is based on the Marvel Comics character, whose mother was bitten by a vampire while pregnant. A man with superhuman vampiric abilities, he now wages a vengeful war on all vampires and keeps himself from his own violent blood thirst with the help of a serum. He gets the serum from his tech-savvy sidekick, Shen (Nelson Lee), the jokier member of their duo, and together they seek and destroy. They're like ``Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but not as pretty. For the series, Blade fights his enemies within the borders of Detroit.

The drama tonight involves Krista Starr (Jill Wagner), who is drawn into the vampire wars as she investigates the murder of her brother. She falls into the nefarious House of Chthon , which supplies bodies, blood, and safe houses for the local living dead community. Its leader, Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), is a slimy Brit who's always one step ahead of his enemies. He looks boyish -- Jackson has a Neil Patrick Harris quality about him -- but he's 100 percent nasty. He's all bite.

As Spike's first scripted series, ``Blade: The Series" is inauspicious. Until the plot finally begins to turn on Krista's fate, the show is just draining. Once she must decide whether to side with Van Sciver or Blade, the drama comes out of its stupor a bit. The gloomy sets -- this Detroit looks like an annex of hell -- become less oppressive, and Van Sciver becomes cheerier about achieving his evil ends.

Unlike our beleaguered hero, he appears to be having fun.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

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