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Every once in a while, a show comes along that promises to be a break
from the norm - a show that makes you think and second guess your
assumptions with each scene. Sometimes, these shows can be annoying
because they tend to be plot less efforts at eye candy. But Happy Town
wasn't one of them. It was one of the good ones - and ABC executives
have decided in their infinite wisdom that shadows over the common man
to pull the plug on this show.
This is why I don't trust the broadcast network hierarchy, and why I stick to satellite television reception. And it really doesn't matter which one you watch, either. ABC, NBC, and CBS all have the same mantra - premier a great show on a bad night, show two episodes, wait a few weeks until everyone forgets what happened, show a few more episodes, then cancel the show due to "bad ratings." Hello? What did you think was going to happen? Happy Town never had a chance. And it's a shame that good writing is wasted on the netherworld of broadcast stuffed-shirt politics.
I got a sneak peak at the first two episodes of this show at a friend's
house (who worked on the show) and it's really great.
It's very different from the original 2 hour pilot from May that other people have mentioned. The characters are quirky and fun, and the world they set up is an interesting one that definitely balances mystery with the intrigue of small town politics, and leaves a lot of room to grow in future episodes.
Geoff Stults is great as Tommy, and all the other characters are compelling to watch, especially Sam Neil as Merritt Grieves, and the guy who plays Dan Farmer (Peter Outerbridge). Lauren German is lovely as Henley (the new girl in town), and Steven Weber and Frances Conroy are wonderfully menacing as the heads of the town-founding Haplin family.
Saying it's 'the next Twin Peaks' sets an impossibly high bar, but it really does look like a worthy successor and will be a lot of fun to watch.
I can't wait to see the rest of the episodes!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's see if they can hold it.
"Happy Town" is presented as a whodunit about a mysterious rash of kidnappings in an idyllic small town. The kidnapper got clean away and has been inactive for five years at the time of the pilot. Ominous doings indicate that the Magic Man has returned to Haplin, Minnesota. As the premiere episode progresses, it becomes apparent that Haplin is hiding a number of dark secrets, which may or may not be related to the mystery of the Magic Man.
The episode opens on Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives," an excellent choice not just because it's a great song but because it is not immediately apparent which time period the show is presenting to the viewer. It's an unsettling note on which to start the episode, and it really sets the tone for this show.
Another thing the show runners got right was the small town setting. I've watched any number of Gothic shows set in small towns that did not remotely resemble the dynamics of any small town I ever lived in. This show gets the claustrophobic vibe just right, so points for that. Their location scout also deserves kudos for whatever town is standing in for those exterior shots. It's just perfect.
Also perfect: the cast. This show is chocked full of wonderful actors, any one of whom could have carried a show on their own. Together, they have the kind of combined presence necessary to keep a viewer engrossed while watching for developments in the plot.
As to the plot, the pilot asks more questions than it answers, but that's to be expected in the first episode. I really hope the pace picks up in future episodes, though.
Only one thing didn't quite work for me, and that's the dialogue. Nobody talks like this. The Sheriff's eccentric pronouncements are somewhat explained by the end of the episode. None of the other characters have that excuse. The marketing folks at ABC are inviting viewers to compare this series to Twin Peaks, but part of the reason that show's oddball dialogue worked was because the directors were taking their cues from David Lynch, maintaining a dreamlike ambiance in which strange verbal choices were just another part of that world. This director played it pretty straight, so the dialogue just didn't quite come off.
That's not going to stop me from watching the second episode, however. This show could shape up to be really great. I'm willing to keep watching and find out if it's got legs.
I have never been one to judge a TV show until I've watched at least
three or four episodes. I like the quirky characters in Happy Town, and
the acting is good. I see potential here and intend to keep watching it
just in case it turns out to be "must see TV."
I don't trust many reviewers, including Matt Roush at TV Guide. He tends to jump to quick conclusions that make you decide not to watch the show, and then, all of a sudden, six episodes later, he says it's "starting to pick up," and then he's raving about it, and I've missed the beginning episodes.
He's done this with a couple of shows and I'm not going to trust him anymore. This time, I'll judge on my own, and now that some shows are moving toward their season finales, I'll watch this one online.
It may not ever rise to Twin Peaks level, but it IS quirky. Give it a chance. Of course, since I'm 60 years old, I tend to be more easily impressed than the younger folk. >grin<
For those sad about the retirement of LOST and a hankering for some
Twin Peaks-like action, Happy Town may fill that gap. It certainly
doesn't hold anything back as far as serving its inspirations. It's a
strange, humorous, and quirky affair with mysteries abound. The town
has its own personality and one that is Lottery-esquire (in reference
to the short story) and quite two faced. However, you'll know how
interested you are in the series once they start to talk about The
Magic Man and M.C. Gainey starts spouting off some weird mumbo jumbo
that no one seems to be able to make sense of. You'll either take to
the Twin Peak aspirations and obvious mysteries, or you'll want
something much more grounded.
However, with genre shows having their peak at the moment, Happy Town may be worth sticking around for. The pilot is entertaining enough and the actors all do a fairly decent job of playing their respective parts. Hats off to Gainey and Sam Neill, both of whom stand out, with Gainey being a REAL Mr. Friendly here (with a seeming split in personality that I'm sure will be explained) and Sam pulling off being creepily British oh so well. For Sam alone and to see what they do with his character alone, it may be worth sticking around. As far as everything else, it's an ABC show with a slight Steven King, David Lynch twist (of which the creators stated was a huge inspiration for the show anyway). So, you can expect some gruesome details, although only two particular appeared in the pilot.
So, if you've got a soft spot for Twin Peaks and want something to get going with as LOST winds down, Happy Town may be your cup of Chamomile Tea, or whatever tea you prefer.
