ABC has been heavily promoting the new serial drama Happy Town during Lost this season, touting it as “from the network that brought you Twin Peaks.” Let’s face it, there will never be another Twin Peaks, but the Happy Town premiere is intriguing enough to keep my interest. It boasts a town mystery and some quirky characters, but the comparisons to Twin Peaks should stop right there. Happy Town is more accessible to mainstream audiences, though it still throws enough oddities in the mix to satisfy the more serious television fan.
This post will not have spoilers beyond those that can be seen in the promotional trailer for the series. Haplin, Minnesota is a quaint little town, home of “Daily Bread” bakery and confectionery, and a mysterious character called “the Magic Man.” The Magic Man earned his name because for eight consecutive years, someone would go missing, never to be heard from again. The missing residents were all children or teenagers. Suddenly, five years ago, the disappearances abruptly came to an end, and the townspeople have been enjoying a peaceful community.
The calm is shattered when a brutal murder is discovered. This time a body is quickly found, but rumors begin swirling about the Magic Man. Town sheriff Griffin Conroy is joined by his son (and fellow deputy) Tommy Conroy, and the two start investigating the murder. Griffin starts having some very odd spells where he seems entranced, and he keeps speaking of “Chloe”. As soon as he snaps back to reality, he has no idea what he has just said. Naturally, this concerns his son.
A beautiful stranger named Henley arrives in town via train, and is picked up at the station by a real estate agent. Henley confesses that she came to Haplin because her mother used to vacation there. Henley rents a room in a stately mansion, where she meets Merritt Grieves, a distinguished English gentleman who gives her a knowing look when they first meet. Merritt owns a movie memorabilia shop delightfully named “House of the Ushers.”
Other principal characters introduced are Tommy Conroy’s wife and daughter, and locals Dave “Big Dave” and Eli “Root Beer.” The two men are enamored by Henley when she is introduced to them in Dave’s pub.
The wealthy Haplin family is represented in the first episode by John Haplin. It is revealed that his daughter is one of the missing children. Finally, there is the eccentric white trash trio of Stiviletto brothers.
This first episode serves to introduce the characters, present the mystery, and set the sinister tone of the series. Every person introduced could be the Magic Man. The episode moves a bit slow, but that is to be expected when so many characters are being introduced. By the end, things have picked up considerably, and there is a whopper of a reveal, teasing next week.
A particular symbol pops up throughout the episode, in the form of graffiti, that consists of a question mark (?) with a halo on top of it. Obviously it will come into play later. Oddball characters are plentiful in Haplin, and the “widows” who reside in the mansion with Hadley provide some comic relief. I bet we will see more of these types of individuals as the story unfolds.
Happy Town has a stellar cast, more akin to a mini-series than a serial drama. I’m going to give you a quick rundown of some of the characters introduced in this episode.
Sheriff Griffin Conroy
Played by: M.C. Gainey
Where you’ve seen him: In addition to several tv guest appearances, Gainey played the “other” Tom on Lost.
Deputy Tommy Conroy
Played by: Geoff Stults
Where you’ve seen him: 7th Heaven, Reunion, October Road.
Rachel Conroy (Tommy’s wife)
Played by: Amy Acker
Where you’ve seen her: Dollhouse, Alias
Georgia Bravin (the Conroy’s babysitter)
Played by: Sarah Goden
Henley (the mysterious and beautiful stranger)
Played by: Lauren German
Played by: Sam Neil
Where you’ve seen him: The Tudors, Jurassic Park 3, In the Mouth of Madness
Played by: Steven Weber
Where you’ve seen him: Wings, Brothers and Sisters, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Happy Town reeled me in this first episode, and after a nifty cliffhanger, I’ll be back for more.