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Happy Town - Episode 1.01 - In This Home On Ice - Quick Recap and Comments

The first thing I heard about Happy Town was that it was going to be a show like Twin Peaks and something about a guy called the Magic Man. Seemed kind of interesting but for whatever reason I never watched the hour-long drama. When I heard that Happy Town was cancelled after just two episodes, I wanted to checkout the show. Since it seems ABC never gave it a chance, I wanted to give a quick recap of the first episode and I've also sprinkled in some reasons that in my humble opinion made it hard for Happy Town to find an audience.

In this home on ice... there is murder.

The episode starts off with a girl walking through the woods, she has just left her young lover and is taking a shortcut home. Suddenly she hears screaming, a man screaming. Following the sound, she sees two men fighting in a small ice shack; it starts raining so she takes off. Inside this shack we see a man, bloodied and tied to a chair, pleading for his life. A large man whose face we never see picks up a large hammer and chisel. He walks over to this poor guy and places the chisel to his forehead and with a vicious swing from the hammer... Roll Credits.

What's so happy about Happy Town?

The next day we get to see the happy town of Haplin, Minnesota; its pretty little stores and pretty little houses; the entire town has the aroma of fresh bread because of the town's bread factory. But today it seems some of the townsfolk aren't so happy.

In the town square they're holding a rally for the victims of the Magic Man. There's a big banner with all the faces of the children who have gone missing, vanished and never seen again. The town sheriff (M.C. Gainey) and his son (Geoff Stults), a cop as well, show up to calm things down, but a father of one of the victims, John Haplin (Steven Weber), isn't going to stop until the police start looking for the Magic Man again.

Later, the sheriff and his son are called down to that ice shack and find the the guy frozen solid with a hole through his head. The victim turns out to be the town's Peeping Tom. The investigation gives us a chance to meet the town's quirky characters, because small towns are filled with quirky characters.

Reason #1: If you're going to kill somebody in the first 5 minutes, could you make it somebody the audience cares about, or at least is curious about? Laura Palmer was the homecoming queen in Twin Peaks, but here this guy was just some town 'Perv'. Which character would you care about more?

Legerdemain (sleight of hand)

Meanwhile, a new girl arrives, Henley Boone (Lauren German). From hearing her mother talk so fondly of Haplin she's looking for a new start here in happy town. Before long she gets a couple of hints that everything isn't all smiles. At the boarding house where she's staying, complete with old widows playing bridge, she is warned by the landlady that the third floor is Off Limits. Also she meets the cool and creepy Mr. Grieves (Sam Neil).

Mr. Grieves is one of those delicious characters who knows more than everybody else and is going to give us all that juicy backstory we love to hear. He tells Henley that 12 years ago the Magic Man started his vanishing act and every year for the next 7 years another person has gone missing, never to be found again. Then as suddenly as the vanishings started, it all stopped. There has been no sign of the Magic Man in Haplin for 5 years now.

Reason #2: Where's the magic? Every time someone mentions his name, we hear a scary note on the score. I need more than that. We never see the Magic Man in action, there's no flashback, and no one gets kidnapped, nothing. They treat him like he's the shark in the first half of Jaws, which is great, but eventually you got to show the shark and have him take a bite out of something meaty.

The Wrap Up

One good thing I must say that the cast for Happy Town is pretty good. When you can get Sam Neil, Jason Weber, and others, you're doing something right. Also, the potential for the show is there, underneath all the quirky small town characters, and the hapless police force, there is a good show in here somewhere.

As the episode goes on you start to see the scars left by the Magic Man come to the surface. The sheriff and Mrs. Grieves have a standoff of sorts, where we get the idea that there is unfinished business these two. Later, after a cryptic warning that the Magic Man is coming back, the sheriff, who has gone crazy it seems, chops off his own hand, yikes. We also learn that the new girl in town, Henley, isn't who she says she is and she is somehow connected to Haplin's notorious kidnapper.

Reason #3: ABC plopped Happy Town very late in the year. If it was a true mid-season show, it would have at least survived longer than a couple of episodes and maybe found an audience.

Reason #4 : From the start Happy Town was supposed to be the new Twin Peaks, but that's a lot for any show to live up to, maybe too much.

Thanks for reading this, it's my first post. Leave any comments please, I especially want to hear from the Happy Town fans out there! Was ABC fair? Was I fair?

Thanks again.

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