Happy Town Review: So... Where are the Bodies?

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In order to succeed, Happy Town must be a fast-moving show. Other failed attempts by ABC to duplicate Lost (hello, FlashForward and V) have tanked in the ratings largely because they feature under-developed characters and boring, wayward plots.

On the flip side, consider the popularity of The Vampire Diaries and the way its handled its ever-evolving, answer-filled set of storylines.

The series premiere of Happy Town threw a lot at viewers and intrigued me to the point where I excitedly tuned in again last night. But something strange happened on "I Came to Haplin for the Waters" and it had nothing to do with the Magic Man.

It felt like the show couldn't fill an hour of television. Literally.

The New Sheriff

Multiple scenes and conversations just dragged on, as if the writers only had enough for a 45-minute show. First, there was the extraordinarily odd instance of Henley sneaking out to copy Mrs. Meadows' third floor key.

This involved the use of slow motion, a dramatic score, a dance between Merritt Grieves and Mrs. Meadows. It was directed as if this was the concluding scene of a season finale, not a random sequence about 10 minutes into episode number-two.

Then, there was Georgia's drugging. This could have been interesting as a way to introduce the individual who we later learned was from the state police force and assigned to help with the Haplin murder. But, again, it dragged on and on and on.

Clearly, Happy Town thinks the way to draw in viewers is simply to confuse them. But this isn't accomplished by five minutes of flashing lights, out-of-focus camera shots and images of a character screaming. It's way too much. Just write fascinating characters, please. That's all we ask for.

Then, there was the utterly lame conversation between Tommy and Big Dave, after the former learned his best friend was a killer. It went like this:

Tommy: You did it?
Big Dave: Jerry was the Magic Man.
Tommy: No, he wasn't.
Dave: Yes he was.
Tommy: No, he wasn't.
Dave: He told me where the bodies were buried.
Tommy: You're an idiot.
Dave: He told me where the bodies were buried.
Tommy: What are we gonna do?

And on and on and on it went. How did Tommy not ask where the bodies were? Shouldn't the show's very next scene have been this pair searching for them?!?

Moreover, this storyline changes the tone of the show. We don't know Tommy or Dave well enough yet to care about their friendship or this cover-up. By not turning his pal in, Tommy just looks unethical and incompetent, not loyal.

If Happy Town is about mysterious happenings and intrigue, let it be about that. If it's about characters and how they interact with one another, it must do a much better job at developing these people.

I am intrigued by Henly/Chloe, however. Actress Laura German is GORGEOUS, for starters, and I'll watch the show again next week to find out more about her agenda. I'll also be hoping Big Dave turns himself in, so we can move past this storyline and on to more Magic Man-related material.

What did you think of the episode?


Editor Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.4 / 5.0 (20 Votes)

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


The randomness of the show is pure bliss!
And I feel sort of violated for even finishing reading your arguments about how-the-show-is-what based on its second episode. If you expected every episode to be as good as the pilot, or if you don't understand the importance of building strong characters (or how to do so), that only proves you would not serve as a tv producer/director. Oh yeah! And let's "watch the show again next week to find out more about that gorgeous actress' agenda"! LMFAO! How old are you again?


I totally agree that Happy Town seems to drag on in some scenes, and quite honestly, I'm getting tired of not getting any MAJOR questions answered. I have a feeling that HT will turn out to be one of those shows where at the end, you realize that just about everything you saw was significant. I'm banking on this for all the weird and seemingly unneccesary things that happen. Including all the unbelievably awkward scenes that keep showing up.
Also, with all the weird falcon stuff that's happening, and then tonight's episode with the water behind the door (yes, I know it was her subconscious), and the fish crawling out of the hand (a nod to Rachel's earlier memory) I'm starting to wonder if this is some weird sci-fi nonsense. I started watching Happy Town because I was so unbelievably pleased with Harper's Island, and if I'm let down with some strange unexplained phenomenon, I will be extremely displeased, and I'll demand ABC return the lost hours spent trying to decipher their nonsense.


You summed it up perfectly! There were so many scenes that just would not end. It was so irritating! It felt like the director told the actors "try not to get through your lines too quickly" with all the pauses and glances and sighs. Tommy's reaction to finding out his best friend hammered a railroad spike into someone's head was just absurd. Then the mom starts yelling down into the basement about spaghetti, then the circular argument continues. The scene with a bruised Georgia and the guy she can't be seen with was ridiculous too. "Did your father do this?"
"Did your father do this?"
"I'm going to kill him" Georgia watches silently as he storms out of the store, determined to kill her father who had nothing to do with her bruise. I'm not sure if I'll watch it again. I was barely able to get past the bad dialogue from last week ("I'm the son of a sheriff in a town with no crime" and some equally terrible way of telling the viewer Tommy & his wife were high school sweethearts and still in love.) And honestly I don't even really care to find out the answers to whatever mysteries they've presented so far.


I agree with your assessment as far as the first half, which I have to admit was somewhat boring. But the second half more than made up for it. I also wondered at first why they didn't search for the bodies, but I'm more curious as to why dude didn't call in the location of the bodies anonymously. The sheriff wasn't interested because he already knew it wasn't true, as the victim had airtight alibis for two of the disappearances. But despite it's flaws, I thought it was a good scene. I actually liked that he covered up for his friends murder of the town perv. Sure, it makes him look like a corrupt cop, but it also makes him look like a human being. I'm glad he did it. It opens the door for further plot development between the sheriff and the new guy, who's obviously at the top of his game. The whole scene with the brothers was intense as well. I thought that was a well-acted scene. The drugging, the waking up at the brothers home with Carly Simon playing in the background. Some scary stuff, though I'm still unclear as to how she got there, how she got away, and what the detectives role was. Was his role in her drugging actually a part of her hallucination, or was he really involved? Finally, the deal with the birds in the room, and the ending, with the falcon slamming into "Chloe's" windshield and causing the wreck. It made me interested enough to tune in next week. I just hope the disappearances don't turn out to involve yet another alternate universe and/or time travel scenario, which is starting to get old.

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