Categorised | US TV reviews

Review: 666 Park Avenue 1x1 (ABC/ITV2)

Posted on October 2, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

666 Park Avenue

In the US: Sundays, 10pm/9pm Central, ABC
In the UK: Acquired by ITV2

So when is an adaptation not an adaptation? When you've only bought the book for its title because it's cool and you're really adapting something else altogether, that's when.

You might be tempted to think, for example, that 666 Park Avenue might be somewhat like 666 Park Avenue, the book of the same name - on which its credits claim it is based. And yet a brief yet cursory examination of the book's Amazon listing (or even, like me, if you flicked through it in the book shop) will reveal a few discrepancies:

Welcome to New York City, where the socialites are witches.

Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When her boyfriend Malcolm proposes, Jane can't believe her luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job as a fledgling architect and make a new start with him in New York. But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan's most feared and revered families, Jane's fairy tale takes a darker turn.

Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

Welcome to 666 Park Avenue….

Yes, it's Gossip Girl meets The Secret Circle. At least, the book is.

But that's not 666 Park Avenue the TV series. That is something completely different. And by completely different, I mean it's Rosemary's Baby meets The Devil's Advocate with just a hint of The Shining to give us 'The Devil's Janitor'. That's not as sexy a title as 666 Park Avenue, is it?

When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, arrive in New York City, the glamorous center of industry and media, they are offered the opportunity to manage the historic Drake. Jane, a small town girl with big ambitions, always knew she wanted to be an architect. Henry, a member of the Mayor's staff, is grounded, intelligent and tenacious. They are lured by the intoxicating lifestyle of New York's wealthy elite.

Sexy, enticing and captivating, home to an epic struggle of good versus evil, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its tenants in this new, chilling drama, tempting them through their ambitions and desires.

Basically, bunch of people in a building. They all get tempted. They sign their souls over to the guy who owns the building - the Devil (probably) - and then bad things happen. Two new people move in. They're going to be tempted by something, but you can bet they're going to do some investigating first.

And despite some really quite gruesome scenes, there is almost nothing interesting about this show. Apart from the title. It's a real place, you know.

About
What would you do to have everything you desire? Step inside 666 Park Avenue, New York's most seductive address. We all have some burning needs, desires and ambitions. For the residents of The Drake, the premier apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side, these will all be met - for a price - courtesy of the building's mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O'Quinn). But be careful what you wish for, because the price you have to pay is your soul. ABC's wickedly sensual, sexy and spine-tingling new drama about fulfilling our deepest desires, 666 Park Avenue, will air Sundays from 10:00-11:00 p.m., ET.

When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, arrive in New York City, the glamorous center of industry and media, they are offered the opportunity to manage the historic Drake. Jane, a small town girl with big ambitions, always knew she wanted to be an architect. Henry, a member of the Mayor's staff, is grounded, intelligent and tenacious. They are lured by the intoxicating lifestyle of New York's wealthy elite.

Gavin, who has many skeletons in his own closet, is at the height of his world and commands the dark power of The Drake. Olivia (Vanessa Williams), his beautiful but enigmatic, supportive wife, wears her elegance, wealth and position in society as armor… but cracks will slowly be revealed.

Jane and Henry not only fall prey to the machinations of Gavin and Olivia, but unwittingly live in the dark embrace of the building's supernatural forces which endanger the lives of its residents. These include Brian Leonard (Robert Buckley), a young playwright pining for his early success and promise. Brian's wife, Louise (Mercedes Masöhn), is a rising hot star in the world of fashion photography. Alexis Blume (Helena Mattsson) is a troubled young woman who is the picture of obsession -- what is her real connection to Gavin, and what part will she play in Brian and Louise's life? Tony DeMeo (Erik Palladino), The Drake's doorman, is the eyes and ears of the building. And then there is 14-year-old Nona Clark (Samantha Logan), who has a blossoming psychic ability, allowing her to look into the future of her fellow Drake occupants.

Sexy, enticing and captivating, home to an epic struggle of good versus evil, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its tenants in this new, chilling drama, tempting them through their ambitions and desires.

