HAPPY TOWN. (TV show, now airing Wednesday nights at 10pm (Eastern Time) on ABC.)
Review by L.L. Soares
Like newcomer Henley (Lauren German), when we first drift into the town of Haplin, Minnesota, thing seem a little off. Maybe it’s the way the town sherrif, Griffin Conroy (M.C. Gainey, who you might recognize as one of the “Others” from LOST) occasionally starts muttering about “Chloe” for some reason, and then he denies it when questioned about it. Then there’s the death of the town perv, Jerry Friddle, who we see early on, in a shack by an ice pond, being questioned by a mysterious stranger, just before he gets his skull ventilated by a hammer and chisel.
A bread factory overlooks the town, owned by a family that hires many of Haplin’s residents as employees. Oh, and five years ago, a possible serial killer called the “Magic Man” took his last victim and disappeared. Is he dead? Retired? Or is he just waiting for the time to start his collecting again?
As the real estate lady tells us, people who live in Haplin call it Happy Town, but we’re talking irony here.
There are the obligatory weird/quirky characters, including a quartet of widows who stay at the same boarding house Henley does, the landlady, Mrs. Meadows, who informs her she better never go up to the third floor if she wants to continue living there (which just makes us want to know more about the third floor). There’s also the man who runs the bread factory, John Haplin (Steven Weber), of the Haplin family who named this town, whose daughter was the Magic Man’s last victim. And some menacing redneck brothers who seem to be the cause of most of the town’s problems.
Another main character is Tommy Conroy (Geoff Stults), the sherrif’s son and the husband of Rachel (the terrific Amy Acker, best known from the Joss Whedon’s shows ANGEL (where she played “Fred”) and the more recent DOLLHOUSE (where she played Dr.Saunders).
Perhaps the oddest duck of all, though, is Sam Neill as Merritt Grieves, another stranger who has decided to open a movie memorabilia store in town. He seems to know a lot about the history of the Magic Man, and seems happy to open his shop in a town where the locals will probably have no interest in his wares. Is Neill’s character somehow tied in with the murders and disappearances – or is he just a red herring? It’s too early to tell.
We do find out at the end of the first episode, during a cell phone call, that Henley’s real name is actually “Chloe,” which makes us wonder about her link to the Sherrif, who has just cut off his own hand while blathering on like a madman in his office about “Chloe.”
The second episode shows us some new mysteries, including a hammer with a goat’s head, a stranger who drugs a girl’s coffee (is he the Magic Man?), and lots of birds, including one that smashes through the windshield of Henley/Chloe’s car, driving her off the road. We also get one mystery solved – who killed Jerry Friddle?
The show has set things up to deliver an interesting storyline, but whether it lives up to its promise or loses its way is yet to be seen. There are moments when the show comes off like a riff of David Lynch’s classic television show TWIN PEAKS (which ended well before its time). TWIN PEAKS was also on ABC, and is celebrating the twentieth anniversary since it first aired. HAPPY TOWN seems like it’s trying to be as quirky as Lynch’s show, but it’s definitely not in the same league. Yet.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t be an entertaining show as it develops.
I, for one, plan to keep watching and find out more about this strange small town.
© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares