Halloween check in: “Big Bang Theory”

(image via thebigbangblog.com)

Yes it’s Halloween folks and while I haven’t seen any spectres a-haunting, or witches a-cackling, or even a stray zombie a-shuffling, I did get the chance to watch The Big Bang Theory‘s marking of this spooky festival, “The Holographic Excitation”.

All the cast members got a chance to strut their inner geek – well almost everyone; I think Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) is there only by virtue of osmotic transfer from watching all those sci fi shows the gang loves – as they dress up for Stuart’s (Kevin Sussman) annual costume party at his comic book store.

And neither the costumes, nor the couples machinations surrounding them, disappointed.

 

Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette go all Smurfy for the big party at Stuart’s comic book store (image via bigbangtheory.wikia.com)

 

Howard, recently returned from space and finding it hard to adjust to life back on earth (to the extent that he manages to weave his experiences as an astronaut into every conversation he has till everyone, politely and in the case of Sheldon, impolitely, asks him to stop) and Bernadette dolled themselves up as Smurfs.

Howard, dressed as an iridescent Papa Smurf, found this request to cease and desist talking about his orbital exploits depressing, wondering why no one valued what he had done and spent much of the scene before he and Bernadette left for the party moping around the house.

Contemplating not going to the party till Bernadette pointedly reminded him how long it had taken her to apply the bright blue body paint, he starts to walk out the door with all the enthusiasm of a five year old off the dentists, muttering that “two weeks ago I was an astronaut”.

Having had enough, Bernadette feistily puts him in his place – “Well now you’re a Smurf! Keep walking!” – but he only truly comes around when Bernadette assures him at the party that she married him of her own free will and not because he is an astronaut.

 

Raggedy C3PO (Sheldon) and Raggedy Ann (Amy) arrive at the party after a costuming compromise is brokered (image via razorfine.com)

 

The path to true costume happiness was every bit as torturous as you’d expect for Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Miyam Bialik) who struggled to find a costume combo that was acceptable to both of them.

Even though Sheldon was, remarkably, keen to do a cosplay twosome – “Couples costumes are one of the few benefits of being in a relationship” he says oh-so-romantically at one point – they had to resort to a whiteboard in the end to sort out who they would dress up as.

Well, attempt to sort it out is probably more accurate.

Amy proves none too keen on R2D2 and C-3PO as an option and Sheldon rejects Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy because they looked too much like clowns and he doesn’t care too much for raggedyness (which makes sense given how OCD he is).

The compromise? Raggedy Ann and … Raggedy C-3PO. Yes Sheldon actually gave ground – well somewhat; let’s not get too carried away here – which is one of the more amazing things to emerge from this episode. truly Amy has great powers!

 

Penny and Leonard emerge from the TARDIS photo booth after, um, you know, surprising Howard and Bernadette (image via forum.dvdtalk.com)

 

And finally, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) seem to be taking real strides in their relationship which is a relief since the on-again, off-again schtick was wearing a little thin.

For a start, Penny refers to him without hesitation as her boyfriend – hurrah! At last – and takes Bernadette’s suggestion seriously that she should take a more active interest in what Leonard does since relationships, ideally at least, should be a two way street.

So Penny, to Leonard’s undying surprise goes to visit him in his lab, and finds herself so impressed, and yes aroused, by his mastery of science that “coitus”, to use Sheldon’s awkward terminology, is the result.

Not once but twice.

A lovely touch after all this lab-based “coitus” was watching a dishevelled, grinning Leonard groggily sit down at the lunch table with the other guys (who remained blissfully ignorant of what had just happened), still aglow and in love with the direction his workday had taken.

 

Stuart is “thrilled” when Howard presents him with a signed photo of him in his astronaut gear (image via tv.com)

 

And what you ask concerned happy to dear old Koothrappali, and Stuart who hosted this grand Halloween extravaganza?

Well, Stuart, who is let’s face it, unlucky in just about everything, only holds the party each year in the hope he might meet a girl and is confident that “the ninth time will be the charm.”

