Eastwick [ABC, Wednesdays, 10/9C] is the third attempt to adapt John Updike’s most controversial novel – The Witches of Eastwick –into some form of motion picture. The film was financially successful, but received mixed reviews; an earlier attempt at a TV series was cancelled early in its run. Eastwick, the latest version, was created for television by Maggie Friedman, and takes a much less overt path than the others.
The series’ three witches – Roxanne [Rebecca Romjin], Kat [Jamie Ray Newman] and Joanna [Lindsay Price] – were never friends, each having in some way developed erroneous preconceptions about the others. When something weird happens at the town’s Founders’ Day celebration, they find themselves peeking past those preconceptions and bonding over martinis. Putting their wishes for their lives to change into words, the three are surprised, not much later, when the dashing and vaguely sinister Daryl Van Horne [Paul Gross] moves into town and seems to able to help make their wishes come true.
As with the previous incarnations of Updike’s book, the three also develop unusual abilities – abilities that help them deal with at least some of their problems [like Kat’s lazy husband, Raymond, for example]. And, as in the book, Van Horne is not what he appears to be.
That is where things become different. Eastwick comes across more as what might have been if The Witches of Eastwick had been written by Marc Cherry, the creator of Desperate Housewives. Unlike previous incarnations, the three do not all fall in love with the devilishly handsome Van Horne – and only one is a mother. The spiritual/paranormal gifts they receive are introduced in fun ways that barely echo those previous incarnations.
Friedman’s script for the series premiere is, for the most part, pretty fluffy. Things darken a bit when Van Horne arrives, but overall, the ep has just enough edge to suggest of darker things without actually leaning into them. Thus far, the three women are rough sketches – Roxie is a former artist; Kat is an overworked mom, and Joanna is a shy would-be journalist – but there’s plenty of room to develop them into strong characters – while Van Horne is already enigmatic… and just a bit dangerous.
For Eastwick to succeed, the three women need to be more developed as characters, and quickly. Right now, the most entertaining and compelling character is Van Horne – who doesn’t appear until well into the premiere. Right now, the stage is set; the call for quiet on the set has come, and the cameras are rolling. Now all we need is for someone to call “Action!”
There’s enough here to warrant applying the three-ep rule, so I’ll stay with Eastwick for a couple more eps and we’ll see if it develops into something more than just an intriguing set-up.
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