Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pilot Review: Happy Town

Happy Town (ABC)
Premiered April 28 at 10pm

If it were to be compared to any other show that has premiered over the past year, this show would definitely be lumped with the dismal “Eastwick.” Like that show, it’s obsessed with magic and bizarre, unexplained occurrences, and all of the characters are dubiously mysterious for no real reason other than to create intrigue and suspense. The small-town feel only helps to increase the uncertainty of events and amp up the danger because it could be anyone killing off the residents of the town. The token new girl in town, played by a bumbling Lauren German, is actually there for malicious purposes to unearth some big secret for her definitely not dead mom. The fact that she is picked up by the town’s perkiest resident who feels the need to narrate the history of the town at a high-pitched octave doesn’t help matters, and makes this show immediately more annoying that it might otherwise have been. Apparently they don’t have barbershops in Happy Town, because Steven Weber’s John Haplin is badly in need of a haircut and doesn’t seem likely to ever get one. Abraham Benrubi has been transplanted from his job as a friendly bartender on “Men in Trees” a few years ago and has landed in the exact same role here, albeit minus the beard. M.C. Gainey finally managed to escape the pull of the island after playing Mr. Friendly on “Lost,” but if he keeps chopping off his own limbs here, he’ll have to stick to only one father-of-the-more-prominent character role, likely in his newly started stint on “Justified.” Amy Acker is completely wasted as a baker here, and she should definitely go back to kicking ass on “Dollhouse” instead of this. For the moment, Sam Neill is just being evil and chewing scenery, while the marvelous Frances Conroy doesn’t even appear in this episode, making that the only possible reason to tune in to episode two next week. There’s plenty of intrigue here, but none of it is remotely interesting. The way the pilot episode ends is telling, since a guy chopping off his hand after uttering the name “Chloe” a dozen times doesn’t exactly mean much, and a goofy shot of the Magic Man isn’t too impressive either. At least this show is a bit more serious than “Eastwick,” but that’s pretty much the only compliment it deserves.

How will it work as a series? It’s likely designed to explore a self-contained arc in its first season and go from there, sort of like “Twin Peaks.” Apparently seeking to combat frustrating patterns on shows like “Flash Forward” and “Lost,” the star has mentioned that mysteries will be solved in each episode. That means a whole lot of mysteries and not much room for character development, and I can’t imagine it will be a smooth ride.
How long will it last? Oh, not long at all. I’m not sure what else ABC will have to replace it with, but this is essentially a repeat of the “Eastwick” scenario from earlier this season, in exactly the same time slot! Reviews were scathing, and finding an audience for this show will be just as hard as it was twenty years ago to find anyone to watch “Twin Peaks” – and this show is nowhere near as good as that one. Eight episodes have been ordered, and it will be a miracle if they’re all shown.

Pilot grade: F