Entertainment Magazine

Review #3717: 666 Park Avenue 1.1: “Pilot”

Posted on the 05 October 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by David Wilcox
Directed by Alex Graves

I will admit that “666 Park Avenue” is in the correct timeslot for what the show is. This is not a show that is going to require a ton of thinking or investment in a big mythology. So I think it’s the perfect show to end the television week. Beyond that, it has a great hook for genre fans in veteran actor Terry O’Quinn, and that aspect compensates for the somewhat weak premise.

Review #3717: 666 Park Avenue 1.1: “Pilot”

O’Quinn is entirely comfortable as the owner of the titular 666 Park Avenue, a large, old apartment building on the Upper East Side of New York City. The kicker is that the building is haunted and O’Quinn’s character, Gavin Doran, is, as implied by the building’s address, the Devil. Doran hires an attractive young couple to manage the building and that’s where the show’s plot begins to take off. After seeing the pilot episode, the plot seems a bit messy because there are so many little stories that the audience has to follow. It’s easier to enjoy the series if you don’t give too much weight to the overall plot, though. This is a fun show when it’s not too taxing on the brain, and it also providing some cheap scares along the way.

The pilot has a couple of messages buried underneath the outward sheen that is presented with the old Drake building. It does a decent job of addressing those messages throughout the first hour. Since Doran is a Devil-type character (it’s never explicitly acknowledged that he’s the Devil) specializing in deals with the building’s residents, the most obvious one is “be careful what you wish for.” This is established in the teaser that opens the pilot, as the building’s former manager, Mr. Hartwell, wants to leave the Drake after his managing contract is up. Only the building won’t let him leave. Could this be the fate that befalls the building’s next managers, a Midwestern couple named Henry Martin (Dave Annable) and Jane Van Been (Rachael Taylor)? They get a dream apartment as the managers, which implies that Doran/the Devil makes dreams come true, only with some strings attached.

It looks like the show will continue to explore this for the duration of its airing. Ultimately, it boils down to this unsettling faceoff between Jane and Doran. Their spouses are left with little to do in the pilot, to the point that I wondered why Annable and Vanessa Williams were even on the show to begin with. Yes, Doran does mention that Jane is the “key to getting Henry”, which could mean that Doran wants his claws in the Mayor’s office because Henry works there. But by the end, there’s this weird and creepy connection between Jane and Doran. She explores much of the Drake’s history, which leads to her discovery of John Barlow and what happened to his wife. By the time Jane sees Barlow’s wife on the roof, the building already has a tangible effect on her. I like that Jane isn’t even aware of this (yet) and Henry seems powerless to stop any of it. How the show maintains this mystery without making both of them look like morons is the bigger question, one that isn’t fully explained in the pilot.

Everything else occurring in the Drake was extraneous. There’s too much going on, what with the married writer who leers at the hot blonde neighbor across the street (although that invoked “Rear Window” a little too much for my taste), or the young gypsy-like girl who is actually the building’s petty thief. The elevator door crushing and hurting the writer’s wife is left unexplained. I did like the little conversation between the doorman and Henry and Jane at the beginning, though. When the doorman explains where Mr. Hartwell went, it felt like sly nods to Gavin Doran’s true nature and that the doorman was one of the few people in the building who knows all about the strange happenings in the Drake. I have to wonder if this show is going to keep everything confined to the building, or if the evil is going to spread like a virus through New York. It would certainly be interesting (and add a layer of depth to the show) if it turned out that the Drake itself was the only thing that contained the evil within it.

The little subplots presented in the pilot do little to impact the overall proceedings. We’ll have to wait and see if the thief stealing Jane’s necklace is something to be dealt with later. Doran’s standard mode of operation is quid pro quo, and we get to see what happens to one of the victims when he breaks the contract. Barlow didn’t kill the man he was supposed to kill and the punishment is getting sucked into the walls of the Drake. While it’s not the most original thing in the world of supernatural events, it helps get the point across. Terry O’Quinn plays the scene with the right amount of calm and menace, too. He is easily the best part of the pilot and most likely of the show going forward. The writers must give Vanessa Williams more to do than to re-decorate the penthouse, set Gavin’s appointments, and buy expensive things for Jane as charity.

This was one busy pilot episode so plot takes precedence over character (as is the case with most pilots), and with the focus on plot, there are the usual cheap scares that involve multiple stingers on the soundtrack. I really wish the supernatural/horror genre would do away with this methodology. There are plenty of ways to get some chilling, creepy, unsettling feelings out of the audience. Constant flashes of lightning or a ghost of a little girl with a hole in her forehead being near Jane when she isn’t looking aren’t all that scary. But the overall tone is not one of extreme seriousness, so much so that it almost crosses into campy horror territory. I hope this keeps up because it keeps the show fun and light. When you start to take everything too seriously, the show fails at what it’s trying to do. This is a good start, however, and I look forward to seeing the next episode.

Score: 8/10


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