The cast of “Midnight, Texas,” including Mr. Snuggly the cat. Virginia Sherwood NBC
The cast of “Midnight, Texas,” including Mr. Snuggly the cat. Virginia Sherwood NBC

TV

New NBC series ‘Midnight, Texas’ is where the magic happens, Charlaine Harris-style

By David Martindale

Special to the Star-Telegram

July 20, 2017 09:19 AM

When Charlaine Harris was a girl, she spent her summers with family in Rocksprings, Texas.

The Edwards County town 200 miles west of Austin — and only a few miles away from the Devil’s Sinkhole, a vertical canyon that’s home to millions of Mexican free-tailed bats — made a lasting impression on the bestselling novelist.

Years later, when Harris created her own middle-of-nowhere map-dot community, she named it Midnight, Texas.

“Midnight is a lot like the little town that I knew,” Harris says. There’s just one difference and it’s a doozy. “The people in the town in my books,” she notes, “have magical and supernatural powers.”

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Her popular “Midnight, Texas” trilogy, which launched in 2014 and concluded last year, has morphed into a TV series in which almost any crazy thing can happen.

It premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on NBC.

“I think people who haven’t read the books will react to the great kinetic energy that’s onscreen and they’ll be hit in the face repeatedly by the unexpected,” Harris says.

As for those who have read the trilogy, the author says, “The TV show and the books really feed off each other, not being absolute duplicates of each other.”

Watch the cat

The people of Midnight include a psychic who talks to the dead, a vampire, an angel, a witch and a reverend who disappears every month under the influence of a full moon. There are many other residents, all with dark secrets. And just as a heads up: You’ll want to keep an eye on the cat called Mr. Snuggly.

“I love television that takes you to another world, with characters you want to spend time with,” executive producer/showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen says. “Midnight is one of those places.

“The world that Charlaine created, with assassins and vampires and psychics, lends itself to all sorts of surprising events. You can never see anything coming, but it all feels inevitable and great.

“It’s a world where there’s action and horror and romance and characters you wish you were friends with. And it’s like nothing else on television.”

‘True Blood’

Harris, who moved to the Fort Worth area in 2012, already has scored two successes on television during the past decade.

Her series of Sookie Stackhouse paranormal mystery novels spawned “True Blood,” a savage soap opera with Southern vampires. It was a huge viewer favorite on HBO from 2008 to 2014.

On a more modest scale, her Aurora Teagarden whodunits led to a series of mystery movies that have been airing on Hallmark Channel for the past three years.

Despite these TV triumphs, Harris is quick to point out that her involvement pretty much ended with publication of the books.

“I stick to what I know how to do, which is writing books,” she says. “I have never asked to write a script. Some writers are very eager and capable of doing that, but that has never appealed to me.”

Harris is reluctant to make any predictions regarding the show’s chances for a long network run. The business of television, after all, “is not my area of expertise.”

Case in point: Harris remembers seeing the in-your-face opening credits sequence for “True Blood” for the first time and fearing the worst.

“I told my husband, ‘People will hate this. We’re going to have to move. It’s going to be so controversial.’ But it didn’t turn out that way. People loved it. I was very surprised and somewhat startled.”

The new show opens with Manfred the psychic (played by Francois Arnaud) arriving in town and almost immediately being drawn into a local murder case. Before long, Manfred will find that Midnight is ground zero for what is destined to be an epic battle between forces of good and evil.

Who knew that one of these blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roadside towns could be so important?

But the real magic of Midnight, Owusu-Breen maintains, is how relatable everyone there is.

“Charlaine has created characters that are rich and funny and surprising,” she says. “And despite being supernatural, they’re ultimately human. They get to the core of what it means to be a community.”

Midnight, Texas

  • 9 p.m. Monday
  • KXAS/Channel 5