I was trolling for a new series to sink my teeth into for a week or two and noticed Harper's Island up on the new TV wall earlier today. The general storyline has a wedding party and their guests tying the knot on an island off the coast of Seattle where years earlier a serial killer had murdered 7 people. Being in the mood for some more PG-rated Halloween fare, I thought I'd give it a try.
This CBS network series is nearly, nay ….completely unwatchable. I recalled the Richard E. Grant character in Altman's The Player who, if you remember, pitched a chilling, realistic film drama about an attorney who doesn't get to the prison in time to save the woman he loves from the death penalty. It was imperative to Grant's scriptwriter character that the film have no-name actors and remain true to his convictions. In the end, Bruce Willis shoots the glass in the death chamber, saves Julia Roberts at the last minute and utters some inane line like, “Sorry I'm late, traffic was a bitch.”
I imagine that happening to Harper's Island. The premise is nifty and has tons of potential. At it's core, the series is a train movie, and by that I mean it uses the very common narrative device of isolating the characters from any possible rescue or escape (think trains, planes, asylums, old dark houses, skyscrapers, the woods, or in this case, an island, etc.) Considering how often this plot device is used successfully (off the top of my head, The Shining, every train and plane thriller ever made, Die Hard, Carpenter's The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13 to cite two from Joe's earlier post, The Most Dangerous Game, Alien, and the list goes on and on), you have to work pretty hard to fuck it up - enter Harper's Island. The BSG series is a variation on this same device as is Drag Me To Hell (at least, metaphorically if you think about it) Deny escape and you build tension. Surely to God, someone noticed how awful this was when they ran the dailies?
Harper's Island is instead a terrible amalgam of Lost (it even has similar looking characters, including a fat, hairy guy) and any of a dozen MTV/The WB-produced series' that have endless stick-thin supermodels in 4 inch stilettos uttering mindless twaddle instead of real dialogue. It's a paste-together, cross-genre mosaic of other existing network programming and it simply doesn't work on any level, including the so-bad-it's-great escape hatch. Oddly, it could have been great, had no one who was involved in its production been asked in the first place. No, this show could have been Twin Peaks II, but instead it's The Hills on the Island of Dr. Gilligan by way of the O.C. meets a G-rated Ghostship. Lip Gloss horror-light in a nutshell.
Save yourself and do not take this 13 hour cruise....
….this 13 hour cruise.