To give a chance to meet the girl of his dreams – the mind boggles at what a pairing like this would look like but I imagine it could come to rival Sheldon and Amy for sheer awkwardness, and thus, laughs – Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) offers to look after all the organisation, promising a “Koothra-party” to remember!

And it is!

There is monster themed food! Hooray!

A T.A.R.D.I.S-shaped photo booth! Three cheers!

(Sheldon, as usual doesn’t make Raj’s job easy. When he shows Sheldon the options for the photo booth, this is the response he gets: “A Tardis makes no sense. It’s a time machine from a science fiction show. It has nothing to do with Halloween. That being said, if you don’t get a Tardis you stink and your party stinks.”)

And Stuart meets a girl! Yes, a real one.

The sequence is short but who knows? If Sheldon can get a girlfriend, then anything is possible.

 

Buzz Aldrin makes an hysterical cameo as himself (image via bigbangtheory.wikia.com)

 

The funniest moment of the whole night though was when Buzz Aldrin, displaying no ego as he mercilessly send himself up, is seen in the credits handing out candy to kids and referencing his exploits as an astronaut at every turn.

The clip is sent to Howard by Koothrappali to explain that while the gang are proud of him, they don’t want him to become a laughed-at caricature of himself and is the perfect end cap to an episode full of great laughs, deliciously geeky moments, and surprisingly tender interludes.

 

 

And to get you even further into the Halloween spirit, here’s a few photos of your favourite TV characters all dressed up with hopefully somewhere spooky to go, courtesy of the wonderful folks at ew.com.

 

Silas Weir Mitchell (Monroe) from “Grimm (image via ew.com)

 

Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri on “The Mindy Project” (image via ew.com)

 

Maestro Harrel who plays Malik, and Parker Young who plays Ryan Shay in “Suburgatory” both arrive at a Halloween party dressed as Fred from “Scooby Doo” (image via bigbangtheory.wikia.com)

 

The cast from “The New Normal” go all out for Halloween (image via ew.com)

 

Zooey Deschanel as the irrepressible Jess and Jake Johnson as Nick edge a little closer to each other in costume in “New Girl” (image via ew.com)

 

Julie Bowen as Claire in “Modern Family” channels “Alien” for her costume (image via ew.com)

 

Check in: “The Walking Dead” / “The New Normal”

(image via g4tv.com)
The New Normal (image via perezhilton.com)

 

It might seem odd, even for an ecumenical pop culture-obsessed blogger like myself, to do a joint review of two completely disparate shows.

But with both of these wildly different shows reaching the third episodes of their current seasons (for the The Walking Dead, it’s third and for The New Normal, it’s first) in the same week here in Australia, it made sense (at least at three this morning when the idea struck me) to proffer my humble opinion on how both shows are faring.

The Walking Dead continues to go from strength to strength with the latest episode to air here, “Walk With Me”, where we finally meet the much talked-about Governor and his civilised survivors’ enclave, Woodbury, channeling the macabre, the bizarre and the just plain creepy to devastatingly good effect.

Channeling The Stepford Wives, Leave it to Beaver, and The Truman Show in one big Hallmark-sized package, the Governor’s attempt to bring back civilisation from the brink of oblivion, the small idyllic town of Woodbury, population 73 (with one more on the way) looks, on face value, like the answer to everyone’s prayers.

But if ever there was a place to validate the idea that behind every enduring cliche – on this case “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” – there is a kernel of truth, it’s this walled off slice of peaceful urbanity which exists only under the most draconian and brutal of regimes.

Not that the average member of the township is allowed to see this, of course.

 

The Governor (David Woodbury) plays the part of generous ruler to his appreciative subjects dispensing largesse gained through the most chilling of means (Image via screenrant.com)

 

Even after the Governor and his posse shoot down a military helicopter killing two (who quickly turn and are summarily dispatched with little compassion) and severely injuring one, and then summarily kill the remaining members of the platoon who are camped nearby in one of the chillingly efficient (and eerily silent) acts of mass murder I have seen in any TV show for some time, all the acquiescent members of the community see is a beneficent ruler looking after his people.

