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Happy Town isn’t trying to be Twin Peaks, so ease off

Why do fans of 'Twin Peaks' need to crap all over 'Happy Town,' just because it kinda-sorta reminds them of their beloved show, but isn't as good? Can't we just enjoy it on its own and leave 'Twin Peaks' out of this?

- Season 1, Episode 1 - "In This Home On Ice"

The most I saw of Twin Peaks was the totally strange movie, Fire Walk with Me. So, maybe it’s not fair of me to make any sort of comparisons between the two shows. Honestly, though, I don’t want to compare the two shows, because — as far as I know — it’s not claiming to be another Twin Peaks; if ABC is promoting it that way, then I missed those promos. OK, so it has a place name in the show title (though the place is actually Haplin, not Happy Town), has a murder mystery and odd characters — does that mean people have to say it stinks because it’s not Twin Peaks? Come on, people.

So far, I’m totally engrossed with the mysteries at hand. I’d say there’s more than one overall mystery here, because there’s the railroad spike murder in the ice fishing shack, and then there’s the “Magic Man,” and I’m not yet entirely sure they’re completely related. Within those two big mysteries we’ve got a few other minor head-scratchers, some that are doozies on their own:

– What’s on the third floor of the boarding house? (Having seen the next two episodes already, I know the answer. But I’ll leave spoilers out of this.) There was a decent reveal that Henley is part of a group out to find answers to the Magic Man mystery, but what does she hope to find up there?

– What’s the deal with Mr. Grieves, the “House of Ushers” owner? Is he evil? How can a store like his survive in such a small town? His interaction with the sheriff certainly felt sinister, and I’m left half wondering if Grieves put some sort of curse on his wedding band to make him go all crazy and hatchety at the end of the episode.

– What’s Tommy Conroy’s (Geoff Stults) past with the Stiviletto brothers? Those guys are the out and out filth of Haplin, and I half wonder if they can even afford to wear shoes on a regular basis. I simply can’t imagine Tommy hanging out with those guys at any point in the recent past, so perhaps things were different many years ago, when they were all younger and hanging out together, doing things Tommy’s sheriff dad wouldn’t approve of.

– Who is Chloe and why does the sheriff (M.C. Gainey) seem to come in and out of some sort of trance about it? Is he really hiding something or is he simply losing his marbles? Is this “Chloe” a nobody and just a bunch of weird gibberish caused by a brain malfunction?

Back to the larger mystery at hand, why did the Magic Man suddenly stop his abductions five years ago? Grieves said that the Magic Man started 12 years ago, taking one person every year for seven years, the last one being an 18-year-old girl five years ago. It’s pretty obvious that the timing there is crucial to the story. These people taken by the Magic Man are merely missing, not dead. The last abductee would now be 23, and I believe that will wind up being key. Maybe there really is no Magic Man, and these people just found a way to leave this “happy” town and on to better places?

There are some people who were disappointed that Amy Acker left Dollhouse to star in Happy Town, but at this point it’s hard to argue that she made a wise move (though I doubt she did it due to lack of faith in Dollhouse‘s future). It’s way too soon to judge this show as a stinker, but three episodes in and I’m still hooked. It’d be a real shame if this show saw an early grave because too many people are panning it as “it’s not the great Twin Peaks!”

I honestly think too many people are trying to compare Happy Town to something else they loved, and hating it because it’s not that show, rather than let it stand on its own. Come on, how is this bad? If you’re a television critic and you called this show awful, you’re just jumping on the bandwagon of hate that this show doesn’t deserve and need to think for yourself, for crying out loud.

What about you: were you happy with Happy Town?

Photo Credit: ABC

Categories: | Episode Reviews | General | TV Shows | Twin Peaks |

21 Responses to “Happy Town isn’t trying to be Twin Peaks, so ease off”

April 28, 2010 at 11:16 PM

My perception is different. I never watched Twin Peaks, so I’m not comparing it to that. I’ve also heard a lot of October Road comparisons, and not just because it shares a couple of the same actors. I just couldn’t get into the story.

That being said, I’m going to give it another chance, specifically because of your recommendation. I still haven’t watched the next couple of episodes, but plan on watching them as aired, instead of in advance.

I’m still up in the air about Acker though. She was underused in the first season of Dollhouse, and just when her character got so much more interesting, she left to go to Happy Town, where, at least in the pilot, she seems to be more of a background character. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her.

April 29, 2010 at 12:14 AM

I also never saw Twin Peaks so I can’t make any comparison there. But, I’m not really sure if this is a show for me or not. I am definitely not hooked, but I am intrigued enough to come back for a few more eps.

I am glad to hear that we find out about the third floor within the first few eps. That makes me even more willing to continue watching. I don’t know if I could stand a show without timely answers….

