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TV Preview: Harper’s Island

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Tonight at 10pm (9 if you live in one of those weird time zones) CBS is premiering its newest drama.  I'm not afraid to say that I've been excited for the show ever since I first heard of it oh-so-many months ago.  The show, Harper's Island, is one you can't have escaped seeing previews for if you have watched CBS even a little in the past month (maybe more).

The show is a 13-episode mystery featuring a series of vile, disgusting, despicable murders.  Sure, it's possible that the story may end after 13 episodes, but you and I both know that if the series is a massive success they'll work out a way to bring it back for another season.  I don't know if I'm rooting for a second season yet, but I'm definitely hoping the first one is a success.  Here's a little snippet CBS sent explaining the show: 

27 miles off the coast of Seattle seven years ago, six people were murdered by John Wakefield.  They were the first murders in the history of the island… they will not be the last…

See?  Doesn't that sound intriguing?  Doesn't that sound like it could be great fun?

As for the first episode itself?  Well, I may be rooting for the show, but if I were betting (and I don't bet with my heart), I'd be betting against it.

In looking for something to compare the show to, the most obvious choice is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. After watching the pilot however, I'd like to suggest that it veers slightly more into Murder in Small Town X territory. The thrills present in the first episode are certainly more of the cheap variety.

The storyline revolves around a couple returning to this cute little island to get married. The girl, Trish Wellington (Katie Cassidy), is the daughter of a rich family who summered there, while the guy, Henry Dunn (Christopher Gorham), worked on the island during the summers. Rich daddy is unamused with his daughter's choice, but that hasn't stopped her from going after what she wants.

I will not reveal any death or deaths that occur in the first episode, but all the characters are pretty stock ones and it's not to hard to pick out who will be picked off. And that, even if it is just the premiere, is a massive disappointment. On the upside, if the killer continues to go about his/her task in future episodes as he/she did in this one, we are in for some pretty swell killings.

Perhaps I shouldn't complain about the stock nature of the characters as they were clearly intended to be stock –- the info sheets CBS sent about the show not only give the characters' names (and who they're played by) but also handy little identifiers so that they can easily be figured out. For instance, the other man, the one Trish's dad would rather her marry, he's titled “The Other Man.” He has a name too, but it's easier just to call him “The Other Man.” It's not to hard to work out these titles without them being provided, but that fact does give the show more of a dime-store pulp mystery feel than the feel of a show that has been well-crafted.

I am, however, a reader of cheap dime-store novels. And, taking this television series as a 13-chapter novel, while the first chapter wasn't quite as gripping as I would like, I am very curious about whodunit, and if the show can have the characters and mystery grow into something more. The show has enough creepy backstory and a big enough oddball assortment of characters that with some judicious murdering we could be left with a truly fascinating plot.

Just remember, some dime-store novels can be great, exciting reads. This too could be a very exciting show.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Crazy Eddie

    It has been a long time since I have fast forwarded through a show but I was so bored last night watching this that I just wanted to see who died. I understand “stock” cardboard characters but could they at least give these actors interesting lines? There is nothing interesting going on on Harpers Island. How difficult is it to find creative writers who can give depth to characters, even though they are only on the screen 20-20 seconds? What will ultimately doom this show, will be the lack of “replay value”. And by that I mean, the viewer will not have any joy in thinking about the show and anticipating the next episode. Because there is nothing to care about except seeing grim death scenes.