You may also recall a while back I wrote a review for an Australian TV show called H2O: Just Add Water. It's like Charmed meets mermaids meets teenagers meets all the wholesome goodness you'd hope to find in a Saturday morning Disney show about girls gaining tails. In the original series, three girls fall into a pool of water under a full moon at a place called Mako Island and subsequently gain the ability to become mermaids when exposed to the most splashy of elements.
It had occasional discussions on ecology, being aware of where your food comes from, being responsibly environmental, but also dealt with the good kid stuff like friendship and listening and overcoming obstacles. I loved it. LOVED IT. So much so I've watched the entire series probably three times over the last couple of years thanks to Netflix.
But, it only had three seasons. A woeful tragedy if you ask me.
Then, a spark of hope. This past spring I found out a new series was being made as a spin-off to H2O (thanks to Netflix originals for picking it up), but this one would have a couple of twists:
- Instead of 3 girls that get turned into mermaids, it would feature 3 mermaids that choose to come to land.
- There would be a BOY added to the mix! A guy that finds his way to Mako Island's moon pool during the right time to become a merman. (Merteen?)
I spent my weekend watching it.
I felt this way.
Then a little this way.
Then some of this.
And finally this.
Gone was the laughter and the lighthearted morning show vibe. Sure, they still have it in some Australian city that is tangentially close to the eponymous Mako Island, but calling it a spin-off is wrong. A spin-off features an old character getting put into a new story, typically, or at least lives in the same universe as the parent show. But this new show shares nothing with the original. In fact, for the events in the second series to have happened, the first show could have occurred. The mermaid mythos is completely changed, and you end up sort of hating everyone on the show. Everyone.
Let me break it down further:
- There's a bad guy, but nobody can decide who it should be. You know how in Legend of the Seeker (stay with me) you have to drown a male confessor child at birth or else he'll abuse his powers because he's a stupid boy and kill all the everyone? Well, apparently there's a strong hint that being a merman is all the bad and there's a trident and if he gets it he's totally coming for seaside armageddon. Or he's not. Or the three girls are total bitches and spend half of every episode trying to take the accidental merboy's powers away.
- The three mermaids are textbook definitions of depression. So they get kicked out of their pod (family of mermaids) because the lead guy becomes a merman. And they literally spend every minute of screen time being very, very, very sad about it. It's the most melodramatic attempt at teen angst I've seen, and it's not even done well. You can tell the girls have naturally bubbly personalities that have been directed into submission because they're going for an older audience.
- Oh...That's right...older audience. At first it was fun seeing the cute boy constantly take his shirt off and find reasons to flex. And the girls even got their share of skin time. But, then it was all the time. The guy changes his shirt in the middle of a scene, seemingly just to remind us he still has a six-pack. The girls wash up naked and confused on a beach and then the leggiest of the three walks around like some Freshman dork's wet dream in a white button down and boots for an entire episode. (Yes, and nothing else.) I'm not a prude, I swear, but it's really jarring to see this in what is definitely supposed to be a show accessible to a pre-teen audience. Plus, it seems to be done in lieu of a plot.
- THE POWERS! Ok... I get it. You might tweak the powers a bit because of the 'real mermaid' and 'new merman' plots, but these are off the chart. Sometimes they're telekinetic, have the power of invisibility, can affect electronics with their mind, control the different phases of water, storms, and the list goes on and on. For every situation, there's a brand new power. Sometimes, lightning bolts just shoot from random places because nobody's used their mermaid powers in a few minutes and they just feel like reminding us they can.
- The friendships, or lack thereof. What was the central point of the first series, and most successful YA shows is the friendship of the main group. However, the three mermaids make it a point of reminding us how they were forced to be together because they're cast out. The merman initially gives us a great storyline with his best friend, but almost immediately treats him like a jerk, dumps his girlfriend hard and painfully, and goes on the biggest ego trip ever to swim the seven seas. You feel no empathy for anyone. There were times when I wanted to call up the nearest sushi place and tell them of a new Australian delicacy.
- The Power Rangers set. Obviously, the first series did quite well financially, because they have the money to make the biggest Power Rangers wannabe secret hideout mermaid set ever. Also, apparently if you're a school principal in Australia, you can afford an oceanfront mansion with a batcave...er...mercave?
I didn't like it. At all. I got through all thirteen episodes hoping it would find its groove, but it never did. It tries too hard to maintain both the aesthetic charm of the original and the brooding teen angst of a CW show. In fact, they should have just gone full Vampire Diaries. At least then it would be honest and they could really give the whole sexy, broody vibe a true shot. Presently, I'm hesitant to give it another go when the other half of the season drops in September.
Have YOU watched Mako Mermaids?
Love and Lyte,