Happy Town Review: Blood Has Been Spilled...

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Welcome to Haplin, Minnesota. What did you think of ABC's introduction to this mysterious hamlet?

On the series premiere of Happy Town, we met a bunch of interesting individuals, most of whom are hiding secrets or playing some role in a killer-based conspiracy.

This is pretty much ABC's third attempt at replacing Lost. Its first two, FlashForward and V, have tanked in the ratings and are unlikely to be renewed for a second season. But Happy Town feels different, at least after one episode. Unlike those two shows, which took every situation so seriously (FlashForward star Joseph Fiennes may not have smiled once all season), there's a wink and a nod to this drama.

It wants to scare us, sure, but it's also aware that it's a campy television show version of most horror movies.

For example: one old lady said "murder" in an almost mocking way; one character laughed about the sheriff giving him a "This town isn't big enough for the both of us" talk. There was an irony and a light air about the pilot episode, even as it told us all about the Magic Man and his past in Haplin.

Happy Town Premiere Pic

After one hour of the show, I'm curious for more, aren't you? First, the Magic Man is a nice hook. Instead of biting off more than it can chew with a global mystery (again, such as FlashForward and V), the series focuses on a single, overarching issue: Who is the Magic Man? Why did he stop kidnapping? Has he returned with this new murder?

The episode was also sprinkled with clues and facts seemingly related to him. To wit:

  • Henley is actually Chloe, and she has a tattoo on her back of the symbol that mourners in town use to remember their late loved ones.
  • Merrit Grieves knows... something. It wouldn't shock me if that Blue Door speech was just a red herring, but Sam Neill plays this character with the sort of light-hearted irony mentioned above - while still remaining intriguing and, at least to a bunch of elderly widows, sexy.
  • Griffin rants about Chloe in an occasional trance, of course, but this fact struck me as more interesting: his wife died five years ago, around the time when the Magic Man disappeared.
  • What the heck is on the third floor of that house?
The show treads in cliches, of course. Tommy Conroy is your basic small town policeman that has never been around a big crime before.

John Haplin is the grieving father whose wife still washes the sheets of their dead daughter.

We've seen these characters many times before, but Happy Town isn't trying to win any Emmys or writing awards. It's a guilty pleasure. The cast seems solid enough and )perhaps we're just comparing it to the aforementioned pair of flops that quickly ran out of steam on ABC) but it has potential because it's grounded in a small town and focuses on just a few characters.

The show is too self-conscious at times, going out of its way to alert the viewer to every cliche-ridden scenario (look, this couple is akin to Romeo and Juliet! One guy is called "Root Beer" because "it’s a small town; everyone gets a nickname."), as if to say: yes, we're campy and quirky and not too original, but we know it. So that's okay, right?

My answer? Yes, that's okay. Just don't place your tongue too squarely in your cheek, or you lose any semblance of seriousness and become nothing more than a parody of horror films.

Still, blood has been spilled, as Griffin Conroy kept saying to close the episode. The Magic Man might be back. How can we not tune in again to see what this actually means?!?


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (54 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


On June 5th, I gave my two cents worth here, pleading with all to give Happy Town a chance. I must have seen three episodes then. Today, I watched the sixth one. All I can say is..... oh, no!
Shucks,why is the script so loose. Why is the acting so weak. And the quality of directing is poor as with the editing of the show. The music score... why do they have to stay so close to Twin Peaks: It's so unoriginal, unimpactful and the timing is often off. In Twin Peaks, produced some 30 years ago,the music lent some suspense to a certain scene. It carried a lot of weight and added some mystery to the whole programme, unlike Happy Town's rather sad scoring.
I am so, so disappointed that Happy Town is not rising to the occasion. I am still confident though, that it can be salvaged. Something has to be done soon to tighten the show. And hey, the show can boast of a reasonably respectable cast for the likes of Sam Neill, Frances Conroy, Geoff Stults and others. You've got something there... but you need to bring out the magic, Mr producer. Please!


Almost immediately I could sense that the producers of Happy Town were trying to capture a bit of the magic that was Twin Peaks. Understandably some critics have been harsh about their efforts: Even Twin Peaks' musical score was groundbreaking. Can you almost hear to the lovely, very distinct, most orginal, haunting strains as I write this? And then there were the intriguing, fresh-faced Sherilyn Fenn, gorgeous Lara Flynn Boyle, mysterious Joan Chen, enigmatic and youthful Kyle MacLachlan and Dana Ashbrook, and the other equally strong cast. The mystery the series laid out for us was so thick, so rich, so unbearably delicious, you couldn't wait for next week's offering.
And now we have Happy Town.
Well, it's not exactly Twin Peaks, not by a long shot. But it's still quite interesting. I think it's growing on me. And the cast is superb! Let's give it a chance.
Vampire Diaries was humdrum in the beginning, as with True Blood, V, The Wire, Sopranos, Alias, 24, Glee.... I remember not really jumping up and down in utter joy during the first episode of these spectacular series' but they have bowled us over... or me at least. I'm sure Happy Town will pick up. It's actually getting better each week, really. The acting I think needs to be a tad sharper though, and the editing maybe a wee bit tighter, maybe?


I actually like this show. It's a little weird at times because they cramp a lot into every epidsode, but I think it will ease down once it gets the plot going.


I've never heard so much ham-fisted expositional dialogue in my life. Especially in the first 15 minutes. The explanations of all the character's backstories, the history of the town, etc. It all made the character of Basil Exposition from the Austin Powers movie seem subtle in comparison. Some truly terrible and on-the-nose writing.


I have to say, had I gone solely on the tv commercials, I was completely ready to ignore Happy Town. I was D-O-N-E with that creepy song, and the commercial was shown way too often for my liking. I was not the only one who felt this way, as when I asked someone else if it was on the watch list, she replied, "Nope. Because I'm sick of the stupid commercial." I remembered having the same feeling for Life on Mars, which I ended up kind of liking, so I did some internet searching so that I actually knew some of the premise (something the commercial left out), and because of that research, I was intrigued, and did watch. I was a Twin Peaks fan, but I am willing to let this show stand on it's own, because IT IS NOT TWIN PEAKS! Of course, TP was such a popular show they would want to try to grab it's audience, but I repeat, this show IS NOT TWIN PEAKS! Give it a chance, let's see where it goes. Oh, and I read that they are planning on answering questions in a timely manner, and let me say that in and of itself has HUGE draw to me!


Enjoyed it except for the freaky backwards brothers up in them there hills. I don't think it's quite as good as Harper's Island which had my entire family on the edge of our seats for every minute of every episode, but it has real potential.

Matt richenthal

He said he was gonna launch it into the lake, not the pond (which was frozen).


How does one launch a boat (Dallas Alice) into a frozen lake.

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