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Happy Town 1.01 – In This Home on Ice

The cast of ABC's Happy Town

Grade: D+

I was hoping to start reviews on a bit of a higher note, but the premier of Happy Town was too much NOT to write about.

Initially, I was excited about Happy Town. I’m a bit of a genre nerd, so the idea of a small town mystery was almost too good to pass up. Not to mention it’s form the network that canceled gave us Twin Peaks. It also happens to have Amy Acker in it who is one of my favorite television actresses.

The story revolves around the small town of Haplin (or known as “Happy Town”… get it?) where everything seems to be peachy keen. Except for the mysterious “Magic Man” who went on a run of kidnapping several members of the town once a year. He’s disappeared recently but as we learn from the pilot, he’s on the rise again.

Sounds interesting? Well, it could be. The show is created by Josh Appelbaum, Andrew Nemec and Scott Rosenberg. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but they’ve done October Road and Life on Mars for ABC, both which lasted only one season.

Is this their chance to finally create show that lasts for more than 19 episodes?

I really hope not.

Happy Town is a mess from the first scene onwards. First and foremost, the lack of intelligence by any of the characters is utterly astounding. Take the first scene. It involves a girl in the woods who hears someone screaming. Rather than call for help (cause, ya know, she might have a cellphone) she takes off when it starts to rain. How about when the police have to tell a woman that her husband is dead? Instead of taking her somewhere private, they announce his death in front of most of the ensemble cast. Cue overreacted response. I understand that television characters can’t always be as smart as we want them to be, otherwise plots would usually move too quickly. However there’s a level of aptitude that writers can give to their characters that puts their intelligence above grade school level.

Speaking of the writers… I think I might be starting to understand why their past shows have only lasted one seasons each. This is probably some of the worst writing that I’ve seen from a network television show (and that’s saying something, I watched Heroes up until season 3). Take Sam Neill and Amy Acker’s first scene. They’re husband and wife, that’s established, but instead of having the viewers subtly understand that they are happily married, have good jobs, have a daughter and that Amy Acker’s character wants to move to California. Hey, show them hugging or have Amy give Sam a peck on the cheek and smile. Once he’s gone have it flash over her sighing and holding one of those brochures to California. Anything. No, instead we get a minute long monologue explaining every single detail about their happy, Haplin-filled lives. Why mention that mommy works at the bread factory? We see that later. Why mention that he’s a deputy cop? We see that later. It’s an insult to the intelligence of the viewer. And I haven’t even begun to talk about “THE THIRD FLOOR IS STRICTLY OFF LIMITS”. Cause this is Happy Town, where the guy getting a mallet to the head was actually an unintentional metaphor for the show’s writing style.

Other lines, such as “you’re as cute as a mouse’s pocketbook” might win an award for the worst line of dialog on a television show this season. Really? A mouse’s pocketbook? I don’t care how small of a town this old bag is from, I’ve never heard of any old lady remotely saying anything similar to that. Usually my grandmother asks for another gin on the rocks but that’s a different story entirely.

The title character Henley played by Lauren German might be the worst actress on the show. Yes, she’s mysterious but it’s for the sake of being mysterious. The writers obviously threw every single potential mystery they could on a white board and decided that it would be a good idea to make a show about it. Lauren is definitely beautiful but her acting leaves much to be desired. I’m not even sure if it would have mattered if she could be recast because of how poor the script is.

Writing this leaves me with a heavy heart. Though Happy Town could be a fun popcorn thriller, it fails at almost all levels. There are some redeeming qualities such as some good supporting actors, but that isn’t enough to save this train wreck. Thankfully, the show only did 5.2 million and a 1.7 in the 18-49 demo so it won’t be around for long. It’s unfortunate that Amy Acker won’t be receiving a constant check but I’d much rather her work on a show where she can show her talent.

Happy Town airs Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC.

EDIT: Apparently the show gets worse in the next 2 episodes. If they end up airing, I’ll review them too cause if it gets any worse it might just be lol-worthy.


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