As the fall television season progresses there are shows that have been flourishing (huzzah Modern Family!) and some that are floundering (yikes, who green-lit Hank?). We’re quickly approaching the ever-important November sweeps which is a time when networks will begin to unveil promos for their mid-season replacements poised in the wings to take over for these latter-categorized series which won’t see new episodes past the holidays. One such show ABC has on deck puts me at odds on where to place a yay or nay vote of support – Happy Town.
Now, being an avid proponent of shows in the mystery genre I whole-heartedly endorse bringing stories of intrigue to the television viewing audience – I’ve been fully engrossed in the on-going trials of Lost since its inaugural year and the new Flash Forward has also hooked my interest. So it seems Happy Town should be right up my alley if what is presented in the synopsis suggests is true. However after viewing the trailer/promo I found myself turned off, and frankly appalled, by the tactics and slant used to entice a potential audience.
Where to begin with this critique? First, “From the network that brought you Twin Peaks.” Wow. If you’re going to lead with that you better have the huevos to back up those convictions. Just because a show is set in a small, seemingly idyllic northern town that gets rocked by a murder it does not mean you can evoke the name of a series as complex, riveting, quirky and twisted as Twin Peaks in order to sell it. And sell the hell out of it you could, if the rest of the promo delivered on such promises. This one fails spectacularly in several areas.
The editing and music choices are equal parts mediocre, unimaginative and misguided in setting the tone. The odd choice to use a charming tune at the top with close-ups of a wide-eyed ingenue basking in the feeling of new beginnings makes me think of scenes from the defunct, dramatic series October Road – which makes sense as that short-lived show features prominently on the resumes of Happy Town creators Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg. I’m confused, did they purposefully choose to mimic their last endeavor or did some leftover material accidentally get pulled into the cut?
On the topic of show runners, with the less-than-stellar October in their past I’m not feeling a huge sense of security that this team will be able to successfully head up a series in the vein of top-notch mystery man J.J. Abrams. While this group is counted amongst the players of Team Abrams their credits with him include the fourth and fifth seasons of Alias, widely considered the weakest of the ABC spy drama.
I will hold my final opinion for Happy Town the series until after a viewing of at least an episode or two, but I was not impressed by dialogue nor the uninteresting (creepy?) scenes contained within the promo. The one aspect that carries any clout is the cast (hello Frances Conroy and Amy Acker), I just hope that these talents won’t be completely wasted with what appears to be lackluster writing.
My opinion on this promo, however, is most assuredly concrete and nothing but disappointed. This is the initial venue to highlight the best of your series and set the appropriate tone. Don’t just give me a by-the-numbers intro if the very first image you use involves the words Twin Peaks, which are sacred ones. Thou shalt not take the Lynch name in vain. Deliver the goods, or find another angle to hawk your wares. Granted promos can only be as compelling as the material they have to work with, so perhaps this is by all accounts a good indication of what we should expect for this series: bland masking as bold.