HAPPY TOWN had no small amount of potential. The setting was great, the
plot was fairly strong, or at least layered enough to create the solid
beginning to a mystery, and there were some interesting, well played
characters, specifically Same Neill and M.C. Gainey. Oh, and the guy
who played Root Beer. Love him.
That's about it. The dialogue in this show is atrocious. I mean really, really bad. Just about everyone speaks in total clichés. Sometimes, in order to sound "mysterious" and "quirky" the writers will give someone a line so cryptic that it's just silly. Example: "Just call me Gazpacho. 'Cause I like my soup cold." Huh? I know the show was cancelled in midstream, but the ending is terrible. Obviously it would be impossible to wrap up multiple seasons worth of loose ends in a single episode, but there was in ton of extraneous garbage in the last episode that could have been spent on something worthwhile. Instead they chose to blindside the audience with a bizarre, unsatisfying ending.
In the end, HAPPY TOWN desperately tries to be unique and original, something in the vein of the excellent TWIN PEAKS, but succeeds only in being derivative and silly.
Still, I watched every episode and was then motivated enough to write a long winded review. So, if you like dark mystery shows with hints of comedy (even when it doesn't totally work), check it out. You'll be no more disappointed than if you just watched TWO AND A HALF MEN instead.
This is the most entertaining show I've seen in a long time. Now I can
only hope that they can keep what the creators of HAPPY TOWN have done
up and running.
The similarity to TWIN PEAKS is obvious, with a huge commercial bakery standing in for the mill. The action starts out with a (surprisingly graphic) murder and then begins introducing the cast of very strange characters.
Better yet, this is clearly an homage to the giallo genre, the Italian slasher films. Young woman on her own trying to solve a mystery? Check. Creepy settings? Check. A man lacking in self confidence trying to act as an authority figure and restore order? Check. Story element tied to the arts? Check. Long running disputes with hidden motives going way back? Check. Smart people doing stupid things that violate all the rules of common sense? Check. Elderly women, who sometimes act as a chorus in commenting on the action? Check.
Better yet, the camera work is pure giallo. The lightning is atmospheric, creating a sense of lurking menace. And the color is as saturated as can be. Scenes are often bathed in blue or green light to heighten the mood.
Since the network has given us this show and FLASHFORWARD this year, ABC can be officially forgiven for having created and unleashed DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and GREY'S ANATOMY on an unsuspecting world.
Billed as the new 'Twin Peaks' but with more on par with 'Harpers
Island' comes the eerie 'Happy Town'.
The town of Haplin is named after the Haplin family who own the Bakery that employs most of the town inhabitants. Five years earlier the Haplins 8 year old daughter vanished, believed to be the last victim of a serial killer called the Magic Man. For five years in the aftermath of the last disappearance the town has managed to perfect its manners and idyllic setting creating a welcoming facade. Two things happen that begin to tear apart this weak illusion, a vicious murder which opens the show and the arrival of a young woman intent on opening up a candle shop in the town yet clearly has another agenda.
As we become woven into the plot and introduced to some of the towns inhabitants many freaky characters begin to emerge mainly the owner of the boarding house in which reside a group of 'golden girls'. On the outskirts of town are a family of rednecks with a simpleton brother (definitely influenced by Twin Peaks) but the most creepy character is that of an English gentleman Merritt Grieves played by Sam Neill. With his character they could move away from serial killer land established in 'Harpers Island' and go more with the weird and wonderful that was Twin Peaks. The pilot raises interesting questions, is the blue door significant, what lies on the forbidden top floor of the boarding house, what is Chloe up to and is the magic man a supernatural killer as opposed to a human one.
As well as the acting talents of Sam Neill we have the beautiful star of 'Angel and Dollhouse' Amy Acker with Steven Webber and 'Men in Trees' star Abraham Benrubi.
Filmed in Canada this is definitely one to keep watching.
Happy Town came as a pleasant surprise, however I just could not help but wonder if the writers dipped their hands into one of Stephen King's creepy classic "NEEDFUL THINGS". Sam Neil's role as "Merritt Grieves", is so seemly similar with Max Von Sydow's sinister "Leland Gaunt". Hey, as long as the formula produces a creepy yet delicious dish for TV. M.C. Gainey who played the Town Sheriff (he also played as the pilot in the movie CON-AIR) was my MVP for the 1st episode, great acting, I would have given it to Sam, but, his role in this series looks wickedly good.The pilot episode started slow BUT soon picked up pace, I am looking forward to next week's show....The ladies living in the B&B resembles a coven, don't you think?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why does ABC seem to cancel only good shows? It seems shows where you have to show the slightest bit of patients while a story line unfolds seem to bore an American public. The only show ever to escape that seems to be Lost. But the last episode of that was a real let down. At least in the 8 episodes they had of Happy Town, they left you enough to make up your own conclusions of what happened. (now i just found out Leslie Nielsen is dead too!) Man this day sucks, I thought the overall acting in this was great, and the camera work was fantastic for the most part, really helped build the atmosphere, I guess one of the only mistakes this this series made is not getting into the really good stuff in the first 2 or 3 episodes. Maybe then it would of held peoples attention more. Overall I gave this a 9/10 I saw one review compare this to twin peaks and I agree the similarities are unmistakable and had even thought the same thing myself. Personally I believe this could of gotten one up on twin peaks had it been allowed to unfold, although it didn't have the cult classic feel of strangeness Twin Peaks did, it felt more immersive and i felt a lot more in touch with the characters then Twin Peaks. As stated before such a shame this was canceled. Why can't the cancel ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives or other similar shows for once?
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