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Pilot Inspektor: An Advance Review of ABC's "Eastwick"

ABC's newest drama series Eastwick, which launches this fall, is the type of series where people are meant to be "serious" because they wear glasses.

Giving a new meaning to telegraphing rather than letting the plot unfold on its own, Eastwick--based on the 1987 feature film The Witches of Eastwick--tells the story of three women who are strangers to one another in the idyllic New England town of Eastwick. Each making a wish on a coin that seemingly magically appears in their presence, they unwittingly open the door to the return of an enigmatic figure into their midst. A figure whose arrival presages darkness, evil, and wanton destruction, along with sex, sex, sex.

But before that, there's the drinking of martinis, the discussion of menfolk, and some female bonding, making Eastwick something more akin to Lipstick Jungle with magical powers.

Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty) plays freethinking artist and single mother Roxie Torcoletti, a woman who is prone to jumping into bed with much younger men (like Matt Dallas' Chad) and sculpting fertility goddess statues. Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle) is deeply repressed local newspaper reporter Joanna Frankel, a woman who can't quite work up the nerve to ask her hunky co-worker Will (Dirt's Johann Urb) out on a date or ask her editor for a promotion. (Did anyone tell her she's lucky to have a media job in these dismal economic times?) And then there's Jamie Ray Newman (Veronica Mars), who plays devoted mother and wife Kat Gardener, a nurse whose marriage to the boozy, unemployed Raymond (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian's Jon Bernthal) is on its last legs.

Their wishes summon a man (or is it the Devil himself?) named Darryl Van Horne (Slings and Arrow's Paul Gross) to Eastwick. Arriving in the town, Van Horne sets about to answer all of their prayers, purchasing many a failing business as well as a historic estate (meant to be a snowy egret sanctuary) and the local paper. Eastwick quickly falls to Van Horne and so do its women. With the notable exception, that is, of local historian Bun (The Nine's Veronica Cartwright, who appeared in the original film), hospitalized after an attack by red ants who warns Kat against the coming darkness.

As for our trio, they are quickly bonded by circumstances out of their control, pushed together by the cone of power and they quickly let their hair down and become involved with this charismatic stranger, who changes their lives even as they discover access to abilities they didn't know they had. Roxie can see into the future via prophetic dreams and manages to come to the aid of her daughter Mia (Days of Our Lives' Ashley Benson) when she's nearly date-raped; Kat unleashes lightning to smite her husband Raymond when he threatens to divorce her and take their numerous kids; Joanna uses her mesmeric gaze to land that promotion and get Will to admit that he has feelings for her.

Rounding out the cast is Sara Rue, who plays Penny, Joanna's best friend and her co-worker at the paper, a dour woman who seems to have forgotten to get in line when they were handing out sympathetic qualities. I'm not sure how Penny fits into the larger picture but she uncovers evidence at the pilot's very end that indicates that Darryl Van Horne may not be who he claims to be.

The problem is that audiences will have likely lost interest by then. Eastwick, written by Maggie Friedman and directed by David Nutter, is the sort of series that tries way too hard by far to be likable, mixing its supernatural plot with discussions of vibrators and penis size, confusing predictable crassness for subversion.

But the real issue is that none of Eastwick's characters are remotely likable or compelling. In fact, some like Sara Rue's Penny and Jon Bernthal's Raymond are so irritatingly shrill and annoying that I wanted some divine intervention to smite them where they stood and then drop their ashes into that over-the-top fountain. The rest seem to be made up of the sort of cliches we find on female-skewing series that look to emulate the sort of feminine discourse made popular by Sex and the City.

Paul Gross tries his best as the seductive Darryl Van Horne but it's hard to separate his performance from that of Jack Nicholson's and Gross comes off as little more than a Nicholson manqué here. He's meant to be the Devil at his most magnetic but Gross' Van Horne is a little too stuck in the 1980s to be all that alluring. (Hell, Romijn's Roxie even makes a joke about his out-dated hairstyle.)

The three main actresses are all passable but none of them seem to be having a particularly good time. Price's Joanna comes across as equal parts frigid and socially awkward (hence the vibrator talk with Will) but then is transformed halfway through the episode into a vampish coquette able to get her way with everything. (She's actually far more likable when she's putting her foot in it.) Roxie dreams of being murdered and comes face to face with Jamie, the man responsible, at the episode's end. And Kat is tired of her husband's constant leeching and so moves the earth and opens up the heavens to strike him down. If this all unfolds just within the very first installment, how can the plot escalate?

