Wednesday , February 21 2024
To watch or not to watch, that is the question.

Searching for Televisual Perfection: Happy Town

Every couple of weeks my wife and I have the same conversation – I get upset about something and she explains to me that I have to take it a little easier, that I have to choose my battles. I respond by explaining that I do choose my battles, that I consciously decide to enter into every single one, that I know what I'm doing before I do it and decide to go ahead and do it anyway. Using this strategy I have succeeded more than I have failed, which is, I think, why I have continued pursuing it.

Of course, what goes hand in hand with my pursuing every battle is that I all too often don't leave well enough alone. I don't like "pretty good," I like "great." I don't like "that'll work," I like "holy cow, I've never seen anything quite so splendiferous." It is there that I get into trouble.

Photo Credit: ABC/Bob D'AmicoABC launched their Wednesday comedy lineup in the fall and I was excited. I was correct – they took a big risk, it paid off (for three of the four comedies), and the night on ABC was off and running. I've always enjoyed Ugly Betty, but far more as a watch-on-DVD-when-the-full-season-comes-out show instead of on a weekly basis, and so didn't follow the show when it was airing after Cougar Town on Wednesday nights. I wanted ABC to have a show that was fully compatible with my viewing habits; I was hoping that they would, but thus far this season they hadn't. Still though, with my always wanting more, with my constantly pursuing (whether or not it is achievable) perfection, I greatly wished for them to come up with something that would keep me tuned in for that last hour of primetime.

My wishes, sort of, were answered. Last night, ABC launched a new series, Happy Town, which is being billed as a Twin Peaks-esque mystery. Now, to remain true to Twin Peaks, the show would have to be pretty good but ratings-challenged and canceled without an extended run. I like good television though, so I decided once again to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to embark on watching another show even if the show had little chance of success (which, let's face it, a quirky little mystery show airing as a late mid-season replacement right after two hours of lighthearted comedy is).

What did I find? Exactly what I thought I would. First, while I'm not wholly convinced that the show can gain enough momentum or propel the mystery far enough down the line for it to remain interesting in the long term, I did quite enjoy last night's setup. Outside of the show having a very good cast (Sam Neill, Amy Acker, and Steven Weber to name but three members of the ensemble), I thought that the story the series put forward – a series of strange disappearances in a small town went on for years before magically stopping but now trouble lurks again – was certainly compelling enough to make me add a Season Pass to my TiVo. We really don't know what is happening yet on the show, last night was really just introducing us to the characters, but there are enough of them and they are diverse enough that they only added to my wanting to know where things are going to be headed.

What else did I find? Well, again, just like I thought, upon looking at the ratings for last night I found that they weren't good.

Where, then, does that leave me? Should I continue watching the show? The ratings weren't abysmal, enough answers might be provided by the end of this spate of episodes that even if the show doesn't return I'll feel as though I've gotten enough of an answer. Or, perhaps the show will leave me with more questions than answers and a general feeling of distress at seeing another show that I've gotten attached to disappearing before I've decided that the series' time is up (I should, by the way, absolutely be making those decisions).

Frequent readers of this column will know that I often find myself in this predicament and, more often than not, I think my answer is the same one that I'll be giving now – I choose to pick every battle, to fight every fight. I let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Happy Town, I'm happy to have you on my TiVo for as long as you're around.

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.

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