06 April 2009

Point Pleasant: The Complete Series

Point Pleasant: The Complete Series
created by & Marti Noxon
starring Elizabeth Harnois, Aubrey Dollar, Grant Show
FOX, 2005, 13 episodes, 43 mins.

**1/5 (out of ****)

Bikinis and Devils. That's how I was pretty much going to disregard this entire show after sitting through the first two episodes. They were your standard fare of girls clad in bikinis, walking around aimlessly on a beach talking about super hunky role-modely boys who just happen to reside in the town, with a supernatural aspect thrown in every once and a while when Christina suddenly becomes discontent or narrows her eyes a little more scarier than usual. The O.C. with a mix of Buffy, as it's compared to.

But luckily, by the time episode seven rolled around, Point Pleasant was on a roll, and it hooked me.
Perhaps I'm juist suseptable to shows that are actually really, really bad and I just don't know it, because the overwhelming majority of reviews for the program ain't pretty, but I find myself nearly in love with it. Hell, I'm actually negotiating with myself whether or not I purchase a copy if I ever find it around [I believe it's since gone OOP], and if not - well, I'll just keep my Netflix copies...I kid, I kid...
Point Pleasant won't be winning any awards, nor will it be placed up on such a high mantle like Lost and (gasp) Grey's Anatomy, but for the most part, it was extremely entertaining and very well written, with some really interesting story ideas explored sufficently enough to keep one satisfied but simultaneously a little dissapointed that it wouldn't be expounded upon in another season.
A shiny day at Point Pleasant, New Jersey turns stormy when a mysterious girl is saved from the water by hunky lifeguard Jesse. Her name is Christina, who supposedly fell off a boat from a tourist trip. Unable to contact family, Christina moves into the Kramer house, a family still reeling from a tragic death of a daughter a year before. Everything’s fine and dandy until Christina realizes there are certain oddities that happen around her, oddities that seem to sprout from her. The arrival of a mysterious, blunt, suave man named Mr. Boyd, who intends to buy all of Point Pleasant, causes tension amongst all the families of the town. All these strange occurrences bring Christina closer to the truth – she is, in fact, the daughter of Satan! Can Christina keep her diabolical evil ways in check to become an instrument of good instead of evil? Or will the whole world burn at her feet?
Point Pleasent debuted in early 2005, but by the time episode eight rolled around, FOX – and its viewers – were done with the show. Thus, FOX axed it, and never aired the remaining episodes. [Of course, this was a time where Fox was cancelation-heavy with Reunion and Tru Calling axed quite quickly - though Tru through some twist of fate had a short second season] Luckily, the DVD release a few months later in October included the final four episodes (stellar as they are). Although the show concludes on a semi-cliffhanger, by its end, it feels as though a full story has been told, with this story not having a conclusive, definitive ending, but deliberately ambiguous. It mixes religion, fate, choice, hate, humanity, good and evil in a program that you’d probably expect to be kiddy fare. It asks us to question why on earth, if such a situation like this would be possible, that we deserve to live? What makes us worthwhile? Why should the daughter of Satan not destroy us? It’s fascinating enough that once the first bridge of so & so episodes are over, the rest are about as awesome of storytelling you’ve seen since the Joss Whedon Buffy & Angel days.
The series kicks off with a decent, although not-so-stellar premiere (101 “Pilot”), written by show creators Marti Noxon & John J. McLaughlin and directed by Tucker Gates (Alias). It, of course, introduces us to all the particular families that will play major roles in the story to come, as well as all the romantic entanglements between the teenagers and the possible on/off again storylines they could produce. You have the clich├ęd adult characters – the slutty woman who tramps around town with a equally slutty teenage daughter whose frustrated her mom never truly pays attention to her; the goodie-two-shoes Christian family with their underwear-modeling son who has a religious destiny but also a bit of intrigue as to his own mysterious past; the Kramers, some still in agony over the death of Isabelle a year ago; and the family that’s broken, with the son taking care of the father. Overall, it’s a satisfactory but not extraordinary series premiere that doesn’t exactly hook or entice viewers to tune in the following week. There are some really great moments, such as the sequence in which Christina’s waking re-lights all the electricity in town.
We’re also introduced to the shows long, dreary opening credits boasting a composition credit to a one Danny Elfman (nearly every Tim Burton movie in existence). Honestly, the opening credits do nothing for me, and after the first time watching them, I skipped them every time since. This is the type of show that would have benefited from a simple title card with some eerie music, like a cross between Supernatural (The CW) and Lost (ABC).
The premiere ranked in 11.68 million viewers when it aired January 19, 2005, which isn’t too shabby. No doubt plenty of Buffy devotees tuned in just to see what post-Buffy projects then executive producer Noxon was developing. Unfortunately, the majority of them must have scrammed, as the following week, the show dropped 49% in ratings with 5.6 million viewers.
Unfortunately, the following onslaught of episodes weren’t all that memorable, and it’s quite understandable why viewership fell. The program delved knee-deep into the world of teenage romance and hook-ups, as well as the adults’ own little problems. It did, in nearly all sense of the word, become The O.C. Beach parties, dances, adult affairs, boy-falling-for-wrong-girl scenarios – all been done before and to a much better degree. However, it is sometimes difficult to argue about it all since it works quite well in the grand scheme of things. Sure, there were undertones of supernatural menace, and Christina still pursued any lead that would tell her about her past or what the deal was with her always-gone father, but it seemed to take a back seat for the teen drama, which wasn’t nearly as intriguing as the supernatural aspects.
