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Marti NoxonMarti Noxon - ’Point Pleasant’ - Bernstein’s Aerial view of America (buffy mention)
By Jonathan Bernstein
Sunday 30 January 2005, by Webmaster
A mysterious, troubled young stranger shows up in a picturesque coastal resort populated solely by the privileged and beautiful. A good-hearted local couple accept the stranger as an instant addition to their family. The couple’s solitary oddball offspring forms an immediate bond with the stranger. With my inimitable gift for misdirection, I’m leading you to believe I’m talking about The OC. But no! I’m talking about the new Fox show that comes on straight after The OC and has the exact same plot, except for the subtle difference that the mysterious stranger is the pouty blonde daughter of ... Satan!
That little twist on an established theme is one of the many things Point Pleasant has going in its favour. It also has its arresting opening image of its enigmatic lead character, Christina, floating face down in the middle of the ocean. It has the liberating effect her presence has on all the sin previously repressed by the dysfunctional townsfolk of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. It has the "You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry " explosions that occur when Christina’s emotions are aroused. It has centuries-old religious conspiracy theories. It has a battle between the local clergy who fear Christina’s arrival signals the end of days, and the emissaries of darkness who are anxious for her to kick off the apocalypse. And, most of all, Point Pleasant has an undeniable pedigree. Who could be better at creating and setting the tone for a series of this nature than Marti Noxon, the most prolific of all Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s prodigious writing staff? Nobody, would seem to be the enthusiastic reply.
Both shows are about young women struggling with unasked-for superpowers, both are about battles between good and evil in small towns, both are infused with sex and death and both have knockout ensembles of immediately engaging, entirely individual characters, all of whom come complete with torrents of snappy dialogue. OK, that last part is where Noxon chooses to deviate from her old job. If Point Pleasant didn’t have so much Buffy coursing through its veins, its extreme lack of sparkle in performance and dialogue wouldn’t be as much of a hurdle to get over, but it does and it is. Hurdles don’t come bigger or more wooden than lead actress Elisabeth Harnois who, as I mentioned, we first encounter floating motionless face-down in the ocean and who doesn’t get much more animated after she’s been fished out.
The crux of the series is supposed to be the battle for supremacy of the two sides of her soul but the Hilary Duff-like Harnois can’t muster up much more than teary confusion. The rest of the teen casting - the quirky best friend, the infatuated lifeguard, the jealous spoiled princess - is uniformly bland. In series of this nature, we expect the bad guy to be a gleeful scene-stealer, but because Point Pleasant is so bereft of personality, when the devil’s right-hand man Boyd (former Melrose Place hunk Grant Show) emits his first cynical cackle, he instantly nullifies every other actor with a speaking part or a prop. Whether corrupting the local church lady, immolating a sneaky priest, contemptuously rebuffing the advances of the town’s hot, bored rich slut or - the biggest network TV no-no of them all - smoking, Show is the sole custodian of Point Pleasant’s memorable moments. He’s also going to become a highly salivated-over symbol of obsessive worship for all the alienated goths who tuned in expecting to empathise with Christina and found her a wholesome, healthy, blonde let-down.
Pretty much all the elements alienated goths and long-time Mutant Enemy devotees would expect from a Marti Noxon-helmed series are missing here. It’s not scary enough, not sexy enough, not remotely funny and bereft of characters with any traits beyond looking yummy in bikinis. Despite all that, I’m not averse to the notion of watching future episodes (that is, if the trigger- happy Fox overlooks the low ratings and keeps it around). The idea of a show that, if they ever get it right, could be a cross between Desperate Housewives, Carrie, Firestarter, The Omen and The OC is too alluring to ignore.