It’s refreshing to learn that Meadowlands, a series about witness protection program families living in the ultimate gated community, isn’t simply a show about the idyllic, mysterious suburban locale. In fact, we learn more about the town of Meadowlands in the pilot episode than we’ve learned about the island in all three seasons of Lost. No, Meadowlands doesn't get caught up in forcing the audience to play guessing games about a bizarre community. Instead, we are thrust into the sublime weirdness of the residents.
There is a difference between Meadowlands and the usual TV series or movie about suburbia. It's not darkly comical; it's dark. The resident's aren't Picket Fences odd; they're Arkham Asylum odd. An undercurrent of madness makes the melodrama seem more dire and the residents more interesting.
Four of those residents just moved to town. The Brogan family, with patriarch Danny (David Morrissey), his wife Evelyn (Lucy Cohu), their daughter Zoe (Felicity Jones) and her twin Mark (Harry Treadaway), are led blindfolded to their new home. They leave behind their names, their lives and, hopefully, the people who tried to burn them alive for Danny's criminal ways. Meadowlands is the safest place in the world. And they're lucky to be there.
At least Danny tries to convince his family that their seclusion is worth it. While his 17-yea-old son, still silent from his traumatic fire experience, spends his time ogling a neighbor woman who is too happy to show off and his flirty daughter tries to snag the town's hot, bad-boy handyman Jack (Tom Hardy), Danny's focus turns to his wife who pines for a day outside the compound. That's just day one. The true nature of the town is exposed when the aggressive sexuality of the handyman is countered by the aggressive discipline of the local head of law enforcement (Ralph Brown). Scared when the constable reveals that he knows his true identity, Danny runs to the folks in charge and gets a rundown on just how bizarre, and possibly dangerous, Meadowlands’s residents really are.
Compared to most shows that air on Showtime, a channel that masquerades soft-corn porn (The Tudors) and fetish TV (Dexter) as high-end drama, Meadowlands isn’t a likely candidate to fill a Sunday night line-up. It is a titillating drama for sure, but the Channel 4/Showtime co-production lacks the pretense of a show abut Henry the VIII or a serial killer who kills killers.
Within the first 15 minutes, Zoe has already made an indecent proposal to Jack (of all trades!) the handyman and Danny and Evelyn start to try out the kitchen counter. When the sunny neighbor Brenda (Melanie Hill) masturbates in front of Mark with one of the gloves he wears to hide his burns, the oddities are just beginning.
Yes, there is something askew about the entire show. Though we learn a lot about Meadowlands we hardly scrape the surface of how each resident got there. The show certainly has the makings of a quality soap, which makes criticism hard to dish out. The worst you can say about Meadowlands is that it isn’t groundbreaking; the best you can say is that it is it likely to be the most addictive hour Showtime has ever aired.
Meadowlands premieres Sunday, June 17 at 10 pm. on Showtime.