With Christina newly instated into the Kramer family, Judy is ecstatic she has a new sister, Meg is happy she has another daughter to care for, and Ben is just glad Meg is lighting up a little. However, he has a few problems of his own: the town woman-who-gets-around, Amber, has set her eyes on hooking up with Ben, and enlists Mr. Boyd’s help to do so, thus creating a sort of bond between these two manipulative demons. Jesse finds himself increasingly attracted to Christina, regardless of his relationship with Paula, who finds comfort in the arms of Terry, the unfortunate boy with a comatose father in bed. Terry wishes his father better, and to improve what little life that he has, so when a offer from Mr. Boyd presents itself, Terry snatches it up.
During this period of time, Christina seeks counsel with Father Tomas, a young, recently appointed minister of the nearby church. Tomas is wearisome of Christina as some surely freak accidents follow her around, including the death (er, “disappearance” is the terminology the church uses) of Father David. But during a sequence when Christina urges Father Tomas to pray with her and help her, Tomas is overcome with such a powerful feeling of love that his assumptions of her evilness is brought into question, and vows to help her battle the demon within. The dynamic between Christina and Father Tomas is interesting, although they share far too few scenes together. His storyline is brought to a abrupt, but strangely satisfying (although the method it’s done through is rather ridiculous) end.
Meanwhile, Judy’s beginning to have doubts about Christina – questioning who she is, and why all these freak occurrences happen around her. Jesse joins the paranoia wagon and discovers something about himself that is pivotal to the rest of his arc. Judy, feeling betrayed by Christina’s lies, kicks her out.
And it’s here that the show finally picks up and becomes absolutely exciting. It leaves the rather bad soap opera elements behind in favor of what its main storyline is – Good vs. Evil, and what side will Christina choose? 107 “Unraveling” has Christina and Jesse trying their damnest to leave Point Pleasant, but as Boyd says, none of the major players can leave town. Tension rises as everyone begins to understand who they are, and what particular destinies are associated with them. No one’s life is as simple as it once was before Christian showed up – they now find themselves as part of this big chess game that’s about to hit its crescendo.
(Spoilers about the series finale follow!!!)
111 “Missing” begins the three-part finale that would have been an awesome starting point for season two. Throughout Point Pleasant, people are missing (hence the intricately complex title) and all signs lead to the church (bringing up Left Behind vibes for a while – perhaps the Rapture has commenced?). Jesse is recruited by a group of religious warriors saying that it’s his destiny to destroy The Beast – kill Christina. That when he died for seven hours and was brought back to life, it was for a purpose; it was only he that would attract Christina, only he that she could let her guard down, only he who for some reason grows stronger around her, and only he that has any chance to kill her and stop the Apocalypse before all Hell breaks loose.
112 “Mother’s Day” is the one that truly sets everything up, and definitely has one of the most awesome endings to a episode I’ve seen in a while (be mindful that it’s more of a dramatic conclusion than a twisty, shocking cliffhanger). Ben, feeling as though he’s doing the right thing, institutionizes Meg, which pretty much rips the family apart; Judy tells Christina off, bitter at her for all the problems she’s caused since her arrival and essentially saying, “You’re not part of this family.” Christina, heartbroken, leaves – all alone (her emotional state visualized by the death of all the plants in the surrounding area); but the sudden arrival of Ann, her mom, sparks hope.
Jesse, meanwhile, prepares himself mentally for the task at hand, ready to do what must be done to his lover. Boyd, rascal that he is, finds out the truth about Ann’s presence, and by using his persuasive abilities, Ann spills the beans which breaks Christina down more than anything: Ann’s not here to help her, but to kill her. As she venomously says to her daughter, “I begged to hold you, not to care for you, but to snap your neck.” Ouch, harsh.
This is the breaking point. Christina enters the Kramers home, mentally lost and honed in on what appears to be nothing but anger and vengeance, and using her telekinetic powers, shuts and seals every door and window in the house, barricading everyone inside. “It’s a family matter,” she spats, echoing Judy’s last words to Christina when she told her to get lost.
The series concludes with “Let the War Commence” (113), which delivers and yet disappoints ever so slightly. The only disappointment comes from the big ending of the previous episode is followed up with some rather uneventful stuff. Christina, in the midst of rage and betrayal, takes the Kramers hostage, and forces them to have a nice, family meal. It’s a interesting idea – one I didn’t think would happen (I thought all hell would break loose) – and is perfectly in-tuned with Christina’s character. My only problem is that this is the opportunity for Christina to say everything that needs to be said, the obvious stuff that Judy, Ben and Jesse had been too ignorant enough to see or stupid enough to ignore. Instead, she blinds Ben so he can finally listen to his family (smart move), but I would have liked more. Bring a little bit of venom into the mix, like Willow in her awesome season six finale when she went all dark and veiny.
But let’s examine the whole three-part series finale for a moment, and it’s probably for this reason why I love the show as much as I do. Christina’s turn is a result of circumstance and the choices of the people around her; it’s based on an emotional rollercoaster; everything and everyone that she clinged onto to keep her in balance either abandoned her or tried to kill her. Boyd’s constant monologues about humanities worthlessness is completely validated to Christina. When her own mother – her last hope – admits to wanting to kill her since the day she was born, all ties to this world was severed, and she was fueled by pain.
I don't blame Christina at all. Actually, I'd probably support her. The people around her have shown her zero reason whatsoever that they should keep on living, that humanity's worth saving. No one. Zero. Zilch-o.