In one very bloody, almost pathologically-cold act, he does away with a potential rival source of power to his own – I pondered why he killed so many able-bodied men when there is a desperate for more manpower before realising that no matter how useful they might be, they could conceivably use their military expertise to threaten his hold on power – and acquires more trucks, guns and military hardware.

In effect, just what an aspiring dictator needs to cement his hold on power and acquire some more.

 

Michonne and Andrea don’t quite see eye-to-eye on the benefits or otherwise of Woodbury (image via thehdroom.com)

 

One person who doesn’t quite buy the benign protector schtick is Michonne (Danai Gurira), who feels vulnerable, even in a supposedly safe place, without her weapons close at hand and sees the Governor as little more than a power-hungry tin pot control freak of extremely doubtful motives.

Her perceptions of the man, who is shown at one point gazing painfully at a pre-apocalypse photo of his family before walking into a private room adorned by severed heads (including that of the downed pilot who was presumably summarily executed) floating in tanks like an aquarium of the damned, are, we know, spot on.

But she is unable to convince an exhausted Andrea (Laurie Holden) who desperately wants to believe you can turn back the clock to an pre-Walker idealised Norman Rockwell vision of America, of the validity of her suspicions.

Andrea, while remaining close to Michonne, quickly trades in her scepticism, and discomfort at the appearance of everyone post-apocalyptic redneck, Merle (Michael Rooker, thought lost in Atlanta in season 1) for a belief that it could all be as good as it seems.

 

The Governor is a very troubled man but then we knew that didn’t we? (image via rickey.org)

 

It is a powerhouse episode that addresses, among other things, whether liberty and democracy, and yes even basic humanity, should be sacrificed to the great god of safety. Are they unaffordable luxuries in a world where even basic survival can’t be guaranteed?

Given that this show has, almost from day one put forward the idea that completely abandoning any semblance of humanity cannot be considered if the survivors aren’t to fall, in effect, to a level little above that of the soulless Walkers, I would say the answer is “no”.

But I imagine it will be a fraught season as we watch the Governor do everything in his power to make the case that while the bricks-and-mortars component of civilisation can continue in some form, its philosophical underpinnings cannot.

Meanwhile back at the prison (which wasn’t featured at all this episode, presumably meaning Rick and the others were sunning themselves in the prison yard … or not).

A sneak peek at episode four “The Killer Within” where Rick, Daryl and Glen discover their fortress may not be so unassailable after all, as it attacked from without … and possibly within.

 

 

Now The New Normal on the other hand, which started out promisingly with a stellar pilot that made good use of some obvious cliches isn’t faring so well.

At least for the 22 minutes it took for “Baby Clothes” to run  its course.

Episode three of Ryan Murphy’s (Glee, American Horror Story) new sitcom’s debut season exposed, rather spectacularly, what I suspect will be its Achilles Heel as it grows as a show.

That is, it’s need to moralise, rather clumsily in this instance, at the expense of something fundamental to any sitcom – being funny.

Now I am not suggesting that a sitcom can’t be both – Frasier, Community and Parks and Recreation to name a few, amply demonstrate it is possible to be both erudite and hilarious – but you need to make sure that you stay funny while you are imparting whatever viewpoint you are seeking to dispense.

 

Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) kiss like any other couple in a store and find themselves at the receiving end of a moralising tirade from a passing shopper (image via tumblr.com)

 

The New Normal largely forgot to do that in an episode marred by clunky dialogue, overly contrived situations and enough syrup to plunge anyone into a diabetic coma.

Any humour that did escape this void of moralising was lacklustre and feeble, relying more on hackneyed cliches than any real character-driven moments.

The intent of the episode was clear enough.

