Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 3 -- A Sinister Set-up: A Review of the "666 Park Avenue" pilot

This past Sunday, ABC premiered their new supernatural soap 666 Park Avenue, starring Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable as Jane and Henry, an unmarried couple who have just been hired to be the managers of the luxurious Drake apartment building owned by Gavin and Olivia Doran (played by Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams), a sinister couple with a penchant for entrapping the Drake's tenants in Faustian bargains. By the end of the pilot, two souls have been claimed by The Drake, Jane and Henry are ensorcelled by the lavish lifestyle their new position is providing them, and the Dorans inch closer to whatever mysterious plans they have for Henry.

I appreciated the way the pilot wasted no time setting up the "deal with the devil" aspect of the show, utilizing the cold open to spotlight a resident whose deal's time limit runs out in the middle of his orchestra performance -- a performance being watched with cold interest by the Dorans.  I also liked that the second example of a doomed soul had a bargain that operated on vastly different rules, hinting at there being enough freedom in structuring them so that if the show does follow a "bargain of the week" format there can be enough variety in the bargains to keep it from getting stale.

The real highlight of pilot is, without a doubt, Terry O'Quinn's turn as Gavin.  Long-time Lost fans know that O'Quinn can do creepy well, and here he manages to instill his character with a subtle menace that helps ground the show.  There may be scenery-chewing to be had in the near future as we learn more about what makes the Dorans tick, but if does come to that, the build-up could make it more worthwile.

My only real complaint with the first episode was that the special effect of the violinist suffering his fate was a little cheesy; it reminded me a bit of the fate of Nancy's mom at the end of Nightmare on Elm Street, an effect which amused more than horrified me even as an adolescent.  The second bargain-maker's fate was more effective, but still straddled that line of cheese; if this show is going to be truly successful for me, they'll really going to have to find a way to stick the creepy landing on scenes like that.

On the whole, the pilot did a good job of establishing the show's premise and setting up a couple of plot-lines to carry through at least the first handful of episodes; only time will tell if future episodes manage to maintain the quality.

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