At first glance, the quaint snow-covered village depicted in ABC's "Happy Town" is so idyllic, serene and gosh-darn happy that you start to wonder what they've been slipping into the brownies.
But Haplin, Minn., is a TV town, which, of course, means that there's more going on here than the chamber of commerce would have you believe. And, in this case, we're talking all kinds of icky creepy stuff.
Just minutes into tonight's opener, we see a local resident meet his maker in a most gruesome manner: Someone drives a railroad spike into his head. Not so happy now, are we?
The murder immediately dredges up old fears connected to a series of unsolved abductions that went down several years ago and were perpetrated by a suspect townsfolk dubbed the "Magic Man." Does this latest foul deed mean that old bogeyman is up to no good again? Or is this a totally unrelated crime?
As if that wasn't enough to worry about, "Happy Town" throws at us a barrage of other subplots and mysteries: Why is the local sheriff (M.C. Gainey) suddenly spouting weird gibberish no one understands? Who is the comely young lass (Lauren German) who just arrived in town and what's her agenda? And why has she been forbidden to visit the third floor of the boarding house in which she resides?
Then there's the suave, but slightly unnerving British gent (Sam Neill), who has opened a classic movie memorabilia store that no one seems to frequent. What exactly is he up to?
Mix in numerous other characters and story lines (there's even a forbidden Romeo-and-Juliet style romance), along with an abundance of clunky exposition, and "Happy Town" becomes convoluted, confusing and overwhelming.
Still, if you're a sucker for tangled mysteries — and are in need of a few heebie-jeebies — the show has enough oomph to its early episodes to suck you in.
Just one warning: In promoting the show, ABC's marketing department has repeatedly conjured up memories of "Twin Peaks." Don't fall for it. "Happy Town" is no "Twin Peaks." It's simply not surreal, or good, enough.
Now you know
The ABC drama premieres at 9 p.m. today on KAKE, Channel 10.