 

One of the better scenes in a flawed episode, Bryan, David and Goldie hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time (image via tvequals.com)

 

Demonstrate that the love between Bryan and David is as legitimate and real as that of any heterosexual relationship, which of course it is, and that they have every right to pursue their dream of being fathers to a son or daughter via their surrogate, and unofficial member of the family Goldie (Georgia King), regardless of the bigotry of others including a rather oafish man who verbally dresses them down for kissing in from of his wife and daughter.

It was an ugly bigoted tirade that demanded a thoughtful, well thought out response.

Unfortunately what we got was moralising so crudely messaged and brutishly delivered that even I, as a gay man who heartily endorses every last message this show endorses, found myself rolling my eyes on more than one occasion.

I do understand the temptation to moralise.

After all it is a show that aspires to be agenda-setting in its dissection of a cutting edge social issue that goes to the heart of who we are as a society and what we value.

I get it. A lot is at stake.

 

David and Bryan struggle with issues common to most parents and the articulation of that is one of the things this episode did do well (image via newnownext.com)

 

But The New Normal does itself a disservice by repeatedly clubbing viewers over the head with a messily-constructed message delivered by characters reduced to little more than cartoon-ish caricatures.

At its heart, The New Normal is about two people who simply want to be a family, a universal longing that just about anyone can relate to.

All it needs to do to get its message across is to simply portray that, and let the normalcy of their situation speak for itself.

It did manage that partially in this episode, neatly capturing the worries and concerns of any new parent about whether their baby will be healthy, when they should tell the world they’re expecting, and when they should start taking concrete steps, such as the buying of the titular baby clothes, towards their hoped-for new life.

The ability of the show to execute that part of the journey to parenthood with sensitivity and understanding, and Ryan Murphy’s track record as an intelligent writer and producer give me confidence that this episode is just a misstep, and that The New Normal can fulfill its early promise to be the genre and social defining sitcom it clearly aspires to be.

And here’s a quick peek at what I hope will be a step towards that goal – episode four “Obama Mama” …

 

 

And a wonderful article from Books and Review with another preview clip from episode 4 that showcases an all-too-infrequent moment of normalcy for our band of plucky prison-based survivors and an interview with Michael Rooker (Merle) discussing his return to the show.

Joss Whedon endorses Zomney for President

(image via rawstory.com)

 

Yes folks you read that right.

Zomney.

In a less than subtle dig at the economic and social policies of the Republicans’ anointed candidate for US President, pop culture maestro, Joss Whedon, who has given the world Firefly and The Avengers movie, has nominated Mitt Romney as the man most able to “put this country back back on the path to the zombie apocalypse.”

Filmed in the sort of deadly earnest style that will be familiar to anyone who has sat through any of the interminable political ads that litter the airwaves of most Western liberal democracies come election-time, he gravely points out what awaits America if Romney makes it into the Oval Office.

I doubt that any of my truly right-leaning friends will truly grasp the humour, but even if you only have a skerrick of open-mindedness, you will find this enormously amusing.

 

 

Behind the scenes photos of “Warehouse 13”

(image via thebestshowsyourenotwatching.com)

 

Warehouse 13, which screens on the syfy channel in the USA, is a show that I have loved since the first episode.

Not all shows, especially ones that had to grow into themselves like Stargate SG1 and Fringe, attract that sort of loyal following from me from the start, but this show did.

Centred on a group of agents, chief among them Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), who are tasked with retrieving and safeguarding dangerous “artifacts” (items that have acquired the power to affect people for good or evil; usually, it must be said, for evil) in the titular warehouse, it is a show brimming with humour, intelligence, and vibrant imagination.

It has just ended a 10 episode arc which saw the man who heads Warehouse 13, Artie Neilsen  (Saul Rubinek) deleteriously affected by a great evil when he used Ferdinand Magellan’s Astrolabe to undo the destruction of the Warehouse which marked the end of season 3.

This evil caused Artie, up to that point the beating heart of Warehouse 13, to use another artifact, The Blue Orchid, to release a deadly epidemic across the world, despite the best efforts of Myka, Pete and the rest of the team – Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti), Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) and Mrs Frederic (CCH Pounder) – to prevent that happening.

