Monday, October 29, 2012

666 Park Avenue: A Crowd of Demons (1.5)

Is 666 Park Avenue supposed to be campy? There were numerous moments this week in which I wondered if I had been looking at this show all wrong, and that I had been treating a campy horror soap like a dark soapy thriller all along. A Crowd of Demons isn't 'funny ha-ha' campy, of course, but campy in a "I can sort of see what they're trying to do here... if I reeeeally look for it" kind of way. Most of the dialogue is appalling ("That strange ritual was supposed to bring us incredible wealth", somebody actually says with a straight face this week), extreme tonal shifts occur at the drop of a hat, and plot devices drop like heavy anvils all over the place. It sure feels like a show intending to be campy. But while all of that would ordinarily result in a fun way to kill an hour on a Sunday night, 666 masterfully makes all this soapy awfulness actually pretty boring. It's some achievement.

This was another episode that seemed to be really going somewhere as it opened up, characters energetically running around, new protagonists introduced, and an unending number of dramatic music cues to intimate that something wild was right around the corner. But the arrival of a moody montage sequence and a smash-cut to the end titles suddenly exposed that nothing actually happened. It's all little hints of what could happen in the coming weeks or whatever, and few glimmers of actual narrative energy. I don't think I've seen a show in recent years that tried so hard at doing so little.

Most of this week's screentime was devoted to Writer/Window/Wife (I'm still struggling to remember their individual names, so I've decided to just compress them all-together indefinitely), which was an unfortunate decision. Writer is still befuddled and weary, Window is still sneaky and calculating for reasons unknown, and Wife has gotten her own hunky doctor to maybe screw around with. There's a strange addition here with the Wife's secret pill habit, another layer of nothingness on an already sleepy subplot. At least everybody else on this show occasionally crosses paths in one way or another, these three are so self-contained together that it's becoming increasingly difficult to not just skip over all their scenes. It sure isn't moving forward enough to keep you interested.

Elsewhere, Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams continue to push a real semblance of romantic chemistry together, even if their characters are still stuck being directionless and lacking in any real personality. This week a scary Gas-Mask man steals a mysterious box from Gavin's safe, using Olivia's potential murder as a showy distraction from his true goal. Meh. This was fine, if unsurprisingly vague. There's a box. And then it's gone. And... yeah.

Henry is also being pursued by a shady publicist played by Veronica Mars' Tessa Thompson, who wants to represent him following last week's shooting thing. Nothing actually happens, but... she's new, and there, so... The show is also continuing to make a big deal out of Henry and Jane being unmarried, which is a little odd. Again, it's the writers putting firm emphasis on something unusual, or a particular something that is implied will be important, but withholding anything tangible that we at home can grab onto. It's all floaty narrative trickery, which blows.

One area that actually got some momentum here was the introduction of a Drake building mythology, finally connecting the little ghost girl with Jane's necklace and Dusty from the luggage. It turns out that Dust Dude murdered his wife in the building back in the 1920's, and Jane is seemingly a descendant of the family. True to form, Jane is quickly separated on her own running-scared-through-the-hallways adventure, Dusty chasing her around the building wanting the necklace back. The mythological element is fine, something expected from a show set in a mysterious location, but it's not being depicted too well just yet. Jane remains a somewhat passive, uninteresting protagonist at the center of all this drama, while the ghosts and ghouls are struggling to be anything particularly interesting right now. This is 666's big area of opportunity to tell some intriguing genre stories, so hopefully they'll capitalize on it at some point in the future, instead of focusing on the drags that make up most of the cast. Because everything else? Snooze-fest. C+

Guest stars
Enrique Murciano (Dr. Scott Evans); Tessa Thompson (Laurel Harris); Jim True-Frost (Peter Kramer); Christine Toy Johnson (Julie); Jacqueline Hendy (Skyler Jones)
Writer Sonny Postiglione Director Robert Duncan McNeill

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