CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
TV Review: Despite Sexy Stars, ‘Eastwick’ Has Yet to Cast a Spell
CHICAGO – Clearly inspired as much by the success of “Desperate Housewives” as that of its actual source material, ABC’s “Eastwick” is a mixed cauldron of possibilities, a show with a strong enough cast and concept to warrant a second look but also one with enough deep flaws in its premiere to suggest that perhaps this spell will not be cast over too many viewers.
Television Rating: 3.0/5.0
Working from the 1987 film “Witches of Eastwick” (itself based on the novel by John Updike), ABC’s supernatural dramedy features three, well-cast, sexy actresses with more than enough talent to work their magic on many a viewer but also features a male lead trying to fill some awfully big shoes and writing that doesn’t crackle like one would hope.
Lindsay Price, Rebecca Romijn, Jaime Ray Newman.
Photo credit: ABC/Robert Voets
Three women in the small town of Eastwick have their own typical TV problems, amplified when a charismatic, devilish figure named Darryl Van Horne (Paul Gross) comes to town and awakens their magical powers. Directed by the excellent David Nutter, the pilot of “Eastwick” should play like a mini-movie but feels often like a half-hearted set-up. Perhaps more than any other show this season, the jury is still out on “Eastwick”.
Lindsay Price, Rebecca Romijn, Jaime Ray Newman, Paul Gross.
Photo credit: ABC/Kevin Foley
The women are Kat (Jaime Ray Newman), Roxie (Rebecca Romijn), and Joanna (Lindsay Price), three ladies who never really got along because of their unique personalities and preconceived notions but will come together when they discover that they are alike in a very uncommon way.
Kat is the married mother of five, a beautiful woman stuck with a total jerk of a husband and a very demanding family. Roxie is the single mother, a title that still holds a stigma in small-town America like Eastwick. Finally, Joanna is the awkward, gawky local reporter who has little confidence with men.
Van Horne arrives in town and strange things start happening in Eastwick. Darryl, even more clearly the Devil himself than in the source material, knows the women’s most innermost thoughts and desires and plays them to reveal the hidden powers that they didn’t even know they had. The great Veronica Cartwright and Sara Rue shine in the supporting cast.
It’s almost impossible to adequately say where “Eastwick” will go after one episode. The premiere is packed from front to back with character set-up to the point that it’s unclear what even week two - much less month two or year two - of the show will look like. Will “Eastwick” be soapy like “Desperate Housewives” or more mysterious like “Lost”? ABC clearly hopes it’s a little bit of both but only time will tell.
As for the cast, Newman and Romijn steal the show, the former has the potential to be a breakout star and the latter has always been underrated. Price isn’t bad but she’s completely unbelievable as the awkward one even in dorky glasses and with her hair put up.
The biggest problem with the first episode of “Eastwick” is Gross, tasked with the nearly impossible job of stepping into the shoes of a character once worn by Jack Nicholson. It’s impossible to shake memories of Jack and Gross isn’t up to the task. He needs to go his own way and completely redefine the character instead of so often reminding us of a similar routine done by one of the best actors of all time.
Ultimately, “Eastwick” is a great example of the difficulty of reviewing a series based on one episode, especially one so reliant on setting up several major characters and an unusual concept. Even pilots that knock it out of the park often come back down to Earth in subsequent episodes and it’s not that uncommon for a show to start shakily and improve as it gains its footing.
If this is a case of the former and this so-so first episode is the best that “Eastwick” has to offer than it will be off the air by the time the calendar switches over, but this witches’ brew is still bubbling and I’m not ready to say for sure that it won’t cast a great deal of magic.