'Teen Wolf': The new, shirtless 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

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Many dismiss "Teen Wolf" as adolescent fluff. After all, it's a teen-oriented show based on a cheesy '80s movie. "Teen Wolf" also airs on MTV and regularly features impossibly attractive people taking off much of their clothing.

But there's more than this silliness. "Teen Wolf" has, in its three seasons, brought horror, comedy and teen angst to television in a way unheard of since "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In fact, "Teen Wolf" and "Buffy" have a lot in common.

Could comparing the two shows give potential "Teen Wolf" viewers a little more motivation to check out one of the best shows on television? Keep reading and find out.

The horrors of high school

The most obvious comparison between "Buffy" and "Teen Wolf" is in the settings. Both shows take place in California towns where deadly supernatural occurrences happen all too frequently. More importantly, the heroes of each are high school students. Like Buffy, Willow, Xander and the rest, the "Teen Wolf" kids have to juggle horrifying monsters with homework, dating and curfew.

Horror movies really are a great metaphor for the trials of high school, and it's time a new series followed "Buffy" in reminding us of that.

Hunters and monsters

Here's another obvious comparison between "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Teen Wolf": These are shows about monsters and the valiant humans who hunt them. Only on "Teen Wolf," we tend to see things more from the perspective of the monsters.

That's kind of what happens when your lead character and at least half of the supporting cast are supernatural beings of one form or another. This isn't to say that the hunters are bad guys. They're not (at least most of them). In fact, Allison Argent ( Crystal Reed), the female lead, is a hunter by birth and training.

Add in plenty of bad monsters, and it's "Buffy" and her slaying all over again.

Scoobies

The "Buffy" Scooby gang is legendary in the history of television. Ever since that ragtag bunch of misfits got together in Sunnydale, TV has regularly labeled any grouping of characters in on a secret by the same name.

Obviously, "Teen Wolf" needs a Scooby gang of its own. And oh, does it ever have one! In this case, the Scoobies are a constantly evolving pack. Currently headed by the main character of Scott McCall ( Tyler Posey), this pack includes werewolves, humans (including the aforementioned Allison) and even a banshee.

Keeping their town and families safe from the supernatural baddies requires each and every Scooby/pack member. No one goes it alone on shows like these.

Good guys go bad go good go bad ...

One of the best parts of "Buffy" is also one of the best parts of "Teen Wolf": ambiguity. We don't necessarily know who the good guys are. The bad guys may turn out to be helpful -- or at least not so evil once we get to know them.

Plus, teams change. The vampire Spike ( James Marsters) is the prime example of this on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," changing his allegiance on a regular basis. On "Teen Wolf," Peter Hale ( Ian Bohen) gleefully jumps between being a reluctant friend and the ultimate enemy.

The current season of "Teen Wolf" has taken the concept of ambiguous characters even further by subjecting its three main heroes -- Scott, Allison and Stiles ( Dylan O'Brien) -- to an apparently evil form of supernatural madness. Will they all be heroes by season's end? "Teen Wolf" doesn't give an easy answer.

Good teen shows aren't just for teens

Despite all of these arguments, some potential viewers over the age of 20 might argue that "Teen Wolf" is just for the kids.

No. Just no.

Teenagers -- whether clothed or shirtless -- are vehicles for entertainment, not determinants of who should watch. The stories these kids inhabit are as sophisticated as anything aimed solely at adults on television. Strong characters pass through great plots that entertain and hold up under viewer scrutiny.

No one in their right mind would say that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a TV show just for teens. "Teen Wolf" deserves the same consideration.
Photo/Video credit: MTV, The WB
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