“Dante’s Cove” Heavy on Allure, Light on Substance

The cast of Dante's CoveChrissy (Michaela Mann) and Amber (Zara Taylor)

Do you ever wish you could smolder a hapless sexual rival with a single searing look from your red-glowing eyes?

On Here TV’s new series Dante’s Cove, which “follows the lives of a group of gay and lesbian twentysomethings living in an apartment complex on the beach”, actress Tracy Scoggins not only does this twice, but gets to shackle a man in a dungeon while she’s decked out in full dominatrix splendor. She also gets to deliver uber-diva lines in an ever-shifting accent that is unpredictable parts Aussie, British and simple affectation.

Scoggins plays Grace, an 1840s society lady whose advances are fended off by her fiancé, Ambrosius (William Gregory Lee), in the name of not spoiling their wedding night. When she soon thereafter catches him bending over for the butler, her witchy powers bubble to the surface. She disintegrates the full-frontally nude, um, manservant into a small pile of smoking debris, then transforms Ambrosius from a dashing lad into a scraggly old man.

“Consider our wedding night spoiled!” she cackles, then curses him to eternal captivity. His improbable and only chance for freedom is to win the kiss of a young man.

If this sort of schlockiness amuses you, Dante’s Cove, is sure to deliver—with all the grace of a gorilla in stilettos. But it also treats viewers to plenty of eye candy, tricking them into thinking there’s any other reason to watch. And what sets it apart from similar fare is that, on this show, things just get queerer and queerer as the action unfolds.

After the opening sequence the action fast-forwards to present-day Laguna Beach, where a group of twenty-somethings live a 21st-century gothic version of free love in the haunted Dante Hotel, an apartment complex that is the former mansion of Ambrosius and current prison to his ghost. The young artists, surfers, students and slackers run the gamut from bi to straight to gay/lesbian.

Many are simply experimenting, and all of them are suspiciously good-looking and scantily clad. Together they delve into the hotel’s spooky goings-on and general creepiness that lurks in their midst.

The show’s gauzy storyline is held together by gloopy soft-core smut and patchy gothic camp. These qualities combine to make Dante’s Cove “your newest guilty pleasure,” as the official website proclaims. It’s shameless in its segue-free sexual romps, which will no doubt make it hot for many a viewer, if the b-movie special effects and porn-worthy dialogue don’t turn you off.

Dante’s Cove (its title a not-so-subliminal suggestion of Dawson’s Creek) has been compared to soap operas such as Dark Shadows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Melrose Place, and The O.C. While it lacks these shows’ production values, surely it also lacks their budgets. And while the writing quality doesn’t exactly pick up where Queer as Folk left off, Dante’s Cove steers clear of that show’s pretension while delivering an equal abundance of queer characters.