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First Watch: The Nine Lives of Chloe King 

Photo Credit: ABC Family

ABC Family jumps into the supernatural teen TV race with The Nine Lives of Chloe King, another Alloy-type (but surprisingly not) property just waiting for a pilot. The result is a snappy, charming evolution of a gorgeous (but supposedly nerdy and awkward) Chloe, who on the eve of her 16th birthday finds herself able to balance and jump and catch and throw rather preternaturally. She’s also suddenly catnip to the boys–three of them, although only one of them, Brian, really piques her interest. All of that’s well and truly awesome until, in a fit of fear, claws spring forth from her fingers.

The short version is that she’s a former Ukrainian orphan who was adopted into the States by a couple and dad has since bailed. Mom (Amy Pietz, whose Caroline in the City cohort, Lea Thompson, funnily enough, is also playing an ABCF mom over on Switched at Birth), is understanding and funny, and trying really hard to be the cool mom. Chloe hits a nerve when she asks about her birth family.

After her first claw outing on her actual birthday, she races home to hug her mom but doesn’t tell her what happened. I haven’t read the books, but I hope at some point her mom gets “read in,” as they save at Covert Affairs, because I don’t want her mom to be that unaware.

The flirty boy-friendly banter that Chloe is suddenly enjoying goes sideways when she is chased across the park and pitched off a tower. She lands on her back and then revives. She’s immediately set upon by two classmates—British basketballer Alek (Benjamin Stone) and his girlfriend’s cousin, Jasmine (Alyssa Diaz), who catch her up that they, and she, are Mai, descended from Bastet, and they’re being hunted (welcome!).

She tells them that piece of news is late in coming and she’s already died and come back. This shakes them up because it elevates her to a Uniter–a Mai with nine lives (so, if we’re splitting hairs here, Chloe only has eight left). Before the episode closes, Chloe and her two Mai compadres hold off the hunter but he lives to return as the season’s big bad.

Rounding out Chloe’s pseudo-familia are her best buds Paul (Ki Hong Lee) and Amy (Grace Phipps—straight out of high school in Texas!), who find themselves suddenly attracted to each other and a newly minted couple after Chloe ditches them to dance with a hottie. The hottie later turns up dead because she impulsively kissed him goodnight–seems the Mai are also a sort of Succubus—but that begs the question of how Alek keeps a girlfriend, unless she’s just for show.

Chloe’s new potential boyfriend, Brian, is likely to be a red herring of sorts (I’m guessing) because we follow him home and meet his dad. The other two Mai seem to live on their own. Alek takes Jasmine home when she’s wounded and watches over her there. The episode closes with Chloe getting an X-Files e-mail warning from her MIA dad to “Trust no one.”

So we have the setup for a first season. New powers + teen angst + big bad + mystery dad = viewers, please come. I would like to have seen a little more of pre-change Chloe—we get several “who are you (now)?” type scenarios, but we can’t answer “who were you?” There were three Chloe King books, so there’s plenty to be mined. I like Skyler Samuels as Chloe. She was last on TV in ABC’s guilty pleasure The Gates, where she played, ironically, another Succubus. The show is set in San Francisco so I was sure it was a Vancouver shoot, but it’s LA. Bummer. I was looking forward to some of my Canadian HITGs dropping in. Either way, it’s a nice complement to the Tuesday summer menu alongside Covert Affairs.

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