Tag Archives: 666 Park Avenue

Fall 2012 Review: 666 Park Avenue

22 Oct

666 Park Avenue is a supernatural soapy horror, a super specific genre which happens to mean that the writers have narrow waters to navigate regarding the show’s tone.  If it’s too serious, it’ll be impossible to swallow the level of over the top silliness involved in an evil apartment building, while if it’s too jokey, it loses the scary horror element altogether.  Scary horror and fun but kind of silly horror can be combined (note: Shaun of the Dead, though that’s with satire instead of soap), but it’s a delicate balance.  I definitely think 666 sees Revenge as a model, following the formula of serious plot and soapy personal relations meant to be both serious and fun, but featuring a supernatural theme instead of a rich powerful family conspiracy.  It’s kind of fitting that on the other end of the spectrum from Revenge is ABC’s third Sunday night drama, the pretty bad (although quite successful) Once Upon a Time as a model of what not to do, which takes on fables, but far too over the top and silly, rather than serious, without being either fun or funny enough to make that trade off worthwhile.

Of course, the building isn’t actually 666 Park Avenue; that’d be a little too on the nose.   It’s actually 999 Park Avenue, but looks like 666 in the shadows.   It’s a large, old, building and our main characters Jane and Henry are wannabe yuppies, a young couple with lots of ambition and education but low on funds.  Their prayers are answered in the form of a building manager position at the building, which gets them a free room far above what they could normally afford.

Terry O’Quinn plays building owner/SATAN/SATAN associate Kevin Durand, resembling more later season Locke, when he was actually the Man in Black, then the regular Locke (yeah, I didn’t understand the last couple seasons of Lost either).  Vanessa Williams portrays his wife Olivia.  They’re somehow seeking to corrupt Henry and Jane (I wonder if having them be unmarried rather than married was a nod to the horror trope of disapproving of pre-marital sex?), while Henry and Jane are bowled over by their generosity before they start noticing slightly odd occurrences around the building.

Aside from the main plot of the two building managers getting settled in their new home, the episode plays out almost like a series of Goosebumps stories, which basically all have the same classic horror message:  Be Careful What You Wish For (I can’t find a clip for the life of me, but this always makes me think of the Simpsons Monkey’s Paw episode where Homer wishes for a turkey sandwich, “The turkey’s a little dry…the turkey’s a little dry!  oh, foe and cursed thing, what demon from the depths of hell created thee!”).  The first of two examples we see in the premiere is in the opening scene.  As a demonstration of both Durand’s power and his shady intent, a violinist who apparently had no talent and made a deal for ten years of greatness, is sucked away into the building after his time runs out, although he begs Durand for more.  Second, a man who agreed to kill on Durand’s command to bring his dead wife back to life is, well, sucked into a wall when he doesn’t.  Here’s a tip from someone admittedly not qualified to practice law:  Don’t sign contracts that oblige you to you know, die in ten years, or kill people, or sell your soul to any number of devils, etc.  About every five minutes out of Durand’s mouth comes some attempted witty ominous crack about how all people have needs and wants and must be willing to do what it takes to get them, or some such.

Note:  I do have a lot of doubt about the enforceability of these contracts in a court of law, though I guess that’s immaterial to Durand.

I’m not sure how many of the characters are regulars and how many episode of the week residents there will be, but besides O’Quinn and his wife, and the main two characters, there’s a young couple where the husband is a playwright who keeps staring at some woman in the window, and a young girl who apparently steals things and then maybe sees people’s futures in the items, or something. Going in, with the huge building filled with mostly rich people, compared to the cash poor main characters, I thought there might be an opportunity for some wonderfully heavy handed satire, They Live-style, but sadly, that element seems to be absent.

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.  Not because it was so bad as much as because it’s at least fifth in the picking order amongst new shows.  After one episode, I think it can be a good show but is unlikely to be a great show, and while I think watching the next episodes could possibly be enjoyable, it doesn’t quite cross the necessary threshold at this point.


Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: ABC

13 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

ABC next.  The network sits pretty and in the middle of the pack, and has five new shows on offer this fall.