The real kicker of irony is that the residents of Point Pleasant basically made it happen; it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they hadn’t done a thing to stop it, if none of Christina’s secrets made it out in the open (or at the very least were respected by the Kramers), then quite frankly nothing would have happened. Boyd couldn’t have forced Christina to turn bad, so that argument is null; it could be said that Christina would turn no matter what because it’s her nature, but I disagree: although I think she would occasionally slip and a bit of her demony side would rear its ugly head, I wager she’d be battling her demons ‘till the very end. This religious group’s so-called proactive extermination of the Antichrist (which might piss off a few folks, because isn’t the Antichrist supposed to not only be male but from a foreign country?) resulted in the thing they tried their damnest to stop.

And what exactly happened with the knife? At one point, Meg said “God had nothing to do with them,” (referring to the people who recruited Jesse) and I thought for a fleeting moment perhaps these religious zealots were worshipers of another flock of demons who want to overthrow Satan. That would have been a nifty idea, but in the end, not so much. But this actually refers to another nice touch on the writer's part: a Oracle of sorts reveals himself to Jesse before he goes out to do the Terrible Deed, and reminds him of a worldly known virtue from the Holy Bible. It creates some nice dramatic tension, and what Jesse decides to do with this, er, 'revelation' sorta sucks and it's really his fault that the show ends the way it does.
As I might have mentioned before, the series concludes in such a way that it's a sorta cliffhanger but final enough to be satisfactory. I would have enjoyed a second season, no doubt (especially reading Noxon's short remark on Scifi411), but with what we're given here (a glimpse of the awesomeness that could have been), I'm pleased. The main overall story arc of season one wrapped up nicely. It leaves you with questions, it leaves you with answers, and it leaves you with adrenaline (you can't help it - it's the battle for humanity, man!) Though, I wouldn't have minded if Christina killed Judy after her final remark.. I mean, Judy had no right to say that; a large portion of fault concerning Christina's turn rests on her shoulders, but her being the self-centered bitch she is, she probably doesn't realize.