We now face an agonising wait till sometime in 2013 to see what happens to our intrepid team, evil Artie and in fact the entire world. (The second part of the season will consist of ten episodes also.)

 

 

In the meantime, to tide us over @SyFyPR have kindly tweeted out a series of behind the scenes photos of Warehouse 13 and one tantalising photo from an upcoming episode which strongly suggests that the worst is not yet over.

 

The tweet itself via @SyFyPR

 

And the picture that accompanied it suggesting all will not be immediately well in the next half of season 4

 

And here are the other behind the scenes photos that @SyFyPR kindly tweeted out …

 

The tweet: Lovecraft key tagged by Myka! Ex how detailed #warehouse13 set is- #syfytour #wh13 http://instagr.am/p/RMIKtvSfDL/ (via @SyFyPR)

 

The tweet: Remember which #warehouse13 ep this guillotine was in 1st? #syfytour #wh13 http://instagr.am/p/RMJ-8JSfEw/ [alas I cannot remember] (image via @SyFyPR)
The tweet: TV magic: #warehouse13 tunnel leads to Leena’s B&B. #syfytour #wh13 http://instagr.am/p/RMJWtbyfED/ (image via @SyFyPR)

 

The tweet: More TV magic: recognize this view of #warehouse13? #syfytour #wh13 http://instagr.am/p/RMKvtxyfFR/ [Yes I do! Victory is mine] (image via SyFyPR)

“Husbands” gets inked!

(image via brokenfrontier.com)

 

It’s Husbands Jim but not as we know it.

Yes Cheeks and Brady, still married, still in love and still damn near hilarious, are back, but this time they’ve swapped their riotously colourful 3D world for the every bit as imaginative 2D world of the comics.

In a series of six comics titled “Drawn In” from Dark Horse Digital, which capture the look and feel of the sitcom but also add a whole other dimension to the tale, everyone’s favourite accidental gay twosome embark on a whole new series of adventures, with Cheeks’ bestie Haley along for what can only be described as an Alice in Wonderland-esque ride.

Sucked into a comic they’re given as a wedding present, and stripped of their memories, but not their wit or personalities (which means Cheeks is well, as cheeky and irreverent as ever, with Brady doing his best keep up with him), they must find their way back home … while they still can.

 

It’s a whole new world for Cheeks and Brady but the humour is as sharp and hilarious as ever!

 

Along the way, according to GLADD, they will be involved in “a superhero showdown, fairytale fantasy, an outer space battle, high school comedy, a noir mystery, and a secret-spy thrill ride”.

That’s quite a list and gives you a sense of just how much of their considerable creative talent Jane Espenson and Brad Bell who created and wrote the series, and now the comics, have poured into this endeavour.

Says Espensen and Bell, quoted on theinsider.com:

“Our show is set in a marriage-equalized world, so it’s already got a hint of an alternate-universe thing going on,” said Jane. “But the comic books are going to totally dive into a whole [alternate-universe] premise. So we’re going from genre-curious to full-on genre!”

“When we started out, we sort of thought these would be fun little tongue-in-cheek send-ups of comics,” Brad says, adding, “but then we realized that with the iconic worlds we were drawing from, and with the dazzling artwork that we are seeing from the artists, that these stories have… I guess the word is integrity — that they stand on their own as genuinely kick-ass comics.”

While the comics are only available in digital form at the moment, they will be released in a beautiful hardcover bound edition in March 2013.

I think I will start lining up outside my favourite comic bookstore now …

 

A snippet of the super hero action from the first issue which will only cost you 99c! (image via glaad.org)

Quick peek! “A Good Day to Die Hard” trailer 2

(image via analoghype.com)

 

John McClane is back people in A Good Day to Die Hard, and he’s just as adept at saving the day – and in this case his son, John McClane Jr (played by Jai Courtney) – as he ever was.

