Saturday, September 29, 2012

666 Park Avenue Just Might Scare You

Here is one important thing to remember as you watch the premiere of the new series 666 Park Avenue.
It premieres Sund. Sept. 30 at 10 p.m. on Citytv and ABC.
Just keep telling yourself this: It's not cable TV -- it's a network series.
If you tune in anticipating a blood soaked mess like American Horror Story you'll be truly disappointed.
But if you crave creeping horror, unquiet revelations and a sickening sensation of entrapment, well, I have a new show for you.
The production values on 666 Park Avenue are lavish. It takes place in the fictional New York city apartment complex called The Drake, the last bastion for renters on an exclusive street where condominiums rule.
And, yes, there really was a Drake hotel in New York. I stayed there once, it was right up the street from the Waldorf Astoria and was shuttered for renovations only to re-emerge as Swissotel New York..
Into this luxuriant atmosphere comes a perky and totally sappy Midwestern Couple who can't believe their luck.
Unemployed Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) has a hob interview and promptly gets hired as the building's  new property manager. She brings along her chirpy boyfriend Henry Martin (Dave Annable) but what's wrong with these two?
Have they never watched the horror classic Rosemary's Baby?
They get an apartment to die for --it would rent at about $7,000 a month, I figure. And it comes with the job which is vague, undefined. As a lawyer Henry should know all this but the poor guy exclaims he only has $17 in his pocket until pay day.
And what happened to the last property manager?
He was moved elsewhere whispers the smirking doorman.
Balded Terry Quinn (Lost) is the smirking proprietor Gavin and boy has he got a grab bag of secrets while Vanessa Williams (Desperate Housewives) is his gorgeous wife Olivia.  Quinn seems to be successfully channeling Bernie Madoff I'm thinking.
Old apartment buildings give me the creeps anyhow. And the other tenants seem, well, strange: Brian and Louise Leonard (Robert Buckley and Mercedes Masohn), Alexis Blume (Helena Mattsson), 14-year-old Nona Clark (Samantha Logan). The doorman Tony (Erik Palladino) is far too smiley cute.
The horror here is of the psychological variety. Why does Gavin insist on a one year lease so quickly?  It's the mere suggestion that things are happening that proves scary. Everything then begin to go wrong --Olivia insists she must buy Jane a $4,000 red dress for a benefit although Jane says it costs more than the car she drives.
See, bad things do happen to these tenants but that's because they've individually made pacts with the devil --or  Gavin as he's called here..
The series opens with a virtuoso pianist at his last concert --as he hits perfection his fingers begin bleeding profusely and his effort to run and hide is unsuccessful. Gavin will always knows where he is.
666 Park Avenue moves oh so slowly to its climaxes where, rest assured, blood flows and  people jump to their deaths from high floors.
But this is a network show and ABC has to sell upbeat ads during the commercial breaks.
As TV goes 666 Park Avenue is terror served tastefully on a silver breakfast tray service with just the right amount of shocks.
Call it old fashioned but it worked for me.
Big question is how it will fare  in the U.S. against CBS's The Mentalist, Showtime's Homeland, HBO's Treme and NBC NFL Football.
And 666's Canadian ratings won't be a factor in renewal or cancellation.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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