(End series finale spoilers)
Obviously, the show has its problems. One such problem story-wise that I had was the Kramers’ willingness to adopt Christina almost within 48 hours of knowing the girl. Granted, it can be argued that Christina had a powerful influence on her decision, as unaware of it as she was; or that it was Ben’s wish to make his family right again after Isabelle’s death that he was so receptive to the notion. I understand for story purposes that it was necessary, but the fact that everything was put together within a single episode is a little far-fetched, and I would have appreciated a tad more depth to accompany the situation. It’s a little distracting, but not enough to ruin overall enjoyment. I also despised the use of the number “666”; I’ve never been more ticked off of its involvement in a show since Digimon used the number as the time when Myotisman turned into a hulking Godzilla beast. Of course, the number applies more here to Point Pleasant than Digimon, and it’s etched in Satanic mythology, but I feel that’s one element that could have been excluded. Again, these are all simple nitpicks, and can easily be overlooked because the good outweighs the bad.
As the lead character and daughter of Satan, Elisabeth Harnois (One Tree Hill) has a lot resting on her shoulders. Luckily, for the most part, she’s able to pull it off effectively. Harnois can balance the darkness inside her as well as her sweet, innocent, sometimes clueless side well enough to adequately depict Christina’s transformation throughout the series. The first batch of episodes is perfect for Harnois to show off her beauty and innocence, as she’s pretty much bikini-clad and has fallen deeply in love with her savior of a man. But once strange accidents happen around her whenever she’s feeling a tad, er, angry – she easily slips into dazed & confusedville. Though, sometimes it’s simply laughable when she squints her eyes to give the audience the cue that something bad’s going to happen; it reminds me of the early days of Charmed. As she turns from the sweet child of blissful ignorance and begins to understand who she is and what she can do, what that means, and the danger that surrounds her – it’s quite awesome and convincingly pulled off by this relatively unknown actress.
To say that Grant Show steals the…uhum, show is an understatement. There’s such a diabolical glee to his performance that one can’t help but fall in love with this guy. I’ve never seen Show in any other program, but I will quite actively pursue his other works, now – ‘cuz, the guy is simply that damn good. He plays evil mastermind perfectly, and on top of that, he has one helluva warped sense of humor that appeals to you. Grant’s Mr. Boyd tells you how it is, no bullshit, and it’s admirable. Plus he has that whole charismatic presence thing about him. The first few episodes, Show is given free rein to be as bastardy as possible – maybe even out bastarding John Glover’s Lionel Luthor on Smallville. But then, as the plot thickens, we get to see his darker, calculating side, his eviler half – cold and careless as ice. And boy does he scare the shit out of me; I wouldn’t want to cross this guy, let alone make him pissed. The great thing about this character is that he is also given a sorta back story of his own, as a little bit about his past and the woman he loved is revealed, which equals in importance to the current situation at the present. Simply put, if for no other reason, Grant Show is the reason to watch Point Pleasant. There’s just something so…delightful about his earnest, fun performance that makes working for Hell seem nifty.
The remainder of the cast do their jobs just fine. Aubrey Dollar as Judy is beautiful and a rather fine actress, and it's unfortuante she's given such dodgy material to work with. By that I mean crappy dialog and illogical choices. Adam Bush (Warren from Buffy seasons 5 & 6) guest stars in four or five episodes as Mr. Boyd's assistant, and for the most part, he's doesn't have much to do other than stand around and give Boyd puppy-eyes. Homoerotic innuendos, anyone? Dina Meyer (SAW IV) doesn't bring anything new to the table as the Julie Cooper character of Point Pleasant, while her daughter Paula played by Cameron Richardson (Open Water 2) reminds me of Anna Faris in that I can't stop concentrating on her lips instead of what she's saying. Richard Burgi (24) plays Ben Kramer, but looks more like a guy recovering from steroid abuse. I would compare his acting ability to John Cena. Samuel Page (Jesse) is little more than the hunky lifeguard, every once and a while infusing his character with a sufficent amount of emotion to make us care. Luckily for Page, his character has a interesting enough story that we'll stick through watching this guy.
The show has its moments of fantastic writing and 'Holy crap, I can't believe sentences like this made it past FOX out of the cringe-worthy factor of 'em all'. It's apparent that Noxon has her hand in the scripts, since there's some brilliant Whedon-like humor. Such examples are Holly's (Mr. Boyd's dead/not dead girlfriend from some good decades ago) reaction to see the Antichrist: "Fluffy!", as well as Christina's reaction to getting stabbed: "I had such a crush on you" and subsequent response to a particular character's death: "I guess he lost his 'get out of death free' card." Really, it's funnier when you watch it. In another way the show's similar to The O.C. is that it has some pretty witty cultural references (not to the like of Adam Brody's awesome Seth Cohen, but a good amount nonetheless). Something that drags the show down a few pecks is how stereotypical the characters come across in the early episodes; a 10-year old with a two-month experience to television could anticipate the next sentence these overly-dramatic teenagers would say. But hey, it's a minor scribble when compared to the overall scheme of things, which is...
Good vs. Evil – a classic, resonating theme that’s been explored for centuries. What better way to pursue this timeless battle than through the choice of a single person? And how much sweet could it be that that person who makes the choice is none other than the daughter of Satan? We're constantly battling our demons within ourselves, and if anything, this show is a nice form of therapy.
As you can tell, I dug the show. I enjoyed what it was trying to accomplish and what type of story it told. Obviously, this holding religious implications and concepts that might offend some uber-devoted mates, this show isn't for anyone. If you love supernatural phenomenon or followed any of Marti Noxon's work, give the show a try. At the very least, you'll be entertained by the second disc. As far as the first disc is concerned, call up a few of your buddies, make some popcorn, and have a nice MS3K type riff on the soapy elements - it'll make everything more bearable. Check out Point Pleasant. Rent it before you buy it, though.

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