October 8, 2012

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “666 Park Avenue”

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

666 PARK AVENUE:  Sunday 10PM on ABC

Previously… on 666 PARK AVENUE:  Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and her boyfriend Henry Martin (Dave Annable) have come from Indiana to New York, where he works in city government and Jane hopes to become an architect.  Meanwhile, they’ve landed a you-bet-it’s-too-good-to-be-true job as the resident managers of the Drake, a glamorous and imposing Upper West Side apartment house.  The Drake is owned by Gavin and Olivia Doran (Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams), rich beyond imagining and with the most shadowy of connections.  The residents of the Drake have a nasty habit of dying dramatically (in the pilot, one was sucked into his wall), and the menu seems to include another young couple, playwright Brian Leonard (Robert Buckley) and his designer wife Louise (Mercedes Masohn)–she was attacked by a building elevator in the pilot, which seems to be a pretext to force Louise’s gorgeous assistant Alexis (Helena Mattsson) into Brian’s path, for reasons as-yet unknown.  Also, there’s teen Nona (Samantha Logan), who takes people’s possessions for the purpose of gathering telepathic visions about them.  Before long, Jane is having nightmares about a room behind the (cavernous, spooky) laundry room with a mysterious design on the floor, and Gavin and Olivia are murmuring vaguely about their undoubtedly menacing plans for Henry.

Episode 2:   Things pick up right after the events of the pilot:  Louise is in the hospital, and Alexis seizes the opportunity to copy her keys and walk in on Brian as he exits the shower, resulting in exactly the extramarital doings that the house seems to want.  Jane, for her part, finds enough CG starlings behind the sucking wall from the pilot to make Alfred Hitchcock happy, and when she hires an exterminator to get rid of them, they do to him just what Hitch’s birds would have done.  Her nightmares seem to be a continuing part of the story, and this week’s has her walking through the laundry room into an apartment from 1956, where she finds one of the tenants murdered.  (A newspaper clipping mysteriously delivered to her fills in the blanks.)  This connects to the tenant-of-the-week story, in which Danielle (Mili Avital) turns out to have been that murderer, who’s kept perpetually young apparently so Gavin can periodically use her to kill men by whom he sets her up to be betrayed, after which she forgets the crime.  And that connects with the Henry storyline, because Danielle’s newest victim is someone who had been trying to cheat Gavin in a business deal–probably not a good idea–and Henry passed some kind of test by following the rules of his job and not disclosing to Gavin that he knew what the guy was attempting to do.

666 Park Avenue is a very glossy thriller that lacks the crazy zip (and the equally crazy sexuality) of American Horror Story and the gore of The Walking Dead, both of which are returning to the air in the next couple of weeks.  The 2nd episode, written by series creator David Wilcox and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, has the same tone as the pilot, and the question for the show is going to be whether its comparative tameness will work for an audience that can get far more horrifying thrills on basic cable.  The cast is attractive and assured, and the series has so far toed the line between atmospheric and ludicrous fairly well.  One couldn’t really call it very scary, though, and its characters are more cardboard than human–not a big problem when the audience is at the edge of its seat, but more of an issue when there’s time to admire the vaulted ceilings of the sets.

On paper, 666 is a good fit with its Sunday ABC cohorts Once Upon A Time and Revenge, both of which mix soap with melodramatic plotting.  The new show didn’t attract as much of their audience as the network would have hoped, however, and that may be because it was clear even from promos that 666 lacks the killer instinct we now expect from our horror, as well as the romance and wit of a show like Vampire Diaries.  666 actually feels, more than anything else, like an overgrown CW show, as though Gossip Girl had gone deadly.  On a night crammed with quality cable television, that may not be enough.


Pilot + 1:  A Bit Too Bloodless


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."