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Hidden Palms: Discussion Thread

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This is the first time I've enjoyed a teen show in years. I was a big fan of "Dawson's Creek" in the beginning, but it began to suck so I stopped watching.

I feel this show can fill the Veronica Mars/O.C. void. I'm not a fan of KW's over the top self-aware "I know this about that because...." dialog. Hopefully it'll decrease.

This show has the potential to be great, it's unfortunate that they shipped it to the summer time, but I hope it gets picked up for a full season next year.

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the premiere only pulled in like 1.6 or 1.8 in ratings :(

they should have held off on the last couple of weeks of OTH and used Top Model to launch it.

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And now – what the critics are saying:

TV Review | 'Hidden Palms'

Pretty Faces With Plenty of Troubles, and Secrets

By GINIA BELLAFANTE

“Hidden Palms,” the new series from Kevin Williamson making its debut tonight on CW, may be the first teenage soap opera visually dedicated to mid-20th-century Modernism. Remove the sex, sociopathology and possible filicide, and you will still be left with a quite inspiring home design show.

Set in Palm Springs, the last patch of Southern California this genre hasn’t yet trammeled, the look is all Eames benches, Barcelona chairs and geometric patterns. The mood is severe, but the colors are happy. Mr. Williamson has created a sick world, but one for which you wouldn’t mind having the swatches.

The clichéd aesthetic choice of so many single art directors, midcentury Modern isn’t necessarily the easiest signifier of typical American family life, and that is precisely the point. The families on “Hidden Palms” don’t convene at the table or watch movies together or talk about SAT scores or college admissions. The show is set during the summer, but still there is no evidence that any of the 17-year-olds in it actually go to school.

What kind of people decide to bring up children in Palm Springs anyway? As the resident satanic charmer explains to the newcomer in town, “It’s all retired grays, gays and streets named after dead people,” he says. “People come here to die.”

The charmer is a high school junior named Cliff Wiatt, played by Michael Cassidy, an actor so good at conveying sham authenticity that even when he sniffs, it doesn’t quite feel as if he means it. His mission is to keep at bay the new arrival, the economically named Johnny Miller (Taylor Handley, who, like Mr. Cassidy, is a veteran of “The OC.”)

Johnny begins to suspect that Cliff might have had a hand in the death of Eddie, a teenager who once lived in Johnny’s new house. And it isn’t as if Johnny doesn’t have a whole big pasta bowl of problems already. In another life he wore crew-neck sweaters and his hair neatly combed back. He cared about math and lived someplace where it rained. But then his sweaty, gin-drinking father killed himself, sending Johnny down the road to addiction, then rehab, then unbuttoned shirts and a coiffure in the mode of Jarvis Cocker.

“Hidden Palms” is high soap opera, a kind of “Masterpiece Theater” of unjustifiable television, which means that there won’t be anything quite so much fun to watch all summer. It takes its suspense seriously. It doesn’t tease your attentions so much as kidnap them, with many of the tropes of Mr. Williamson’s auteurism: the love triangles, suspicious deaths, bloody Halloween costumes and nods to gag horror. For the uninitiated, Mr. Williamson created the “Scream” films and “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Hidden Palms” seems the inevitable hybrid of his opposing impulses toward satire and sincerity.

“How does it look?” Cliff’s mother asks him when he’s removing the bandages from her plastic surgery. “It’s bruised,” he responds. “But it looks like the noses two noses ago.”

If I were watching “Hidden Palms” as a 16-year-old, I’d be grateful for whatever parents nature gave me, their refusal to let me drive the Jeep Cherokee be damned. It is hard to think of another television show of this kind that has portrayed mothers and fathers so perversely.

Ultimately, “Hidden Palms” derives its creepy tension from the question of how morally debased the show’s parents will actually prove themselves to be. At best they are dangerously attached or uncommunicative; at worst, criminal, lecherous and pedophilic.

