Monday, April 13, 2009

An Introduction To Harper's Island

7 years ago, 6 people were murdered by John Wakefield.

They were the first murders in the history of the island…

…They will not be the last.

So begins Harper’s Island, CBS’s new “event” murder mystery. Likened to a cross between Lost, Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians and One Tree Hill, the show strikes me more like Clue meets Scream with a vicious Survivor tribal council thrown in each week.

The show was originally conceived by Ari Schlossberg, but since this was his first TV venture Jeffrey Bell (Angel) was brought on board to retool the script and Jon Turteltaub (Jericho) took the executive producer reigns and directed the pilot.

The series opens in Seattle where we’re introduced to Patricia Wellington (a brunette Katie Cassidy) and Henry Dunn (Christopher Gorham), a happily engaged couple who are ferrying their family and friends to Harper’s Island for a week of wedding festivities. Reluctant to join the party is Abby Mills (Elaine Cassidy), Henry’s best friend and the daughter of one of John Wakefield’s victims. Abby hasn’t been home since her mother’s death and she’s not sure she’s ready to return. Too bad she doesn’t listen to her gut instincts. As the boat motors up the audience is privy to its first murder as missing cousin Ben has his head chopped off by the propellor. The rest of “Whap” hits on the traditional horror movie components you’d expect: false scares and jump moments, sex and skin, bad personal histories, an anonymous figure watching from the shadows, a creepy kid with a questionable new “friend,” threatening notes, love triangles, lots and lots of secrets and poor Uncle Marty (a hammy Harry Hamlin) ends up sliced and diced in half.

In the next 13 weeks people will be killed off in every episode. There are 25 suspects, guests and locals, and the killer will be revealed in the finale. This kind of close-ended series is a brilliant idea because viewers know right off the bat they’re going to have instant gratification at the end of the season, unlike shows like Lost and Heroes where viewers often get frustrated with convoluted storytelling and little pay off and the show’s ratings suffer for it. Should Harper take off, a new stint could easily be created by changing the setting, mystery and cast, with maybe a couple survivors staying on as is often done in slasher sequels. The real fun of Harper’s Island is going to be seeing who bites it each week while you whittle away your suspect list and try to figure out whodunit.

Random impressions:

* It’s odd seeing Katie as a non-kick ass chick, but she’s got incredible chemistry with Christopher Gorham.
*I know Christopher is best known for Jake 2.0 and Ugly Betty, but I’ve never watched him before. He’s too adorable for words!
* I like that the actors were kept completely in the dark from script to script. Their character’s fate and the killer’s identity was as much a mystery to them as it is to us so there was no chance of accidentally skewing their performances with inside knowledge.
* Jim Beaver plays the island’s lone Sheriff and Abby’s estranged father. We only see him for a short time, but the scene between him and Abby in his truck, when he tries desperately to reconnect with her, is physically painful and poignant. Their words were few, but the emotional punch in that tiny scene was amazing.
* I could swear…and I’ve watched it several times…that I saw Jared on the boat. Just after Mr. Wellington tells the captain to start the engine you see a guy leaning against the railing in a green army jacket. They don’t show his face, and I may be crazy, but he sure looks familiar. The show is filmed in Vancouver and Jim has said he was going back and forth between the shows so I think it’s plausible….

Finally, CBS has a Pick the Victim game you can plays for a chance at $1000 and Harpers Globe is an online show and social network meant to give you a deeper understanding of what’s happenin’ on Harper.

What did you think? Did you like seeing SPN alum? Do you plan to stick with it?


MJFredrick said...

Don't forget, Ron from NIGHTSHIFTER was in it. "It's the Mandroids!"

I really really liked it. I think it's a neat concept, and fun. I liked Abby's character, and I like the potential for romance with the Orlando Bloom lookalike :)

Anonymous said...

Wasn't he a hottie, MJ? He's from Texas too.

Brooke Taylor said...

Hi Terri-- great re-cap. I really enjoyed it, and will be watching. I think Abby Mills was little bi-polar for my tastes--one minute all huanted and the next throwing down in a bar fight--plus all that walking around the island that creeps her out so much (in heels no less) is a little too typical horror heroine, but I like it enough to get past it.

At this point I feel like I know several of the people that it "isn't" becuase they just look way to much fun to off. No clue who it is, though.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Brooke! So glad you stopped by. I completely agree on the Abby front.

Who do you want to kill the most? LOL. I'm thinking Chloe or her Brit boyfriend.

Brooke Taylor said...

Yep the blond and her boyfriend will be axed for sure--but they may keep her around a little bit. I wasn't expecting the uncle to get it so quick, especially considering there could've been some cheating going on with him and the blond--I know it isn't the tattooed brother--too obvious. But he'll be around awhile.

It's a fun concept--I like the guessing. :-)

phouse1964 said...

And the chick from Windingo was the sister. It was a big Supernatural reunion!

I really enjoyed this and will be watching. It's also available on demand (FYI) so I will be going back tonight when I get home to look for Jared!

Anonymous said...

I think we'll see Uncle Marty in flashbacks. We have to figure out why he had the cash and guns. And I thought Harry was lots of fun. :)

PHouse, let me know if you see Jared when you rewatch.

Trish Milburn said...

Well, now I'm sorry I missed it. Are they showing the first episode over anywhere? Oh, maybe it's online.

Anonymous said...

Trish you can watch it online at: and if you have cable you may be able to watch it on demand.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who wants to play fantasy Harper Island w/ me is invited to pick who gets killed. Go to: Select join a league, then join a private league. Our team name is SPNSisters and the league id is: 40000096. After that pick your top 2 vics for the week. :)

Anonymous said...

Oops - fogot the password which is Winchesters backwards - sretsehcniw.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I finally got to watch it last night!

I was actually wowed by Katie Cassidy. I saw not a drop of Ruby in her--in fact, I didn't even figure out it was her until I realized I hadn't "seen" her. I have to totally reassess my opinion of her acting ability. It's rare to see a woman be able to disappear into a role, I think.

Despite the cliches and the total out-thereness of the creepy kid (I mean, come on, how can her parents not think she's totally strange? And where the heck does it come from? She's obviously not the killer, so what's the point?) I liked it overall.

Brooke, I kinda thought the same thing about Abby walking around, but her purpose in going there is to face her demons, bring back the home it used to be. No one knows there were current murders yet, so there's no reason she shouldn't be walking around.

My bottom line is acceptable writing, mostly good acting (except the blond couple, who I think are going to bite it next week because they got so much irrelevant screen time this week), plenty of intriguing threads to follow...I'm gonna keep watching!

Oh, and SPN alumna--I saw 4 of the 8: Ronald Resnick, That Hailey Girl, Ruby, and of course Bobby. Did anyone see the other four? I didn't go back to look at the list I compiled to see if I'm failing to recognize anyone.