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Fall TV Review

There's no life to this vampire story

Alex O'Loughlin (with Sophia Myles) plays the undead P.I. Alex O'Loughlin (with Sophia Myles) plays the undead P.I. (Richard Cartwright/CBS Entertainment)

Surely eternal life is tedious, like an endless novel with no denouement. Why bother with carpe diem, when tomorrows are a dime a dozen? Yup, I'm certain that's why Australian actor Alex O'Loughlin delivers such an exhausted, droopy, monotone performance as a vampire in CBS's "Moonlight." He's making a brilliant, actorly choice to reflect the anomic result of the existential quandary relevant to the infinitude of immortality.

Yeah, right.

As Mick St. John, vampire gumshoe, O'Loughlin is a flatliner. He sleepwalks through "Moonlight," which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 4. His voiceover narration is supposed to be hard-boiled, with lines such as "When you live forever, the past always catches up with you," but it's more like a dull bedtime story. In creating the premiere, CBS changed almost all the personnel, onscreen and backstage. One of the few who survived the futzing was O'Loughlin - which is peculiar, since he is so very underwhelming.

Anyway, "Moonlight" doesn't deserve an engaging lead, since it's dead - not dead and then undead, just plain dead - on arrival.

The show's stale idea, which "Angel," "Dark Shadows," and Anne Rice have already pursued, is that Mick is a nice vampire who does not feed on humans. A trauma from his past, which unfolds in ridiculous flashbacks that are no more technically sophisticated than "Dark Shadows," turned him into a mush ball. Now he gets his blood from a morgue. He also solves crimes, which throws him into contact tonight with the show's female lead, Beth (Sophia Myles), an Internet reporter. Beth is hot on the case of a woman found murdered with two puncture wounds in her neck.

Beth's editor loves the vampire story, and she urges Beth on with the show's best line: "Don't think," she exclaims, "Go! Mama needs fresh copy!" Perhaps the writers lifted the words from their own bosses at CBS.

And so Beth and Mick continually cross paths, and the actors pretend to be developing some kind of romantic bond. Much of "Moonlight" is amateurish, but nothing is more amateurish than the artificial chemistry between O'Loughlin and Myles, who looks like Kate Winslet. They exchange lines of dialogue with a stilted rhythm and no natural flow. Not that the script offers much to inspire an actor. The procedural case in tonight's episode is dashed off and obvious, as the pair investigate a professor obsessed with vampire mythology.

A small burst of energy arrives in the scenes featuring Jason Dohring (from "Veronica Mars") as Josef, an aggressive vampire - and millionaire - who still feeds on humans. Indeed, the decadent Josef is trailed by a young lady from whose arm he occasionally takes a refreshing sip. As Mick says, Josef is "400 going on 30," and that makes him more troublesome and therefore more fun than Mick, who frets like a sad old man. Growing exceedingly old may not be easy, but that's a problem "Moonlight" will probably never have to face.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit boston.com/ae/tv/blog/.

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Moonlight

Starring: Alex O'Loughlin, Jason Dohring, Sophia Myles, Shannyn Sossamon

On: CBS, Channel 4

Time: Tonight, 9-10

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