It is a good thing, then, that they haven’t aggressively reproduced. The show is certainly true to the demographic realities of Palm Springs: not a single one of the young people appears to have a sibling. In some sense, “Hidden Palms” marks a radical departure in popular culture’s depiction of only children, who for the better part of the last two decades have been depicted as self-reliant superstars or geniuses (Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rory Gilmore.)

The teenagers on “Hidden Palms” make a strong case for benighted arguments that only children are socially maladjusted, neurotic, disturbed. It seems fairly certain that “Hidden Palms” received no subsidies from the Population Council.

HIDDEN PALMS

CW, tonight at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.

Kevin Williamson and Scott Winant, executive producers. A Lionsgate Televison production in association with Outerbanks Entertainment.

WITH: Taylor Handley (Johnny Miller), Gail O’Grady (Karen Hardy), Sharon Lawrence (Tess Wiatt), D. W. Moffett (Bob Hardy), Amber Heard (Greta Matthews), Michael Cassidy (Cliff Wiatt), Ellary Porterfield (Liza Witter), Tessa Thompson (Nikki Barnes) and J. R. Cacia (Travis).

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Teen angst, antics engage in ‘Hidden Palms’

By turns engaging and preposterous, the CW series sets its sexy and mysterious goings-on in Palm Springs.

By Robert Lloyd, Times Staff Writer

May 30, 2007

A wildly uneven but nevertheless fairly engrossing teenage soap-opera murder mystery, “Hidden Palms” premieres belatedly tonight on the CW, having pushed back from March to the edge of June. While much of it is silly, corny or clichéd and relies more on easy effects — the power ballad, the overwrought sex scene — than on the subtle explorations of people and place that the pilot seems to promise, the series is, on the whole, highly digestible summer fun. And here and there, in a look or a line or the framing of a shot, it grows into something big.

Concerned as it is with precocious rich kids and their troublesome parents, living in an exclusive Palm Springs community, “Hidden Palms” would seem to present a kind of inland “The O.C.” — all the more so as its male leads, Taylor Handley and Michael Cassidy, are “O.C.” vets. It would be better described, however, as an amalgam of creator Kevin Williamson’s two best-known projects, “Dawson’s Creek” (on which Handley also appeared) and the “Scream” franchise, with the emphasis slightly on the former.

As did “Dawson’s Creek,” “Hidden Palms” begins with the arrival in town of a young person with a past and a problem. Here, it is Hamlet-sullen Johnny (Handley), just out of rehab and following mother Gail O’Grady and stepfather D.W. Moffett — who have married in haste, like Gertrude and Claudius — from Seattle to Palm Springs. By the end of the first episode he will meet an Ophelia named Greta (Amber Heard), and by the end of the second a ghost — sort of — not of his father but of the boy who killed himself in Johnny’s new bedroom.

Also new to his life are Cliff (Cassidy) — the Reggie, in “Archie” terms — who lives next door to Johnny and has a gothic sense of humor and an unusually close relationship with his mother (Sharon Lawrence). (We see him removing the bandages from her latest nose job: “It’s bruised,” he says, “but it looks like the nose two noses ago.” “Well,” replies his mother, encouraged, “that’s what we want.”) And there is Liza (Ellary Porterfield), who first appears as a figure in a hazmat suit, gazing from the garage across the street. She is what you might call nerd-cute — not hot enough to date the lead, even though she’d like to — and she may be the series’ Nancy Drew, or its Tom Swift, or something darker.

The kids are all enigmas, except Johnny — who is merely a mess — and his old rehab friend Nikki (Tessa Thompson, making a strong impression), who is also a mess, and a bigger mess, but a mess without secrets. Still, all claim to be different from what other people think they are, and as revelation piles upon revelation, each only grows harder to pin down. The whole show might be seen as a giant metaphor for the adolescent feeling of being misunderstood.

Except for Porterfield, however, none is a genuine teenager. This is standard TV practice, of course, and here as elsewhere a mitigating strategy to make the underage sex and drinking more acceptable. Because it’s easier to sell statutory rape on prime-time network television when it’s obvious that the younger party is played by someone actually well over the age of consent.