April 29, 2010 at 12:28 AM

They referenced Snoqualmie, Washington and you think they’re not deliberately evoking memories of Twin Peaks?

April 29, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Considering Henley called herself “Chloe” to the woman on the phone at the end, whom she called “Ma” (when she said her mother was dead when she first met the Realtor), and she has the same question-mark-with-a-halo symbol seen graffitied around Haplin tattooed on the back of her shoulder, I think it’s safe to say that Chloe is a person with a deeper significance than just the sheriff’s ramblings.

April 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM

As a huge Twin Peaks fan, I don’t mind that fact that this show has many obvious influences and similarities. Twin Peaks fans, let’s face it, Twin Peak isn’t coming back. Might was well move on and try to find room in your hearts for new shows. I remember Twin Peaks fondly but also love mystery shows. Heck, if we weren’t allowed to borrow from Twin Peaks, we wouldn’t have the X-Files. Agent Mulder was obviously molded after Agent Cooper.

Also, for those of you how like this show, I recommend finding a copy of Twin Peaks Season one. Its delightful TV. And its nothing like the movie “Fire, Walk With Me” that someone mentioned above. That prequel movie was pretty out there and isn’t reflective of what the show is like…at least season one anyway.

April 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Look I loved me some Peaks. But I agree with Mitch, in that it’s awesome to see a show with the mysterious/creepy factor again. I really like this show so far. M.C. Gainey, while having a face like raw hamburger, interests me. Suffice it to say, I’m in for more.

April 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

So I might not go so far as a friend of mine in calling this review “stunningly ignorant,” but it’s pretty bad. I mean, saying that since you never saw the ABC promos trying to link HT to TP that shouldn’t be a reason to think they are? Seriously? You know, I’ve never seen “The Mummy,” but I don’t deny the movie’s existence. ABC ran promos (at least online) that started out “From the network that brought you Twin Peaks.” Considering TP was a show canceled in its first full-length season and ran 20 years ago, it’s not really a SELLING POINT unless they’re trying to link the two shows.

Also, essentially saying, ‘I haven’t watched TP but I don’t see any connections’ is also somewhat … ridiculous? I mean, hell, even if you’ve only seen FWWM (which was a prequel and therefore not about the same things the show was about overall), you had the ‘two teen lovers from different sides of the tracks secretly dating’ plot in both–i know, it could be thrown away as coincidental if there weren’t all the other blinding references as well, but i’m saying if you’ve only seen FWWM you should’ve at least noticed that. Also, the BIG BIG thing I noticed that is pretty specifically a FWWM moment is the shot of the ring on the floor, and how it’s picked up with creepy music, signifying something important. In FWWM, it’s Lyle Lovett doing the ring-picking; in HT it’s Sam Neill. (Also of course the WA reference as mentioned above. And the bread factory is obviously the mill, etc. etc.)

HAVING SAID THAT, does it matter that it’s heavily influenced by TP? I myself consider it a positive. I’ve recently gotten back into Lost because somebody mentioned it turned out to be a giant TP ripoff (which is awesome!). Watching it now, I’m really shocked more people didn’t pick up on this somewhere around season 3/4, but whatever. People’s memories are short and no one really cares that much, I guess, though I can only imagine how frustrating it is for writers that people don’t “get” these things (I THINK the writers of Lost and HT would be much more excited for people to pick up on the TP references, since they all obviously cared for the show as well).

having said THAT, was the HT pilot good? well, it was pretty atrociously written, but it’s a pilot. it’s not uncommon to have a pilot be pretty shaky (though, honestly, the past 7 years or so have seen some damn good pilots that are NOT cluttered with as much exposition as this stinker, and i think a lot of people who are bitching are probably remembering how lush and vivid the pilot for TP was, but then again, they got 2 hrs and probably more freedom from the network, as ABC was at that point so screwed on ratings the whole reason they gave the show to lynch was ‘try whatever you want; we won’t interfere’). it was, however, gorgeously shot, and the actors are all obviously having a great time with it (esp. Steven Weber, who seems to be having fun doing his best John Glover impersonation), and almost all of them get at least one moment that pops.

So the pilot was essentially enjoyable in spite of being bad, and certainly paved the way for a more relaxed, ‘room to breathe’ second episode. If it’s not picked up steam by the third, however, I’ll probably drop it, but I think so far it’s showing some real potential. My only problem so far is most of the main mysteries seem pretty … obvious, I suppose, but who knows. They could surprise me. I just hope the things I think are obvious aren’t spooled out until the end of season 1 then revealed as OMG BIG EVENTS or whatever. Bit annoying, that.

