In the wake of critical and ratings successes like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, television is taking note: horror is hot. And it’s no wonder a big network like ABC decided to dip its toe into the creepy genre with 666 Park Avenue, but I’m not sure anyone was prepared for them to dive in head-first. The pilot for the New York-set series premiered at San Diego Comic-Con for press and fans alike, and it certainly had no shortage of shock and awe. In fact, there was no shortage of anything. At all.
We follow unmarried couple Jane and Henry (Rachael Taylor and David Annable) into their new gig as the managers of the illustrious Drake building at 999 Park Avenue in Manhattan – which is not the address of a real Park Ave. complex, so don’t get too worried, Apple-dwellers. The owners, Olivia and Gavin Duran (Vanessa Williams and Terry O’Quinn), both lurk about questionably and Gavin goes so far as to make threatening, cryptic calls from his dark limo or an ill-lit room. Then, when we start witnessing supernatural and inexplicable events like a concert violinist being sucked through some sort of time portal in the front door or one man’s wife spontaneously decomposing, it becomes apparent this apartment building is no cozy abode. And if that didn’t make it crystal clear, the series has a visual to help you get there. The address is known to day-dwellers as 999, but in night shadows, we see it for what it really is: 666 Park Avenue, your own personal slice of hell.
And sure, the series delivers on its promise and is actually scary… for network television. There’s just one sprawling issue: 666 Park is simply playing too many cards at once. In 42 short minutes, we fly through practically every horror trick known to film and television. We meet the mysterious couple who live on the 13th floor, the ominously friendly young kid who eventually reveals herself to be scheming and sinister, the indentured man and his reanimated dead wife, the bell hop who’s way too keen to ignore all the strange phenomena, and finally, the wide-eyed couple thrown into the center of it all. Oh, but there’s more. We also encounter The Haunting-style self-possessed doors, flickering lights, ghostly visages appearing and disappearing, a suicidal woman in a flowing white dress, shaky camera, dangerous foreshadowing in a theater box set to symphony music, signing unread contracts in slow motion, 100-year old symbols of a secret brotherhood in the basement, references to deals with the devil, the phrase “You shouldn’t have come here,” and a touch of potentially devious voyeurism. And that’s the list with a few of the smaller details left out.
At its center, 666 Park seems to be most concerned with ensnaring us with the sexiness of its lead couple (which should please most people with eyes) and the horror of O’Quinn’s shadowy character (which should please most Lost fans). Between the devil’s number in the title of the series, Gavin’s violent demands of two seemingly doomed characters, his obsession with contracts, and his assertion that these men are only “renting this life,” it’s clear that the series wants us to wonder if Gavin might be Satan himself – just reinvented with a lust for prime real estate.
Of course, Gavin’s purpose is the mystery. We won’t solve it in a matter of episodes. In fact, none of the plot is solvable any time soon. That’s what 666 Park has in its corner: an already endless supply of material. And while that makes the writing team’s path for the first season a smooth one, series tend to spawn further and further storylines as they progress – just look at True Blood and it’s 20 (and counting) integral characters. If the ABC mystery series is going to keep viewers on the hook, these supernatural happenings need to start connecting to each other a bit more.
After all, Jane and Henry may not be able to check out of their new free-falling, hellish existence on Park Avenue, but we, the discerning and selective audience, sure can.
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[Image: Courtesy of ABC]