From scene to scene the show can play as preposterous, mysterious, suspenseful or moving — depending not only on what the actors are required to do or say but also on which actors are doing it or saying it. Leslie Jordan, who appears in a few episodes as Johnny’s drag queen AA sponsor and lets Nikki sleep on his couch, is welcome every moment he’s on screen; other actors grow more real playing around him. As much holds for Kyle Secor, as Greta’s awful but possibly not irredeemable lawyer father.

Of the seven episodes I’ve seen, the first two, written by Williamson and directed by fellow executive producer Scott Winant (“Huff,” “My So-Called Life”) have, not surprisingly, the most flair and feeling. As is often the case, the pilot benefits from having been filmed in the place it is set — the production moved from Palm Springs to Phoenix afterward, and the difference shows. The local texture the pilot takes as part of its subject dissolves into the more usual business of revealing an Awful Truth. Tim Suhrstedt (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), who photographed the pilot, has done a fine job of translating the colorful shimmer of the desert light and of capturing the poetry in its night — it brings out the best in the text, and helps evoke that sense of immanence peculiar to being young, that moment when one still believes the world to be a place that can be known and feels oneself on the edge of knowing it.

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In series-premiere news, long-awaited CW drama Hidden Palms was hidden in the ratings, with a mere 1.4/ 2 in the overnights from 8-9 p.m. Obviously, that was last in the hour. That led into a similarly lackluster 1.5/ 2 for an original installment of One Tree Hill at 9 p.m.

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I think it's an enjoyable series and I'll be tuning in every week, unless they do something that really turns me off.

The second episode was miles, miles, MILES, ahead of the first episode in terms of quality, that's for sure. Taylor Handley, I have to say, is obviously trying to find his way on AMS's List o' Boyfriends I Can Never Have. Not only is he extremely attractive (every time he does the requisite "brooding," I just want to jump on him and make it all feel better), but he's a really natural actor. The scenes where Johnny and Nikki caught up with each other at the rehab center, he just really impressed me with how natural and doesn't-look-like-he-is-acting he was.

Could so do without that Greta though, but I guess she's a necessary character in this whole Eddie-died-in-your-room! thing.

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I knew by the premiere's ratings this wasn't going to last. I did hear they made 7 episodes, so atleast we're going to get to see them all. And since this was a midseason show, I'm hoping ep 7 was written as a season finale.

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They made 8 episodes. On Wednesday (June 20), episodes #4 and #5 will air back-to-back, and on the next Wednesday (June 27), episodes #6 and #7 will air back-to-back. The final episode, #8, is gonna air on the Fourth of July.

They're not doing the encores on Sundays anymore either.

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It's very disheartening to know that this show will be over so soon. I actually enjoy it and it could've been one of my new guilty pleasures! I have no idea why they didn't give this show a real chance.

Me and the CW are 0 for 10 at this point.

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It's an enjoyable show, and I love watching it, but there are so many things, for me at least, that work against it.

It has absolutely no edge whatsoever to it. It's exactly what it's supposed to be. It's predictable. The character of Greta and the relationship between she and Johnny is just a big fat cliche. Brooding stud moves to new town, meets mysterious girl, falls in love. All before he even unpacks his bags.

But there are so many good things that draw me into the show because you don't really see it on any other teen drama. The relationship between Cliff and his mother is *great* stuff to watch. Cliff, altogether, is an amazing character. He's very complex, I think, and there could easily be a reason to his actions, but I doubt the show would explore that.

I hate to make every show be based around gay characters, but it would have been SO interesting if Cliff turned out to be one of those types of guys who's got it going on, knows it, and has no problem picking up any gender he wanted. The chemistry between Cliff and Johnny can't be denied.

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Me and the CW are 0 for 10 at this point.

I'm in the same boat, the shows I liked that were on the The WB then The CW have been cancelled or have ended .......

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I just watched eps 4 and 5 last night, and the show's starting to lose me. They're burning through this storyline way to fast and the emotional connection between viewer and character has not clicked in yet for me to fully enjoy the revelations we've had on this eddie story and the character's personal stories. It's definitely gone downhill from the pilot.

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