Ever since the original Die Hard came out in 1988, the unassuming NYPD cop who always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (frankly if I saw him getting on my flight, I would immediately get off it) and who described himself in an earlier trailer for this movie as “007 of Plainfield N.J.”, has been one of the iconic action heroes that set the template for pretty much anyone who followed.

Amazingly all these years later, he doesn’t appear to have lost his edge, nor his appetite for taking on the bad guys (which in this case include his temporarily wayward son), and certainly not ability to crash through windows.

While my appetite for big blockbusters may be waning in favour of more nuanced narrative-rich indie fare, you can rest assured I will be lined, giant bucket of popcorn in hand, to watch this movie the day it opens.

Or the next day possibly since it opens on Valentine’s Day 2013 and my partner may not think of this as the romantic of movies.

Imagine that!

* Check out E Online’s announcement of the new trailer – lot of fun!

 

 

Fun with the “The Walking Dead”

(image via Facebook – seemikedraw.com.au)

 

Hilarity is not something you generally associate with The Walking Dead, a show better known for its grim apocalyptic drama.

But the talented Mike at seemikedraw.com.au has found a way and behold, it is funny indeed!

Who knows? Perhaps this will inspire even the Walkers to chortle a little?

Yeah probably not.

But dammit they should. This is freakin’ hilarious!

The stars of “Community” speak out!

(image via liveforfilms.com)

 

As anyone whose familiar with this comedy gem will know, its home network in the USA, NBC, has played fast and loose with its airing dates, with fans never quite sure when, and sometimes, alarmingly, if the show, whose tagline is #sixseasonsandamovie on Twitter, would return.

As I documented in this post on the delays with airing the much-anticipated season 4, Community has been pushed onto the back burner again, along with another sitcom Whitney, and to date, NBC hasn’t committed to an exact screening date.

While I am sure both cast and crew aren’t happy about these developments, they have taken the high road and chosen to poke a little fun … OK a lot of fun … at the delayed start date which was, and it’s important you know this before watching the video, October 19th.

 

 

 

Yep just remember that whenever you wonder if it will ever show, that when it does “it will be on October 19th … in here (hand over heart)”.

I am moved to tears just thinking about how beautiful that day will be …

But soon right NBC, SOON?

 

(image via smh.com.au)

 

On another note, the season 3 DVD of Community has just been released into Australia and to mark its release the Sydney Morning Herald published this awesomely good interview with two of the show’s stars Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs.

It covers the fierce loyalty of Community‘s ardent fan base and the prevalence and passionate commitment of the “Save Community” groups, why they love working on the show, and how “weird” it is that the whole cast like each other so much (apparently that’s not the case with every TV show out there).

It’s funny, info-filled, and well worth a read.

 

 

More “Miranda” this Christmas … such fun!

(image via bear with.net)

 

In news that shivers of delight down my spine … bear with … bear with … Tom Ellis, who plays on-again, off-again love interest Gary for the titular Miranda (Miranda Hart) has declared to the world via Twitter that the third series of the hilarious sitcom will see the light of day at Christmas.

Screening on BBC1 in the UK, and – please pop culture gods, please let it be soon after, if not simultaneously – on ABC1 here in Australia, the show will return with six brand new bound to hilarious episodes.

 

Will Gary (Tom Ellis) and Miranda (Miranda Hart) finally find their way to true and enduring love this season? (image via tumblr.com)

 

This is what he tweeted:

“Series 3 #Miranda will start airing this Christmas on bbc 1 … It is what I call the best series thus faringtons”.

It is what I call most excellent news, and has made the prospect of Christmas which I love and adore anyway, all that much brighter.

Here’s the original post of the news on Cult Box.

 

The full cast of “Miranda” L-R Tom Ellis (Gary), Patricia Hodge (Penny), Miranda Hart (Miranda), Sarah Hadland (Stevie) and James Holmes (Clive) (image via primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk)

 

Another site, digital spy.com.au, quoted an “insider” as saying this about the return of the wonderful Miranda Hart to our screens:

“Miranda has been a really popular show and production companies have been floating ideas about making a film for a while.