666 Park Avenue stars Rachael Taylor (Charlie's Angels, Grey's Anatomy, Transformers) as Jane Van Veen, Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters, Reunion) as Henry Martin, Mercedes Masöhn (The Finder, Chuck, Three Rivers) as Louise Leonard, Robert Buckley (One Tree Hill, Lipstick Jungle) as Brian Leonard, Helena Mattsson (Iron Man 2, Nikita, Desperate Housewives) as Alexis Blume, Erik Palladino (U-571, ER, Murphy Brown) as Tony DeMeo and Samantha Logan as Nona Clark, with Vanessa Williams (Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Shaft, Soul Food) as Olivia Doran and Terry O'Quinn (Lost, Millennium, Hawaii Five-0, Alias, The West Wing, Jag) as Gavin Doran.

Based on the book series by Gabriella Pierce, 666 Park Avenue is executive-produced by Matthew Miller (Chuck, Human Target), David Wilcox (Fringe, Life on Mars), who is also the creator, Gina Girolamo (The Secret Circle, The Lying Game) and Leslie Morgenstein (Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, The Secret Circle, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). The pilot for 666 Park Avenue was written by Wilcox and directed by Alex Graves (Fringe, The West Wing), who was also an executive producer. 666 Park Avenue is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Alloy Entertainment (Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars) and Warner Bros. Television.

Is it any good?
I suppose if you'd never seen any other Satanic horror film or soap opera, never seen an 18-certificate movie - or perhaps never even had sex - there's a remote possibility that you might find 666 Park Avenue in some way scary, original or erotic.

If you're an adult, chances are you'll have done at least one of these things so will be wondering when 666 Park Avenue is ever going to do anything different, as you sit there watching it.

I guess if lack of originality, predictability and over-familiarity are the kind of thing you like - perhaps you just watch the same box set of DVDs over and over again - maybe you won't mind that. But for everyone else, brace yourself for an hour of wondering why when you can have pretty much every TV series or movie ever made on your computer in under an hour, thanks to the Internet, ABC would think 666 Park Avenue was worthy of being commissioned. On the very same night, on the very same network, there's Once Upon A Time, a show entirely about existing supernatural characters you already know everything about, yet remembers to make them different and to do things differently, just to provide the merest scintilla of stimulation to your dormant neurons. You'd think they'd learn something.

But 666 Park Avenue doesn't even do that much. It's a horror story that's not horrifying. It's a 'sexy soap' that thinks kissing necks and a woman opening her robe at a window but who's only visible from the neck upwards is erotic. It's a morality tale that thinks wanting a nice house and nice clothes is an instant invitation to the Devil possessing your soul - be content with your rusty Volvos, plebeians! It's as clumsy and unimaginative waste of money as you could ever hope not to find.

There's literally only one reason to watch 666 Park Avenue - the cast. It's a relatively good cast. Rachael Taylor's mighty pretty, if not the most charismatic of actors. Terry O'Quinn is eternally marvellous. There's Vanessa Williams and my namesake Robert Buckley*, too. And if you're a fan of any of those actors, you'll probably enjoy the minutes each episode in which they appear. You won't enjoy the minutes in which other people playing mere ciphers fill up the screen, which is unfortunately rather a lot of them.

But that's it. The plot is obvious and you can pretty much work out moment by moment exactly what's going to happen to which character at what point. The characters are precisely drawn to be as bland, implausible, predictable and quirkless as mathematics will allow. The human characters are about as catastrophically stupid as it's possible to get before you're given a carer to help you putting on your undergarments each morning.

It's just a complete waste of time and an insult to your intelligence**. Don't watch it.

* Please stop tweeting me, Robert Buckley fans. Please. I mean what does it say about you that you can't even look up your idol's Twitter handle before Tweeting him? Because it's not 'I have a high IQ', that's for sure.

** Apart from a few quite sick moments. Didn't think they'd do that to that woman in the liftshaft, but then I'm always surprised by the violence they're happy with on broadcast US TV. No nudity mind, because that would be just awful. Which in a supposedly sexy series is something of a problem, don't you think?

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