Happy Town – Episode 1-1 Review

The only reason why I noticed this show in the first place was ABC’s reminder that they were the network that brought us Twin Peaks–still, 20 years after it first aired, the most innovative, intriguing, mind-boggling work of artistry on television ever bar none. ABC’s reminder, however, overlooked the major fact that they ruined the show by revealing Laura Palmer’s murderer which lead to a cancellation after only the second season.

And, well, Happy Town is hardly like Twin Peaks. I won’t fault the writers for the ill conceived comparison, but some genius at ABC clearly was watching something else or was sleeping and decided to throw in the words “Twin Peaks” to get buzz. On paper, the valid comparisons–small town, grisly murder–are already few and far between. The differences, even in comparisons of the town and murder, are stark and numerous. Twin Peaks had a charm to it and with the arrival of Agent Dale Cooper in the pilot, it was established as a pretty cool place that had something else churning beneath the pristine veneer. Happy Town does not have the spunky dialogue, the cool attitude, or anything remotely close to what made Twin Peaks special.

From the get-go, the writing screams: “Come here for a mystery!! This is the darkest, scariest show you’ll find!!” Twin Peaks slowly built up the mystery piece by piece, never tipping its hand. The quirky style of the show and complex characters, set in motion by the pilot, endeared it to the viewers. It was as organic as a show could get. The writers of Happy Town, in what I suspect is an attempt to lure in viewers, try much too hard to play up the mystery angle, leaving any other development behind. The result is a central mystery with no solid base.

An innocent woman named Henley (Lauren German), moves to Haplin, Minnesota, an idealized small town, to open up a candle shop. We meet this person and that person, and guess what? There’s something wrong with them! The writers take no time letting us know these may be psycho automatons from space. Their demeanor, speech, attitude all point to them as a suspects. Thanks. Before diving in their dirty secrets, David Lynch actually created real characters instead of useless caricatures.

The mystery is still the main draw of the show and may be enough to sustain viewers. However, given the early departures of ABC’s other hour-long programs, Eastwick and The Deep End, I wouldn’t hold out luck for a renewal. Sheriff Tommy Conroy (Geoff Stults) and his wife, Rachel (Amy Acker), live happily in Haplin (great name) until the “Magic Man” strikes again. Cue spooky music. There were a number of kidnapping years earlier by this evil-doer and the townspeople are in a furor. First evidence of unrest! Tommy’s father, Sheriff Griffin (M.C. Gainey), who brings the news of murder, is uttering words and names he has no recollection about later. More evidence! This town is in peril! Soon, he has a full on breakdown as we are clued in that Sam Neill’s character, Merritt Grieves, is up to something.

Is Happy Town Twin Peaks? No. Is Happy Town a good show? No. That’s about as much as you need to know.

The TV Obsessed reviews over 40 shows on his blog: The TV Obsessed

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