“The third series sets a movie up perfectly, which is something she has always wanted to do.

“She would keep all the stars of the sitcom on board, and get some of her famous friends in for cameo roles too.”

 

(image via scotsman.com

 

The only tinge of sadness to all this wonderful news is the fact that it will be the final series, although as the quote eludes to a movie is in the offing.

So all is not lost and I suspect there will be “such fun” to be had well into the future!

 

 

 

First impressions: “666 Park Avenue”

(image via dreadcentral.com)

 

666 Park Avenue is one seriously creepy show.

And I mean that in a good way.

The supernaturally-inclined drama, which is produced by David Wilcox (and loosely based on a novel of the same name by Gabriella Pierce; I am tempted to read them just to see how “loosely”) is every bit as unsettling as I expected it to be.

While I had read some reviews that said the show was more camp than creepy (and yes it does have some minor melodramatic flourishes) it doesn’t have one wink-wink-nudge-nudge bone in its body and plays it as straight as the trailer suggested it would.

 

The cast of “666 Park Avenue” L-R: Terry O’Quinn (Gavin Doran), Vanessa Williams (Olivia Doran), Helena Mattson (Alexis Blume), Mercedes Marsohn (Louise Leonard), Robert Buckley (Brian Leonard), Samantha Logan (Nona Clark), Dave Annable (Henry Martin and Australia’s own Rachael Taylor (Jane Van Been) (image via beginningandend.com)

 

It fits in neatly with a raft of shows that address, to borrow some religious parlance, the idea that humanity must pay a price for its “sins”, whatever they may be.

Shows like Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time and even dearly departed Lost all draw on the concept that mankind – in the case of Once Upon a Time, “mankind” can be as elastic a term as you need it to be – is simply getting its just desserts.

But while the punishment in these other shows is real and immediate, in 666 Park Avenue it is insidiously slow, an evil cloaked behind the glossy veneer of success and dreams and desires, which clouds the ability of those about to pay the ultimate price that their demise is perilously near.

In the world of The Drake, the apartment building at 999 Park Avenue owned by wealthy, sophisticated couple Gavin and Olivia Doran (Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams who are both in fine form), nothing is for free, and your Faustian pact with the “devil”, who in this case really does wear Prada, comes with a very high price tag indeed.

Your life.

(The show may not have melodrama but no one said I couldn’t inject some of my own.)

 

(image via dreadcentral.com)

 

The pilot episode opens with a brilliant virtuoso violinist dazzling an appreciative crowd at the symphony who is lost in a moment of pure musical ecstasy when he notices his fingers starting to bleed.

Racing back to The Drake with all the haste he can muster, he frantically packs and makes a break for the lift only to see all the doors that would lead him to the street and “safety” close dramatically on him.

Ominously the antique phone nearby starts ringing, its insistent shrill tones echoing down the eerily silent corridor, and with what can only be described as extreme reluctance, he takes the call.

The caller is Gavin Doran and as the one-time violinist pleads for a little more time, he is soberly informed by the Drake’s suave but malevolent overlord that his 10 years of success is up and that he must now pay for the undeserved talent with which he was bestowed.

Refusing to accept that his dream life is dissolving in a cloud of sulphurous vapours, the man bolts for the life, managing to get to the lobby and out the front door, giving thanks, somewhat ironically to God, that he has made it out alive.

But his respite from damnation is brief and as a small portal in the door opens, he is pulled through the small aperture by a mysterious unseen (but it must be said quite dexterous) force, never to be seen again.

 

Clearly Henry and Jane haven’t heard the phrase “if it looks too good to be true, it usually is” (image via pastemagazine.com)

 

The sense of tension is palpable and the horror, though not overtly expressed, is very much in evidence.

The only allusion made to the man’s disappearance is by concierge Tony DeMeo (Erik Palladino) when he tells the prospective new building managers, and New York newbies, Henry (Dave Annable) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) that the previous building managers went to “a warmer place”.

