666 PARK AVENUE: Sunday 10PM on ABC – Potential DVR Alert
Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall. Pilots are often reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot. These critiques shouldn’t be taken as full pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
We’re continuing our Comic-Con themed look at supernatural series heading for our TV screens in the upcoming season with 666 PARK AVENUE, the very swanky demonic thriller that ABC is placing in its deluxe Sunday 10PM timeslot.
666 Park is set in that bastion of horror chic, the ritzy New York apartment building, seen previously in such thrillers as Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil’s Advocate. The influence of the latter is especially evident in David Wilcox’s script (he’s been a senior writer on Fringe), loosely based on novels by Gabriella Pierce. Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) are a good-looking, aspirational couple. He’s a lawyer who works for the NY Mayor’s office, she’s an architect who recently had a big job fall through. They live in Queens, but then an of-course-it’s-too-good-to-be-true opportunity comes up: for Jane to be the resident manager at a sumptuous Manhattan building (the address is actually 999 Park, but if you cast a shadow through the numbers at the right angle, it shows up as the more appropriately demonic 666). The owners, who live in the penthouse on the–ahem–13th floor are Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) and his wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams). They’re soon showering the young couple with expensive gifts and invitations to the symphony, the better to corrupt the pair.
All, of course, is not well in the building. 666 Park doesn’t waste much time in letting us know that Gavin has the power to strike dark bargains with the tenants–giving a musician genuine talent, bringing an accountant’s wife back from the dead–in exchange for a terrible price. As someone says about a departed resident, “He’s gone somewhere warmer.” This being a pilot for what ABC hopes will be an extended tale, we see the mosaic of a dragon on the laundry room floor and find out that an old doorway has been walled up, we’re told that Gavin and Olivia have particular interest in Henry, and we know Jane’s disturbing dreams about the place are coming from somewhere, but not where it’s all going. And what’s with Nona (Samantha Logan), a tenant who seems to be a telepath, although her connection with the house’s evil isn’t clear?
666 Park is a much more controlled piece of work than last year”s big horror show, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, and it lacks that show’s genuine shock value–but also its overall feel of batshit chaos. Wilcox seems to know what he’s doing, and the pilot introduces an effective structure for the series. We’re told there are 88 apartments in the building (and of course sudden deaths can always bring in new tenants), and a given hour will have one or two self-contained stories about particular residents, while also developing the larger mythology of the building and what’s going on with Jane and Henry. The casting is full of first-rate ABC veterans. Terry O’Quinn, the great John Locke of Lost, has perfected soft-spoken, amiable menace, and Taylor and Annable (recently on Grey’s Anatomy, Charlie’s Angels and Brothers and Sisters) are lovely and personable as our heroes, without overdoing the naivete. Vanessa Williams, hopping right into another ABC Sunday series post-Desperate Housewives, seems relieved to be playing in a lower, less openly bitchy key this time around. Other regulars include Robert Buckley and Mercedes Masohn as a married couple in the building (he’s an aspiring playwright and thus halfway toward selling his soul to the devil as it is), and Helena Mattsson as the object of his temptation, as well as Erik Palladino as 999 Park’s doorman. Pilot director Alex Graves, who’s been all over Sunday primetime this season with credits for episodes of Pan Am, Shameless, Longmire and The Newsroom, brings the creepy, and there’s a nice Shining-like feel to the long hallways and that menacing laundry room.
On paper, at least, ABC’s Sunday night this fall makes a lot of sense, with escapist fantasies that get progressively more mature as the night goes on: Once Upon A Time‘s twisted fairy tales lead into the sexier suds of Revenge, which sets up the higher body count at 666 Park Avenue. Football will do what it does, but the only other competition in the 10PM slot is The Mentalist, aiming for the older procedural audience on CBS (and often airing late due to football). The trick for a TV thriller, of course, is sustaining its plot beyond a few episodes–there’s a reason why The Twilight Zone was an anthology, and that American Horror Story plans to reboot itself with each new season. Only time will tell if 666 Park can sustain its lease over a longer haul, but it’s off to a diverting, solidly shivery start.