A Happy Town? Well that depends on your perspective and point of view. ABC Networks has brought a new fantastic series to the viewing audience!
If you are a fan of mystery, horror and science fiction blended into the mix, you the viewing public should be in a Happy place in your Town. This is an analysis and review of the pilot episode and not a recap. If you have not witnessed the series opener, you may desire to stop reading now. You have been advised.
With regard to Happy Town, or actually as depicted, Haplin Minnesota, you also might simply desire to just get the heck out of the town! I mean OMG with the opening sequence, really just get out! Only kidding.
In the opening sequences of “In This Home on Ice” the inclusion of a horrific crime moment, the elusive and mysterious “Magic Man” essentially was observed in the first moments. The criminal is witnessed killing a seemingly innocent man left with a huge hole into the head of the victim. All the while he screamed for mercy, but to no avail! Some might consider this to be absolutely unreal! But is it really with the state of the world we live in?
Reflective of the darker side of what is not a happy town in many places in the world here on planet Earth, this program may not be considered as suitable for younger viewers as the disclaimer of TV-14 describes. What is the appropriate viewing age for a science fiction horror with an ensemble cast led by talent of no less than the super star Sam Neill as the mysterious, yet knowledge laden “Shop Keeper” who professes to know the secret of “The Blue Door” and perhaps terrifying “Magic Man” as well? That is best left to the judgment of parents regarding their children and what is appropriate or not.
I can say with regard to that subject that during a recent business trip to Los Angeles, even though extremely busy, I set aside an hour from my hectic schedule to re-watch the outstanding Happy Town pilot. However, I made sure that I advised my sister who has a 10 year old son, (who had seen the promotional trailers on ABC Networks local Los Angeles ABC affiliate channel 7), that the program would likely be far too scary for my nephew. My sister (subsequent to the fact) stated that Danny nearly threw a fit when he was not allowed to watch the show. I recall that when I was his age I would have had nightmares for days because the content. Although wonderfully presented, Happy Town contains subject matter that may be considered far too advanced for persons of that age to be able to separate the fact from the fictional horror.
I did however convince my 83 year old mother and 85 year old father to watch the premiere of the “Happy Town”. At 83, because horror has always scared her to death, I warned my mother to not watch the first few minutes and explained that she might find the murder and the way it was accomplished a bit much. You see even at 83, whenever she watches such an intense sequence, she has nightmares! Instead, since I had already seem the premiere at WonderCon, I explained what had happened at the ice fishing shack and then told her to start watching at about 5 minutes in. She appreciated my guidance and then watched the show with avid interest.
My 85 year old father on the other hand, a long time fan of horror and science fiction genre entertainment desired to watch Happy Town from the very first seconds to the very last moments. He enjoyed the premiere and like myself, both informed me after the fact that Happy Town intrigued them and they would likely watch the show each week. I digressed on this point to delineate that the Happy Town has the potential for a very wide viewing audience which may lead to hit status.
At this juncture I am going to discuss the ratings for Happy Town. It is generally agreed that Happy Town garnered approximately 5.23 million viewers in the 10:00 PM time slots Thursday night April 28, 2010. Many reviewers who focus narrowly on their content described these numbers as “weak”. I must disagree and am constantly astounded by such sources who “call the ball” regarding the fate of a new series after the airing of a single episode. Unreal. Many of these sources churn out short reviews and attempt to compare apples to oranges and call such an accurate yard stick. Shame on you for putting out a couple of paragraphs and calling such “a review” let alone stating a show is therefore “weak”. My opinion is that Happy Town did very well for its first night and that it will do better still in the future.
In consultation with several studio sources, such places who do short reviews are being referred to as “lame street media”. I am not saying that WHR shares this opinion, but find the analogy interesting to say the least. Now this reviewer is not going to tell others how to do their business, but we here at WHR cannot disagree with the opinions of talented creators who find such “drive by reporting” as inappropriate and a crime equal to the drilling of a hole the head of “The Magic Man’s” first victim as observed in “Happy Town”. Perhaps these so called sources have a brain as vacuous as the victim at the ice fishing shack? We will leave that assessment to you the viewer, but we take exception with such a cursory approach to reviewing any program with an excellent a cast such as Happy Town.
We offer the following analysis about such reviewing tactics; It is inappropriate to focus on a single episode to infer that a show has weak ratings. Why not examine the Single Effect of the work and give such a fine piece of entertainment a longer run before drawing conclusions? I personally have witnessed these same sources do an about face when fine entertainment like Happy Town later becomes a hit as if they had never denigrated a show to begin with. Again this is as unreal as any method of “churning and burning” as I have ever seen.
Happy Town is a series that dovetails the return to a love of horror science fiction by many tens of millions of fans of the genre. Period. 5.23 million viewers is a good showing in the opinion of this reviewer and I am convinced that it will garner more viewers as the story arc and mystery continues to unfold. As to whether or not the series will be renewed beyond the pilot run is another matter altogether best left to the real deciding factor; time.