Thought delivered with a hint of humour by Tony (but only a hint; this is after all a show determined to be taken seriously), the message is clear – the greatest violinist in the world, who was once a man of middling to average till he agreed to give “everything” to be the best, will not be coming to this world any time soon.

 

Henry and Jane fall under the spell of Gavin and Olivia with frightening ease, testament to the seductive and corrupting influence of the “good life” (image via tvfanatic.com)

 

Not that Henry and Jane, excited at the chances their move to New York care very much.

They are too excited by the job offer that comes their way from Gavin after Jane, an architect and heritage consultant impresses the Drake’s owner with her knowledge of Art Deco architecture, and by the large apartment, and the nights at the opera and a thousand other seductive trinkets and baubles that come with the job.

Neither of them gives a second thought there may be strings attached to the avalanche of sophisticated goodness pouring down upon them or that Gavin and Olivia may not necessarily have their best interests at heart.

Of course we know that they don’t (I love the scent of dramatic irony in the air!), and it is skin-crawlingly fascinating watching Gavin and Olivia quietly, but with menacing care, reel impressionable, wide-eyed Henry, newly installed at the mayor’s office (and who I suspect will need Satan himself to appear with a pitchfork to believe anything bad is happening) and Jane, who is far more apt to question things, into their dark, twisted web.

 

Jane and Henry are all grinning delight when they first arrive at The Drake … but how long will that last? (image via usmagazine.com)

 

Satan and his bride, which is what I think I shall tag Gavin and Olivia from here on in (yes a tad more melodrama), wisely surmises that the key to having the couple under their control is to ensnare Henry first which begins at, of all places, a golf driving range where Henry, newly installed in the mayor’s office, is put in a slightly compromising position when a shady business associate of Gavin’s pays a less than friendly call.

While he shrugs this off, as he does most things, with a glib assurance, to himself more than anyone, that Gavin meant no harm, it is clear it is the first step in a master plan to have Henry boxed into a corner so tight he has no choice but to yield to Gavin’s will.

Henry is pretty much the lamb to the slaughter, trusting and unsuspecting (and Gavin and Olivia are betting the one to take Jane along with him) and always ready to explain away the many odd unsettling things that happen at the Drake.

 

Jane, deep down in the basement (and unwisely changing a lightbulb with the electricity on) comes frighteningly close to find out one of the secrets of the Drake (image via hitfix.com)

 

Things that Jane, who is not as easy to fool and far more aware of what lies behind the shiny surfaces that so beguile Henry, can’t help but investigate.

She is also far more attuned to the menace lurking in the shadows, and returns from the opera one night, looking dazzling in the $4000 red dress Olivia insisted on buying for her (oh obligation thou art a terrible master indeed and Gavin and Olivia know it) feeling psychically soiled and unwashed like some sort of darkness has brushed up against her and left a mark.

While her investigations into the Drake’s history are driven more by her love of heritage and architecture than anything else at this stage, I have no doubt she will be the one who will, as the series progresses, become a very large thorn in Gavin and Olivia’s collective side.

And Rachael Taylor is such a talented actress that she will eat this part up, already demonstrating that she can bring the required shades of darkness and light, strength and vulnerability, curiosity and an innate sense of wrong and right to the role.

 

Jane can’t resist delving into the details of life at the Drake but may well find the devil lurks there (image via g4tv.com)

 

Alas Dave Annable on the other hand, who I loved in Brothers and Sisters, and who it must be noted is a very fine looking man, is not of quite the same calibre and may struggle to adequately portray the descent from wide-eyed innocent abroad to a corrupted soul on the cusp of damnation.

There are other characters swirling around on the edges – handsome geeky Brian who is trapped in a marriage to high maintenance difficult Louise and is struggling to contain his lust for her new assistant Alexis, and jewel thief Nona, whose agenda is unclear – but essentially 666 Park Avenue, which is, at its heart, a good old fashioned morality tale, is Henry and Jane’s story and the first episode does a very good job of starting them on their journey into glamourous but deadly world of 666 Park Avenue.