Mr. Coogan's So-Called Television Column


I’m not sure what it is about Fox. They sort of “repopularize” the night time soap opera with young people as the primary characters in The O.C.. It’s a fun show, pretty well written overall, has some great characters and definitely worth tuning into week after week. Even more importantly, the critics and the masses feel that way for the most part. Advantage: Fox.

So, they strike gold in that respect and all of a sudden they must think that they can either throw ANY prime time soap opera with attractive young people on the air and have positive results or they actually believe the shows they’re offering to the consuming public are as good as The O.C. (See: North Shore).

Either way, they’re wrong and in the case of Point Pleasant …dead wrong…

As the teaser suggests, Point Pleasant is the result of what happens when television writers take the good vs. evil battle story told so well in HBO’s Carnivale and dumb it down and what happens when television writers move The O.C. to a town on the New Jersey shore. And as with many sequels, remakes, or ideas that slightly resemble more popular, more successful, more creative entities already on the market, it fails to deliver an entertaining product that’s worth tuning into every week.

Looking at the plot will reveal the parallels between Point Pleasant, The O.C. and Carnivale.

The pilot begins when during a typical summer day in Point Pleasant, N.J. a terrible thunder storm wipes through the town, knocking out the power and creating quite the ruckus in town. During the storm, hunky lifeguard Jesse (Sam Page, American Dreams, All My Children) dives into the Atlantic Ocean and saves Christina, a mysterious teenaged, blonde beauty (Elisabeth Harnois in her first significant starring role). No one knows who she is or what she was doing in the storm, but she’s now in Point Pleasant and is in need of some guidance.

Since she’s in rough shape, upon saving her life, she’s brought to the local doctor Ben Kramer (Richard Burgi, Season 1 of 24) where she is nursed back to health. The Kramers, including Ben’s wife Meg (Susan Walters, The Young and the Restless) and daughter Judy (Aubrey Dollar, Guiding Light) decide to take her in and let her live with them until they find out more about her and her real family.

Once Christina arrives, strange things start to happen and she begins to learn more about herself and that her past may be a bit more “sorted” than she ever realized before.
How “sorted” is it? Well, turns out she’s the child of Satan and Point Pleasant is going to be the location of the “final battle” between God and Satan with poor Christina playing a major part in that battle. She’s not terribly thrilled about it.

This is kind of where Point Pleasant resembles Carnivale. Both shows feature the long running theme of “good vs. evil” and the eventual final battle between the two converging forces. But Carnivale tells the story in a much more abstract, yet interesting, way with characters so wild and wacky, the subplots surrounding their human characters are just as interesting as the eventual underlying theme of good vs. evil that will play out in such a powerful way. But Point Pleasant appears to be “The Apocalypse for Dummies.”

Good is presented in part in Christina as she fights her evil, Satanic tendencies and in a young, clueless priest (Marcus Coloma) who appears to be more window dressing representing “good” than anything else.

Meanwhile, evil is present in the form of one of Satan’s apparent demon business associates, Lucas Boyd (Grant Show, most famous from his time on Melrose Place) who’s disguised as a trouble making, very rich real estate mogul who, for some reason, is interested in buying the entire town. His real motivation for being there, however, is to mold and train Christina to become an obedient minion of the Prince of Darkness with secondary interests in breaking up marriages and generally being a tool.

Between his and Christina’s appearances, the town “gets turned upside down” and things start to get crazy, but strangely enough, not very interesting.

The idea of God taking on Satan isn’t the only storyline taking hold of the series, but it’s definitely most prominent, even if it is done in a moronically obvious way. Point Pleasant begins to resemble The O.C. with its various storylines revolving around the attractive teenagers and adults.

Christina and Jesse are interested in each other, but Jesse was in a long term relationship with Paula (Cameron Richardson) initially before those two finally broke up after dancing around the issue for a while. But Jesse’s best friend, Terry (Brent Weber) has eyes for Paula and has even hooked up with her in the past but they never told Jesse about it.

Meanwhile, Paula’s rich, sexpot mother Amber (Dina Meyer, probably most famous for playing an older lover of Brandon’s on Beverly Hills, 90210) attempts to rekindle her relationship Dr. Kramer, something they apparently used to share and what Dr. Kramer is apparently trying to fight. Lucas is counseling Amber on how to make that happen. We’re not sure of Lucas’s motivation but we assume it’s because he’s evil and likes to do evil things.

The story gets richer as Lucas is also trying to lure Jesse’s Mother, Sarah, (Claire Carey, Hayden Fox’s daughter Kelly on Coach) a good Christian woman in a strange situation that could be about sex just as much as it could be about one about of Satan’s associates merely trying to get her to join “the dark side.” Sara’s husband is the local sheriff (Alex Carter) and he’s immediately suspicious of what he’s seen develop between Sarah and Lucas and assumes she’s cheating based on the fact that 16 years previously, Sarah left him for New York City and came back pregnant with Jesse. Now, the Sheriff and Sarah weren’t married and she hasn’t done anything improper since, but he is still jealous as if she cheated and the baby were born 16 days before these episodes aired.

Even though there are some silly holes to them, the storylines actually are pretty well thought out as they show how incestuous a small town like Point Pleasant can really be. The primary problem is that while the scenario and general plots are written competently, just about everyone involved plays their character in such a boring, bland, dreadfully uninteresting way that they aren’t worth paying attention to.

The kids (including Christina, the daughter of Satan) are completely lifeless and appear to have no idea how to inject life into a character they are continuously playing over a long period of time. It’s almost they are scared of being in front of a camera knowing that a few million people might be watching the show every week (though, that’s a very liberal estimate).

The adults are no better as the men only appear to show emotion if they are angry, bitter and looking for a fight and the women come off as dreadfully annoying housewives who have absolutely no lives whatsoever beyond the borders of Point Pleasant.

I look at the adults and kids of Point Pleasant and I look at the fun, interesting, well-developed, well-acted characters on The O.C. (especially Seth and Sandy Cohen, the always intriguing Summer, and even Ryan who’s developing to some degree) and I’m insulted that Fox would dare to believe that viewers would think that Point Pleasant would be a good Thursday night companion show to The O.C.

Despite good storyline writing for the main characters, the bottom line is that between the watered down “good vs. evil” premise executed so much better on Carnivale and the atrocious acting from people that are supposed to bring life to a series of characters that I want to watch every week, Fox hasn’t provided much of a companion show to The O.C. at all.

While my DVR technology and VCR will continue to go a little crazy during the 8 p.m. hour when The O.C. is on versus NBC, CBS (and even UPN), I definitely don’t have to worry about what I’m recording at 9 p.m. because I simply don’t care what happens on the next Point Pleasant.

Hey Fox…Why not just bring back Tru Calling?

— Coogan