June 1, 2009

Harper's Island Gets the Axe


The world is not a fair place. Nothing demonstrates this more than the genius that is Harper's Island getting canned while Nadya Suleman makes a reality show deal.

In case you haven't been watching - - and shame on you for not! - - H.I. is about a wedding party that descends upon the fictional Harper's Island (supposedly a ferry ride from Seattle) for a week of wedding-laced festivities, for groom Henry and bride Trish. All is not rice and lace though, as seven years earlier, Harper's Island was beset by a serial killer named John Wakefield who claimed as one of his victims the wife of the island's sheriff and the mother of Abby Mills, one of the wedding guests who is returning to the island for the first time since her mother's murder. Wakefield was caught by Abby's dad, Sheriff Mills, and killed by him although the local serial killer gossip mill says that maybe Wakefield's grave is empty, or it's not him buried there at all. Creepy, right?

So the series started with the wedding party leaving Seattle - - and we get a glimpse of the first victim, poor old Cousin Ben who is tied to the ferry boat's propeller and who promptly bites it, with his head being roundly lopped off. Things only pick up from there, as the wedding party, and some of the locals, face being picked off one by one by an unknown killer who is killing for unknown reasons.

CBS began airing the first two (maybe?) episodes on Thursday nights at 10, following the monster CSI - - but then moved the show to Saturday nights at 9, where it promptly died. Scheduled to be a 13 episode run only - - with the reveal of the killer in episode 13 - - this should have been a hit for CBS. Never underestimate the powers of faulty marketing and the general public's low threshold for patience and payoff.

CBS did itself a huge disservice by not properly and adequately marketing this show. Perhaps they would have done better by having the 13 episodes start over the summer, while most other shows were on hiatus, but they arguably could have stepped up their promotions and marketing. H.I. is part good old fashioned Agatha Christie whodunit, part slasher flick and part cheesy fun as each week you determine not only who the killer is but which character is going to get it and how. By promoting the show more as a weekly murder mystery, and insinuating that the viewing public will need to watch each and every week in order to get involved, I think CBS hurt the show's chances. Again, I think the majority of the viewing public today has the attention span of a gnat - - just look at the success of reality type shows that need no weekly devotion by its audience for proof.

A shame, really, because H.I. has become "must see" t.v. for me. I love trying to pick up clues and debate on who the killer must be - - a debate that changes each week with each new development.

Had this show been a ratings hit, supposedly CBS would bring back new characters, new plotlines and a new locale for a new 13 episode run each time, presumably with a new title. I think it would have been fun. Certainly much more interesting than watching a reality show trainwreck about Nadya Suleman and her 500 kids.

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