Anyway, seriously, my main point I suppose is, don’t write a review criticizing other reviews when you don’t even know if the point they’re making is valid or not. Just as I wouldn’t go on the IMDB message boards for “The Mummy” and tell people, ‘No, it really IS like the original “Mummy”! I mean, they have the same TITLE! Duh! Oh, btw, I’ve only seen the original,’ it’s a bit daft of you to do the same here.

April 29, 2010 at 2:16 PM

Totally fair points. What I guess it boils down to, for me, is that most reviews smelled of jumping on the “I hate this show because it’s NOT Twin Peaks” bandwagon instead of allowing the show to stand on its own. It is not titled ‘Twin Peaks’ or outright meant to be a remake or re-do of that series, as far as I’ve seen. If ABC did purposely try to tie it to be like ‘Twin Peaks’ in promos, then I guess it deserves some of that.

Another point that annoyed the hell out of me was these outlets that reviewed the show as a stinker, then later, in interviews, gave a false impression to actors in the show that they were exited and looking forward to seeing more. Kiss ass much? Go for the throat and say what you don’t like about it — say why it stinks, why it will fail.

April 29, 2010 at 6:14 PM

the long and short of it is it probably wasn’t the brightest move by ABC to promo it the way it did–on the other hand, it got me to watch. Of course, I’m a bit more capable of separating the fact that ABC’s promos are not, y’know, MADE BY THE CREATORS (tho I’m sure they thought it was fun to acknowledge the homage in such an obvious way) and therefore not something to judge the finished product on. As much as I would LOVE another Twin Peaks, I don’t bash X-Files or Lost or HT or whatever for NOT being an exact clone. Obviously I’d like something I’m watching to be GOOD. The long and short of this is, of course, one episode is just not enough time to decide whether something is good or bad (ESPECIALLY a show with, what, 20-some fairly main characters?) unless it’s 100% crap, and that’s not going to happen with Sam Neill on-screen. Hell, there was even one episode of TP that I didn’t like.

To your other point about kissing ass with the stars, maybe they were just starstruck? I didn’t like “Daybreakers,” but if I had a chance to interview Sam Neill over it it’d mostly consist of me drooling and yelling YOU’RE A VAMPIRE THAT’S SO AWESOME, so …. maybe??

To Dan, I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and we obviously disagree on Twin Peaks (the show STARTS once BOB is revealed in my opinion), and I see your point re: Lovecraft/King/Bradbury, but I actually thought one of the shocking things about HT so far is there doesn’t seem to be anything horrific/supernatural in the show at all. The “Chloe” mentions come closest, but those seem to have a very possible down-to-earth explanation (Sheriff MC Gainey is developing Alzheimer’s/schizophrenia/Tourette’s, and either the Chloe = Henley angle is either coincidence or when Henley’s mom would visit years ago she had a little fling with Sheriff MC Gainey, and he knows he’s got a daughter out there named Chloe somewhere). I guess there’s the mysterious 3rd floor in the B&B, but my assumption as of now is that Henley’s looking for something related to her dad. the pre-credits sequence isn’t much more violent than you’d see in a Law & Order, and so far nothing comes across as creepy or unnerving as ‘the owls are not what they seem.’ So though I’m enjoying HT overall, I definitely don’t think it’s trying to be as horrific as TP was.

April 29, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Twin Peaks deserved to get canceled in it’s second season. David Lynch went from subtle to flat-out spectacle. The first season up until the reveal of the killer of Laura Palmer IS Twin Peaks in my mind, the rest was totally disposable…seriously, the whole Civil War Psychosis? Twin Peaks Beauty Pageant? Please. I only blame ABC in it’s marketing…playing up the “Who Killed Laura Palmer” angle when it was just supposed to be a Macguffin…

As I watched Happy Town, I was expecting pure cheese…Stephen King for the lowest denominator. I was actually pleasantly surprised how engaging and creepy the show turned out to be. The huge bakery overshadowing the town was unnerving to me…and I don’t wanna know what they’re putting in their bread. :)

It didnt remind me of Twin Peaks…it reminded me of the countless “creepy town has horrifying secrets” stories that came before it. H.P. Lovecraft wrote those kind of stories. So did Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. The Wickerman is another example.

Happy Town is much more Gothic/Hammer Horror than Twin Peaks ever was.

May 1, 2010 at 8:08 AM

Dan, I have to agree with you regarding the second season of TP. I was huge fan of the show, and still like the second season, but the story was nowhere near as compelling as the Palmer murder. You give blame to Lynch, though, when he had very little to do with season two. He left to go make Wild at Heart and only came back to do the finale after reading the first draft of the finale and realizing that the writers had gotten the Black Lodge sequences all wrong. You can find the original finale script online if you look around for it. It’s interesting to see the differences.

