The second half of the third season of MTV’s smash success series Teen Wolf premieres tonight, and rather than face tonight’s otherwise bleak TV landscape, you should tune in. Or at least record it so you can watch it after you catch up on what you’ve already missed. Because Teen Wolf, despite its silly title and prominence in the current teen canon, is actually a show that you don’t have to be ashamed of watching. Here are five reasons why.
1. The writing is clever, and self-aware. Sure, too much winking irony can be annoying, but Teen Wolf manages to strike a canny balance between dishing out the earnest horror and romance that its ardent teen fanbase so desperately wants and tossing a few juicy scraps to the adults who happen to be watching. Whether there in secret shame or having a wine-soaked, unabashed viewing party, Teen Wolf never forgets to welcome its relatively elderly fans. You might still feel embarrassed about watching it—I mean, it’s called Teen Wolf for Christ’s sake—but it’s at least nice to know that the people making the show are adults too.
2. It’s genuinely scary!Teen Wolf isn’t going to plague you with nightmares or have you religiously checking behind shower curtains or taking a sharp object to bed with you every night, but in the moment, it can be a jumpy, chilling piece of TV entertainment. It doesn’t traffic in the nihilistic gross-outs of American Horror Story, though. Instead it features good old-fashioned creature-feature scares, all done with increasing elegance (yes, elegance) and without relying toomuch on hokey computer effects.
3. The kids are good actors. Most of them, anyway! I don’t want to single out any weak spots, because that would be mean, but I will say that Dylan O’Brien, Crystal Reed, and Holland Roden in particular have done a nice job of shading their characters (the writing helps, of course) while keeping things mostly light and airy. O’Brien in particular has pulled a rather marvelous move we’ll call the Adam Brody—meaning he’s made his version of Seth Cohen, sarcastic-cute stringbean Stiles, the accidental hero of the show, overshadowing the series’s hunky lead. The entire cast’s dynamic has deepened over the past two and a half seasons, and oftentimes they banter and bicker like some of the better ensembles on TV.
4. The show often “goes there.” Sorry to borrow one of Degrassi: The Next Generation’s marketing slogans, but it’s true. Teen Wolf doesn’t shy away from stuff that many other firmly teen-oriented shows might find taboo. The sex is sexy (whether it’s gay or straight) and the gore is gory. The stakes on Teen Wolf are higher than anything on a show called Teen Wolf have any business being.
5. The locker room. Come on. You’re not above it, we’re not above it, no one’s above it. We all know why a large portion of the audience watches this show, or at least why they initially started watching it, and that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that! For unapologetically catering to the female (and gay male) gaze when most horror goes the other direction, Teen Wolf deserves praise. Plus the actors are definitely all older than the characters they play. So, y’know, you’re not going to get in trouble. And if it won’t get you in trouble, there’s no reason to be ashamed.