Back to the wonderful cast and the action, the mystery, the science fiction, and critically the Single Effect story of the pilot episode itself. The cast of Happy Town is huge. All should be considered lead characters. “Happy Town” stars Geoff Stults as Tommy Conroy, Lauren German as Henley Boone, Amy Acker as Rachel Conroy, Dean Winters as John Haplin, John Patrick Amedori as Andrew Haplin, Sarah Gadon as Georgia Bravin, Jay Paulson as Eli ‘Root Beer’ Rogers, Robert Wisdom as Roger Hobbes and Sam Neill as Merritt Grieves. First two of my personal favorites and that is not to discount any of the actors or actresses, they are all wonderful in their roles and I suggest that you check out the fantastically talented ensemble cast of “Happy Town”.
My personal favorites are the beautiful and exceptionally gifted Amy Acker and the fantastically talented Sam Neill! Sam has been a favorite of mine for years and as far as science fiction and horror goes, Sam made me a believer when he starred with Nicole Kidman in “Dead Calm” (1989) as the Soviet Officer in “The Hunt for Red October “ and Jurassic Park as Dr. Alan Grant as well as his portrayal of Eric Benerall in the fantastic SyFy mini-series “The Triangle” It goes without saying that Sam is the superstar anchor for “Happy Town” and brings much to the show for his characterization of Merritt Grieves who share with Amy the foreboding warning about cryptic The Blue Door, the “Gateway or Portal into the Heart of Man”!
Perhaps my favorite scene in the pilot is the romantic comedy of the ladies of the boarding house making “passes” at Sam Neill’s character the “Shopkeeper”. This comic relief adds much to the pilot and will surely play an ongoing role in counterbalancing the horror inherent in Happy Town, Merritt Grieves. Lauren German as Henley Boone is particularly funny and this lightness will obviously continue much to the comedic delight of the fans!
Another major anchor for the show in my opinion is Amy Acker as the character Rachael Conroy. Amy was recently seen as a guest star in “Human Target” portraying the Katherine Walters in the back story episode Christopher Chance. In Happy Town, Any will play a delightful role in support of Geoff Stults. In more recent history, fans will remember when Any starred in “Dollhouse” as Dr. Claire Saunders.
Also of great interest is in the boarding house where she was pointedly told not to climb the stairway! Sarah Gadon is simply wonderful as “the innocent one” recently moved to Haplin. But will she be so innocent when Merritt Grieves finishes disclosing facts about “The Blue Door” to her? I think not. A small spoiler, do not miss this weeks episode “I Came to Haplin for the Waters” when things get even more interesting!
Also great talents and leading characters are Geoff Stults as Tommy Conroy and M.C. Gainey as the two lead law enforcement officials in Happy Town illustrated above. Several scenes are delightful. Both can be of light heart and humorous, yet deadly serious when it comes to the fanatical murderer “The Magic Man”. The scene when M.C. Gainey locks himself in the office apparently possessed by the spirit of the evil afoot in Happy Town is horrifyingly wonderful! All I can say is YIKES!
Happy Town is a story about a seemingly classic small town in America with a deep dark secret that law enforcement and leading citizens are either trying to discover the secret of (The Magic Man), or keep that same information from causing a panic. The Magic Man is a character we likely will never fully understand, much like the troublemakers and terrorists loose in the world today. Nor should we fully understand “The Magic Man” and his foul deed (pictured below), or the story will be over.
Happy Town is also a tale about The Human Condition and understanding why people do the evil things they do, always at the expense of others. Why the malcontents of our world sow evil and discontent at the expense of others has always eluded me personally. Much like the world we live in and human history in its entirety, these are questions that have eluded the best minds that mankind has ever produced. Happy Town provides additional insight into this conundrum.
Lastly, I have spoken with a many people about Happy Town (most at WonderCon and on-line) whom try to compare it to other programs which have a beginning, middle and ending in a single or a few episodes. This is not to be. Happy Town will be an ongoing episodic tale where the onion is peeled back slowly to reveal the Single Effect of each episode that leads to the next. If you are a viewer who seeks these characteristics, then I respectfully suggest that you look elsewhere.
I for one will be tuning in each week to watch the tales of metaphor and allegory in a horror science fiction setting about these questions in Happy Town. So should you. Happy Town currently airs in the United States on ABC at 10 PM East and West. Check your local listings for air time in your area and enjoy Happy Town!
This Wednesday May 05, 2010 the new Sheriff Tommy Conroy makes a shocking discovery about Jerry Friddle’s murderer, while Henley Boone is determined to access the third floor of the mysterious boarding house. Do not miss the fun, horror and science fiction on Happy Town! More analysis, reviews and fun will be coming your way from WHR in our own Happy Town!