As for Happy Town, there are some definite similarities, but I think it’s impossible to compare when you get right down to it.. I didn’t see a single character in HT that could hold a candle to the folks in Twin Peaks. Even if they are trying to be TP, and I think they are at least a little bit, they are falling so short at this point that I dont think it really matters. I’m intrigued with HT and will probably continue to watch, but the overall quality of the writing and acting (dear lord, Stults is terrible) has me nervous. That being said, I’m a sucker for mystery shows and I think there is a lot of potential for happy town.

And as a fan of both shows, I have no idea why someone would call Lost a ripoff of TP.

May 1, 2010 at 4:37 AM

I’m sorry. What was up with the world’s DUMBEST police force? Do the writers realize that police officers all go through training? What a bunch of idiots. Hell it even took them time to get through a glass wall/door at the end of the episode.

May 1, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Just watched the premiere episode. I knew by the end that I was definitely going to continue to watch the show.

I was a little concerned about the pacing. It seems as though it’s pressing right ahead without much time for us to settle in to the surroundings and get a feel for what Haplin is like. It’s impossible to really know though from just one episode, so I will remain optimistic.

May 2, 2010 at 3:58 AM

I just watched the first episode on hulu. I had never heard of it and just stumbled across it. I did notice some twin peaks feel to it, but not a strong connection. I really liked Twin Peaks until the end, hated the end.
Part way through I forgot about the tp connection and then Henley says she is from Snoqualmie WA. Well, I live near there and it’s where most of TP was filmed. I’m guessing the director or producer were encouraging the connection. She could have been from anywhere.
So far I like it, I have hopes. I hope they don’t follow in the path of TP to the point that they burn out and throw together a stupid, made up crazy ending that there is no way we could guess.

May 2, 2010 at 1:47 PM

I enjoyed it although I thought there was too much mystery with no payout. It’s like everywhere you turn, EVERYBODY is “mysterious” or a little off. Still, I’m not a viewer who passes final judgement or gives up on a show after only one or two episodes. Overall I was slightly bored, but I’ll be back for a few more episodes before I decide. Hell, I didn’t like the pilot of X-Files and it became one of my favorite series of all time (I’m going to conveniently forget the second stink-bomb of a movie). Knowing we find out what’s on the 3rd floor by the 3rd episode gives me hope that we won’t be baited without some real answers.

May 4, 2010 at 3:24 PM

I just watched this show on because I forgot to DVR last week (season pass is now set up). I really liked the premiere. Definitely a Twin Peaks “feel”. That is undeniable. I too was a TP fan and really have no problem with HT, it’s mysteries, and it’s strange and eccentric characters. Now, if Log Lady shows up, that may be going a bit too far, but as is, I will continue watching as long as ABC keeps it on the air.

Also, it helps that Henley/Chloe is hot!

May 6, 2010 at 1:23 PM

Just saying, the last person to go missing is eight years old, not eighteen. That’s why her father was so incredulous as to the chief suggesting that left on her own.

June 5, 2010 at 2:47 PM

I absolutely love happy town and to compare it to twin peaks is like comparing your favorite food to dog shiit! Honestly I never watch TP when it was airing and when I heard that Happy Town was like TP I decided to watch TP. Boy was that a mistake. It litterally felt like someone with down syndrome was writing the scripts and the acting brought forth by the actors wasn’t even worth a dime. A high school drama class could do better! After watching 3 episodes I literally felt like dousing myself in gasoline and lighting a match. I cannot in all honesty figure out why people like Tp over happy town? Are people that stupid? Climbing into a cows stomach and watching it digest grass is far more entertaining than Twin Peaks and the theme song is soo anoying that im almost positive it causes brain tumors!

June 12, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Althought I watched & loved Twin Peaks .. & so far .. & this kinda reminds me of it, I say .. so what?? So far, I like the show .. definetly different from other shows on TV. My only problem .. “do I really want to get invovlved with another show with on going storylines..wierd or not?”.

I’m enjoying the the show & I’ll watch for now ..


June 19, 2010 at 1:20 PM

I only saw a couple episodes of Twin Peaks, but my wife is a huge fan of it. We BOTH absolutely love Happy Town. I’m not sure why some TP fans (none that I’ve seen here) are so upset that HT maybe has a couple similarities. Shouldn’t that be a good thing?

Happy Town is a show that keeps getting better with every episode. The characters are developing very nicely, and the story is not as predictable as I had feared it might be. To be honest, it’s my favorite show right now, and my TP-die-hard-fan wife agrees.

July 2, 2010 at 2:21 AM

So one intelligent multi-layered noir tv series was enough? I think not. It may not be trying to be Twin Peaks but in style at least it should be. I’m starved for intelligent tv so please dont give them an excuse to can this as well.

So far very happy with Happy Town.

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