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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Cast
Rachael Taylor as Jane Van Veen; Dave Annable as Henry Martin; Robert Buckley as Brian Leonard; Samantha Logan as Nona Clark; Mercedes Masöhn as Louise Leonard; Helena Mattsson as Alexis Blume; Erik Palladino as Tony DeMeo; Vanessa Williams as Olivia Doran; Terry O'Quinn as Gavin Doran
Channel
ABC
Reviewer
Paul Asay
666 Park Avenue

666 Park Avenue

Getting an apartment in Manhattan can be a beast. You gotta have money. Lots of it. You gotta have connections. You gotta have plenty of patience. Some would-be Manhattanites are so desperate to claim a good address that they scan the obituaries for new vacancies. It's said that to get a place in a prestigious building, you practically need to sell your soul.

At the Drake, you merely put it up as part of your security deposit.

The Drake, the primary locale for ABC's supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue, is a pretty nice place. The flats are expansive and updated. The lobby is impressively posh. The elevators all function smoothly (when the doors aren't smashing the living daylights out of you). The fact that this prime piece of New York real estate may be the work of the devil hasn't hurt property values at all.

Now, in fairness, we don't know whether the building's bodacious and bald owner, Gavin Doran, is actually Satan incarnate. But there's definitely something strange about the guy. In his hands, the Drake becomes a little like an uptown version of Fantasy Island, where residents' most tempting, even forbidden wishes can come true. But unlike Ricardo Montalban's island paradise of the 1980s, wishes at the Drake seem to come with an obscenely high price: utter misery or horrific tragedy or, perhaps, eternal damnation. If you run afoul of Mr. Doran's wishes … well, you can look forward to getting absorbed into the building itself.

Jane and Henry, the Drake's new apartment managers, have little clue yet that the drywall sucks souls. Still, this likeable unmarried couple suspects something's amiss—perhaps because of the strange mosaics in the basement, the chatty ghost children and the tortured souls running after folks with axes.

So it's time to say it: 666 Park Avenue is a soapy, silly program that's managed to misplace its own soul during production.

Granted, there are things we can applaud this series for: It implies that sin and evil are quite real and that they exact a steep, steep price. It embraces the concept of a spiritual realm and acknowledges, at least broadly, the existence of heaven and hell, of God and the devil. It may be, simply put, the most overtly spiritual show on network television.

But woe to those who try to take any deep, doctrinal lessons from the Drake. Supernatural underpinnings are about as deep and as relevant to Christian theology as a campfire ghost story—merely a trope, really, to get the infernal ball of yarn rolling. And it's important to note that, even as the series clearly suggests that lust, greed and pride are bad things, 666 Park Avenue—just like Gavin—knows how much viewers are tempted by those very things. And so it trots out salacious sex scenes and perilous power grabs to "satisfy" them. "See how horrible this is?" it says. "Don't do it! Want to see it again?"

These "doing deals with the devil" sorts of stories have a long history in literature, dating back to Goethe's play Faust and before. They work because they show how depraved folks can become before they pay (or escape) their infernal bill.

But 666 Park Avenue ain't classic literature. It's not built to bring people face-to-face with their own depravity so they'll mend their ways. It's designed to entertain us (or maybe distract is a better word) for an hour.

Episode Reviews

"A Crowd of Demons"

A ghostly victim of the Drake is shown in flashback killing his wife with an ax. (We hear the screams and later see the blood-drenched woman die in front of her daughter.) He also hacks open another Drake resident (who lies in a growing pool of blood and is absorbed by the floor). And he chases Jane until he's overcome by a flock of small birds.

A speeding SUV nearly hits Olivia. Later, she's gassed and taken to her apartment. Someone gets nearly hanged.

During a couple's sexual encounter we see lots of her fishnet stockings hear a zipper being manipulated. (The girl uses the encounter to steal the guy's cellphone.) A publicity manager advises Henry to marry Jane (the two are living together) before "the concrete jungle drives you apart." But Henry insists their relationship is just fine the way it is. Meanwhile, playwright Brian walks in on his wife (shirtless, in a bra) and a doctor. (About that we'll just say the circumstances are … murky.) There are a few other sexual references as well.

People drink all manner of alcoholic beverages, and Louise seems eager to get snockered. She pops a handful of pills and goes to great lengths to get prescriptions for more. Characters say "b‑‑ch" once, "h‑‑‑" four or five times and misuse God's name at least 10 times.

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