In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC
The Witches of Eastwick is one of those movies that everyone seemed to enjoy. An adaptation of John Updike’s novel, it sees three women in a small town suddenly get their wishes granted by Jack Nicholson – they discover they’re witches, but worryingly, they also discover he’s the devil.
Depending on your views, you can see it as a feminist parable – three women get together and triumph over evil using their own power – or an anti-feminist parable – three women are doormats until they meet the right man and then bad things happen to them because they use their own power.
Eastwick, ABC’s version of the story, isn’t really worthy of the word ‘parable’. In reality a slightly – but only slightly – more adult version of Charmed it makes Practical Magic look like The Shield and has worse acting than the average soap opera.
And any show that has that nice mountie from Due South as a Jack Nicholson-esque devil has problems.
EASTWICK – Three very different women find themselves drawn together by a mysterious man who unleashes unique powers in each of them, and this small New England town will never be the same. The series is based on the popular movie “The Witches of Eastwick” and the novel of the same title by John Updike. “Eastwick” stars Rebecca Romijn as Roxie Torcoletti, Lindsay Price as Joanna Frankel, Jamie Ray Newman as Kat Gardener, Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne, Sara Rue as Penny, Veronica Cartwright as Bun, Johann Urb as Will, Jon Bernthal as Raymond and Ashley Benson as Mia. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television. Maggie Friedman is executive producer/writer. The pilot was directed by David Nutter.
Is it any good?
Now, for the benefit of this review, lovely wife was present during the viewing to ensure that no “guys don’t get this kind of this” issues arose. Our general conclusion was, no, this isn’t very good.
The big problems are the cast and the script – okay, so basically all of it. Rebecca Romijin is hot, but not a great actress; Lindsay Price is giving exactly the same performance she gave in Lipstick Jungle*; and Paul Gross is (apparently) too pretty and not demonic enough to be the devil. To be fair, Jamie Ray Newman isn’t bad and Gross is still pretty good and about a million miles away from his performance in Due South, but he’s still not right for the role.
At best, this could be described as a fairy tale for adults (and we all know how well those do on ABC (I’m looking at you Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone), but adults of limited brain capacity. To them, this all might seem like good, hard-hitting TV. But for everyone else, it’s not.
For example, Jamie Ray Newman says at one point to her layabout husband, “What’s it going to take to get you out of that hammock? An earthquake?”. At which point there’s an earthquake. Instead of the reaction someone might give in real life – “Wow, that’s a freaky coincidence!”, etc – layabout husband asks “How did you do that?”
And Lindsay Price’s boss at her newspaper (yes, despite Eastwick having a population of about 70, it can afford a local paper with about 30 staff, including a photographer) is a sexist who likes to ‘squeeze past’ women to brush up against their breasts – in the middle of a room. Really? That’s the worst, most plausible sexism you could come up with, people?
This is not smart TV.
As you might expect, the first episode doesn’t cover the whole of the Witches of Eastwick plot, so the gradual but incredibly unsubtle inveigling of Gross into the three women’s lives is going to continue over the next few episodes. But since everyone already knows he’s the devil and it’s incredibly obvious from the script, even if the women don’t seem to realise it (which given Lindsay Price now has the power to make people do what she wants just by looking at them is surprising to say the least) there’s going to be a whole lot of yawning while that particular ‘revelation’ takes its time to emerge.
It’s basically the same old tedious attempts to do cultural feminism as though it’s new – look, women have sexual power they can use if only they realised it; look at the power of the hardworking mother and wife; witches as a metaphor for powerful women – mixed in with more regressive ideas (all women want is a man to look after them and protect them), as though that’s somehow tapping into the deep societal subconsciousness through the metaphor of fantasy. And any statements about life for working women, etc, are about 20 years out of date.
Even if it weren’t an adaptation of a movie of a book, there wouldn’t be anything new being said here. Move along, people. Move along.