Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.
Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c starting this fall; TRT: 44:42)
The network's description: "Three very different women find themselves drawn together by a mysterious man who unleashes unique powers in each of them, and this small New England town will never be the same. The series is based on the popular movie "The Witches of Eastwick" and on the novel of the same title by John Updike."
What did they leave out? Director David Nutter has had all 15 pilots he's helmed go to series. Meanwhile, FOX took a stab at developing the same concept in 2002 with "Gossip Girl's" Kelly Rutherford, "90210's" Lori Loughlin and "Desperate Housewives's" Marcia Cross in the lead roles.
The plot in a nutshell: Legend says that the small New England town of Eastwick was once home to a group of witches, the legacy of which may still be found today. It's a tale spun by Aunt Bun (Veronica Cartwright), the head of the Eastwick Historical Society, to a group of children at the town's annual Founders Day celebration, one that suggests magic could be flowing through some of its residents without them even knowing it. Such is the case for three women, each of which finds an old coin and makes the same wish at the town's fountain - to have a different life than their current one. For struggling artist/single mother Roxie (Rebecca Romijn), it's a steady paycheck and a partner that actually excites her. For mousy reporter Joanna (Lindsay Price), it's to work up the courage to ask for a promotion from her boss (Steve Hytner) and a date from photographer Will (Johann Urb). And for nurse/mother-of-five Kat (Jamie Ray Newman), it's to have someone take care of her for once and have a husband (Jon Bernthal) who isn't an unemployed drunk. You see, unbeknownst to them, they are in fact witches, and their wishes have triggered events that will change their lives forever.
The next day our heroines are shocked to discover that a mysterious stranger named Darryl Van Horne (Paul Gross) has bought half the town, somehow granting their wishes in the process. As the new owner of Joanna's newspaper, he gives her free reign to write the types of stories she wants; by reopening the local candle factory, he opens the window for Kat's husband to get back his old job; and by offering a financial windfall (as well as his bed) to Roxie, he hands her the kind of excitement and security she craves. More importantly he puts them on the path to discovering their respective powers: Roxie can see visions of the future in her dreams, Joanna can make any man do her bidding and Kat can control mother nature itself. The trio's newly minted friendship (and powers) however don't sit well with most of their loved ones: Joanna's pal Penny (Sara Rue) throws a fit over being cast aside and Kat's husband Raymond is disgusted by her independent streak. Only Roxie's daughter Mia (Ashley Benson) is on board as one of her mom's visions gets her out of trouble. By the end of the hour however, enough visions, hospital bed omens and old county records pile up to tell our trio that Darryl Van Horne is not who he appears to be.
What works: Nutter does his best to make it look and feel like a show but...
What doesn't: ...boy does it come off like a convoluted mess. Filled with so much cringe-inducing dialogue and stilted acting that it's almost awe-inspiring, "Eastwick" is by far and away my least favorite freshman drama. Between its eye-rolling, double entendre-fueled humor (because, you know, the Devil's swinging some pipe) and its cartoonish, freakishly one-dimensional characterizations (Bernthal's Raymond is so annoyingly abrasive it's a thing to behold), nothing feels even remotely credible or real. And while some of the above would be forgivable if there was some wit - or even just some camp value - to the show, it's instead content with playing things oh so painfully straight. Joanna's transition from stammering wallflower to confident vixen for instance is so awkwardly transparent that it literally involves - gasp! - putting her hair down and taking her glasses off. That coupled with Darryl's over-the-top huskiness (the line between cheesy and sexy is apparently non-existent in this world) and the gals' overall gullibleness (no one seems concerned at all that this mysterious stranger seems to know everything about them) and you have that latest recipe for bad television. All in all, I'm sure this show will have its fans...
The bottom line: ...but I am definitely not one of them.