“Fleas and Casseroles”
ABC, Wednesday, 10 PM
Written by Rina Mimoun
Directed by Elodie Keene
I wonder when we are going to see an actual new episode of Eastwick. Four episodes into the season, and we have had the same story every week: Kat is having marriage troubles, Joanna suffers from delusions that she’s Lois Lane, and Roxie has prescient dreams that trouble her. Plot? What plot? So far, this show, like most soaps, has no real “story” to it—things just happen and don’t get resolved. Which could even be watchable, if the writers gave us something new or good—snappy dialogue a la Gilmore Girls, or quirky charm like Pushing Daisies, intriguing plot twists or even first class acting. Instead, writer Rina Mimoun, who actually did write for Gilmore Girls and Pushing Daisies, turns in a story which is glacially paced and dull.
Kat is getting a divorce. We get it, already. Her arguments with Raymond, her conflict over the use of a high-priced shark/lawyer, and her worry over child custody issues are so grimly realistic that those scenes look like they should be on Law & Order, not a frothy little bon-bon like Eastwick. Her wishy-washy attitude toward her deadbeat husband just makes her look dumb. In fact, the only interesting or original feature of her entire storyline is how flowers in her vicinity change color to match her mood. That is cool, but not enough to turn her into a character I can sympathize with.
The character of Joanna makes me embarrassed to be a woman. She’s stupid, klutzy, and cruel. She stood up a good man to sleep with a bad one, a guy who was engaged to someone else. She can’t focus on her “investigation” of Darryl Van Horne for more than two sentences. She humiliated her ex by publicly castigating him in front of an entire office full of strangers. And her verbal diarrhea, which wasn’t funny to start with, gets worse every time she speaks. I have never seen so disgusting a case of foot-in-mouth disease. There is nothing appealing about this character; she’s not even the bad girl you love to hate. I was delighted when her crush, Will, overheard her tirade and coldly declined to have anything more to do with her. Nice to see someone in this show with a sense of integrity.
Of all the women in Eastwick, Roxie is the only one showing a modicum of common sense. She is smart enough to listen to the Prince of Darkness when he tells her to get more information on Jamie. She breaks into Jamie’s apartment and finds a book that looks like a cross between a grimoire and grandma’s scrapbooking project (what, no beads at all?), with the mysterious three-lobed symbol on the cover that has appeared in every episode so far. She holds onto the book just long enough to learn that Jamie’s long-lost mother gave it to him, that it contains a spell to put a pox on Raymond, and that Bun recognizes the book as her own. Then she sneaks it back into Jamie’s apartment—I hope she at least photocopied the part that will let her lift the pox spell from Raymond at some point. Rebecca Romijn continues to play the part like an earthier version of Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives), but that works fine in the part as long as it is balanced by her bohemian charm. She’s the only character strong enough to stand up to Darryl, and that makes her the most appealing.
If this show insists on having Paul Gross in it, they should use him more and better. So far, his contribution to the show has been to swan around acting like a Svengali, handing out occasional suggestions that somehow wind up sounding sexually suggestive. Darryl treats Roxie with an appealing mix of deference and mockery. He loves her mind, but he loves her body more. It’s amusing to watch a grown man putting these frat-boy moves on a woman older than sixteen—for about ten minutes. Then it inevitably crosses the line between charm and smarm, and my foot starts itching to kick something. Yet he really does not doanything. I’m starting to wonder if Darryl really is the devil—or just his stand-in.
This is a serious flaw in the series concept, because the only person who really connects Joanna, Roxie, and Kat is Darryl Van Horne. Which makes him the central pivot on which every plot turns—yet he’s hardly even in the show. If he is supposed to be subtly manipulating things behind the scenes, he is being far too subtle about it. Yet in his few scenes, he’s so over the top he’s out of sight altogether. There just does not seem to be any balance in this character; he’s asked to do too much with too little screen time, and a seriously underwritten part.
I’ll admit to being surprised to find out who Penny’s “secret source” is. The “twist” in having Bun turn out to be Jamie’s mother was fun (and no prizes for guessing who Dad is). But Penny’s secret was, you should pardon the expression, more wicked and more fun. I know the original story and movie centered around the three women and Darryl. But for many reasons, this current setup is not working well. Two thirds of the show is taken up with dead-end stories woven around unlikeable characters; the show needs to either revamp those storylines and play to its strengths (Roxie and Darryl) or drop the Joanna and Kat stories.Eastwick needs to make up its mind: either it’s a show about magic, or it’s a prime-time soap opera. Those two genres haven’t mixed well since Dark Shadows.
It says something bad about this show that more people are watching Jay Leno than the three witches of Eastwick. Eastwick had just 5.09 million viewers at the same time 6.16 million were tuning in to Leno—whose ratings have been plunging every week. Last week the show had 5.3 million viewers and beat Leno; this week it slipped below him. It would not surprise me if the entire show disappeared in a pink cloud before Halloween.