666 Park Avenue – 9/30 

An evil apartment building.  Yes, that is what the show seems to be about.  Already, the season grows less exciting.  Lost veteran Terry O’Quinn (John Locke) portrays the evil owner of the building, married to Vanessa Williams.  The series premise is set when a couple, not  presumably knowing the evil nature of this building, moves in and takes over roles as co-managers of the building.  The building is filled with a bunch of supernatural shit, and it’s goal is probably to be something like Lost meets Revenge (high class trashy soapy fun of Revenge with the supernatural aspects of Lost).

Verdict:  13- Revenge against some odds worked both critically and commercially, but I’m taking the under on lightning striking twice.  I have no idea what to expect in terms of the quality of this program, but but I don’t have a lot of faith; while hardly a crazy obvious cancellation (where are you, Allen Gregory?) some shows have got to go.

Last Resort – 9/27

The Shield’s Shawn Ryan (yes, I know I need to go back and watch The Shield – it and Dr. Who are my top 2 long term big TV projects that hopefully will happen one day) brings us this kind of cool set up about a US Navy submarine which gets an order to set off a nuclear bomb, and defies it, setting up at an island until they can figure out how to get back home without being considered traitors.  I’m calling this Crimson Tide meets Lost (yes, nearly every new ABC hour long program can be described as something meets Lost).  It starts the estimable Andre Braugher of Homicide and Men of a Certain Age and Scott Speedman of many Underworld films as the top two in command of the sub.

Verdict:  14+  I almost put renewal.  I really wanted to, but  these high concept shows have so much going against them that lower their chances of success.  Without quickly picking up both a huge amount of critical buzz (which is enough to initially give concepts juice on premium cable, but not so much on networks) and a minimum of commercial interest, grand high concept serial series (which I think this is?) have a difficult go of it (Lonestar, anybody).  I’m only picking 14+ over 13- now because of the Shawn Ryan name.  I hope it will be good though.

The Neighbors – 9/26

Classic that-guy (and Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame member) Lenny Venito and ‘80s semi-brat pack actress Jami Gertz are a couple who move into a New Jersey housing complex, and find out their neighbors are aliens who name themselves after American sports legends and have weird Conehead-like alien tendencies.  I’m honestly not sure what to think; it sounds ridiculous and cartoonish, but there’s a number of different tones the show could be going for here; out and out silly, corny, absurdist, cheeky and over the top.   It’s easy to lean towards this show being bad, but it’s hard to say for sure.

Verdict:  14+  I have no fucking clue.  This could be a classic 13-, it’s honestly one of the more obviously 13- sounding shows on this list.  However, I’ve briefly come across articles that the show is better than I expected it to be, and there’s this off and unlikely chance it could be a weird quirky success.  I’d still bet against it, but compromising here.

Nashville – 10/10

One of the shows I’m most excited about, it sounds like Country Strong the show (actually that’s not the comparison I should be making right after saying I’m excited about the show) on the surface, about a middle aged female country superstar (played by the great Tammy Taylor FNL actress Connie Britton) and an up and comer who wants the spotlight on her, played by Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere.  Plus, there’s I don’t know, a bunch of country music?  I don’t know what the natural arc of this show is, and maybe that’s a bad thing, but also maybe that’s why it’s interesting.

Verdict:  Renewal – This and Last Resort were probably the two shows that sounded most promising to me from the basic descriptions.  Last Resort, well, I’m a sucker for at least being interested in all shows like that, but few are better than mediocre, and most fail.  Nashville, however doesn’t fit that pattern.  I don’t care all that much about country music, so it’s not that angle, and I’m not sure what my good reason for interest aside the fact that it stars Connie Britton and it sounds, well, different.  I think we’ll know within a few episodes whether this show is sticking around.

Malibu Country – 11/2

Reba is back, baby.  You knew TV couldn’t be without her for too long.  Reba, a Nashville resident, naturally, and playing a character named Reba, finds her husband cheating and moves from Nashville to, you guessed it, Malibu, California.  Her mom is played by Lily Tomlin, which tells you how old Lily Tomlin is.  Oh, shocker, Reba plays a one-time country music singer, who is now trying to reignite her career.

Verdict:  13- This looks like the type of predictable utterly forgettable sitcom Then again, Reba ran for six seasons (wow, is the right answer), so who am I to say it can’t happen again.  I’ll say it though.  It’s probably not going to happen again.  This would be high up for me on the most likely 13 or less choices this year, though the relative success of Last Man Standing proves that I know nothing.