Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pilot Review: The Halcyon

The Halcyon (Ovation)
Premiered October 2 at 10pm

I can’t imagine there’s a review of this show that doesn’t begin by talking about “Downton Abbey.” This series, being broadcast on arts network Ovation in the United States, aired back in January on ITV in the UK, just like the popular long-running early twentieth century-set class drama. Its first episode showed that all of its characters have juicy secrets and it included an important ascension to power for the next generation after an impactful adult death. While there are some important differences, anyone who enjoyed “Downton Abbey” will probably like this one too. Instead of having those in the working class and those in the upper class, the employees of the hotel and the guests are on a similar level, with much more acceptable romantic entanglements, guests getting punched, and war on the horizon. I immediately recognized Alex Jennings from “The Crown” as Lord Hamilton, who was at the head of the pack here only to suffer a fatal heart attack by episode’s end, leaving the reins to his son and the show to the always superb Olivia Williams, likely best known to American audiences for “The Ghost Writer” and “Dollhouse.” She had some great moments, like demanding a list of women her husband had fraternized with that Garland had helped to cover up, following up his response that she shouldn’t force him to pick sides with a comment that she doesn’t respect him anyway. This opening hour was more engaging than I might have expected, but it didn’t manage to truly capture my attention.

How will it work as a series? Ending this first episode with the sound of the sirens in the distance was a haunting reminder that the backdrop of war will pervade this otherwise relatively light period drama, which has already introduced very interesting characters whose relationships with one another should provide more than enough intrigue.
How long will it last? A bit of research indicates that ITV already decided to cancel this show back in March following the initial airing of the first eight episodes. I can’t imagine that Ovation would be able to keep the show going after the original network has already dumped it, especially since the acquisition announcement wasn’t made until April. Best to consider this one a mini-series.

Pilot grade: b

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