It's hard to see just how much longevity this premise has. Now that Joanna and Penny know that Van Horne is an impostor by the end of the pilot and the women are all exhibiting fine-tuned use of their magical abilities, just where do we go from here? What is Season Four of this series? (Hell, what's Season Two?) Does Eastwick really have the legs to be an ongoing drama?

Perhaps if the dialogue were more clever and the writing less hackneyed, it would be easy to overlook the obvious flaws within Eastwick. But as it is, I found the pilot episode to be both cloying and grating and far less clever than it believes itself to be. No magic here, sadly.

Eastwick airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/PT this fall on ABC.


rockauteur said…
This show was painfully boring, no more than Desperate Housewives/Charmed mash-up that sucks!
Annie said…
The promo looked painful enough but after reading this I am staying far away from EASTWICK. Sounds awful!
wendy said…
Ah, I was afraid of that! Finally we get Paul Gross back on U.S. tv and we get this dreck. I don't know if I'll even be able to watch it the one time. The promos make my skin crawl - the worst writing ever and the casting - shudder.
Magic coins? Fountains? Martinis? Sara Rue? Yikes. This sounds painful.
Anonymous said…
I love Sara Rue!!! She usually plays such nice sweet characters... might be cool to see her get to do something different!
Mikey D. said…
I agree! Sara Rue is my dream girl!!! I will watch just for her!!!
Wes said…
Depressingly, horrifically bad. Could barely make it thru the whole thing.

Is Sara Rue REALLY anyone's dream girl? I find that very hard to believe on multiple levels.
Anonymous said…
Ok maybe Im insane, but I don't think it looks nearly as bad as i thought it would. . in fact, it looks kinda good.

Im nostalgic for the old movie now and at the same time will allow a new series to find its own voice (I always liked the old film, but not crazy die hard to the point where I think anyone will ruin it).

as for the cast, Lindsay Price has always been good at finding the comedy and qwerk in shows and Sara Rue can read the phone book and make it funny and charming so I'm not too worried there either. I can only hope that Rebecca Romaijn wears blue painted body suits and Ill know for sure this is a tivo season pass.
Sara Rue Fan said…
I read the script for the pilot episode, and I didn't think it was TOO horrible. However, after I saw the promo clips and such for the actual episode, I couldn't believe how, well, boring it seems. Though the only reason I'm gong to watch it is for Sara Rue. She seems to only have a few scenes as Penny in the pilot, and the character seems to be there mostly to develop the one 'witch'es inner struggle as well as help with the comic relief a bit.

"Is Sara Rue REALLY anyone's dream girl? I find that very hard to believe on multiple levels."

Absolutely. Granted, I don't know her as a person, but everything I've seen of hers, including interviews, tells me she's my dream girl, on every level.
kxyfan said…
The only reason I was excited about this series was because I thought Matt Dallas was going to be in it. Turns out he is just in the pilot so I guess that is all I will be watching. I like Sara Rue so I hope the show is well received but I'm not very hopeful. The clip isn't very good and if that is the best they have to offer it's not looking very good at all.
Ally said…
"is the type of series where people are meant to be "serious" because they wear glasses."

HILARIOUS! And so, so true.

I thought the pilot was....ok. But its biggest fault is in the casting of Darryl. It's a nearly impossible task to cast a role once played by Jack, especially when Jack delighted in this role so much. Gross comes off as cheesy and not at all sexy, which just makes me miss Jack even more. Dark Knight did it right, by taking a role indelibly linked to someone (hey, Jack!) and re-imagining it in such a way that there is room for both. The problem here is that this Darryl is trying too hard to be like the movie Darryl and the comparisons are inevitable. It's a glaring weak link in a pilot that needed all the help it could get. Nice touch, though, having VC in the series.

And it was nice to see Stars Hollow again. ;)
gail said…
Hi There....does anyone know the name of the song that is used in the Eastwick promo? The promo is called Wishes Fall;the three women are throwing their coins into the fountain. The singer sounds like the same person used for the summer promo for Desperate Housewives right before its debut fall premiere a few years back.


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