Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
When will musicians learn to stop selling their souls to the devil? Apparently never.
ABC’s new Sunday night drama 666 Park Avenue opens with the classic cliche of the violinist who has sold his soul for fame and now it’s time to pay up. The writer’s (show creator David Wilcox) use of this cliche right out of the gate is a great choice. It tells us exactly what type of show we are watching.
This isn’t American Horror Story. This is a straight up classic occult horror story. It’s fun classic horror built on the standard mythos of a smooth talking, deal making, devil who has one goal – your soul.
The show shifts gears from it’s dark opening scene to the light, happy and in love couple of Henry Martin (Dave Annable) and Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor). He’s a suit and she’s blond and bright. She’s also currently unemployed and applying for the position of building manager at 999 Park Avenue. The building, a gothic New York City luxury apartment building known as the Drake, is the true star of the show. As you’d imagine, the sets are pretty impressive. They do a great job at conveying an opulence that is somehow both foreboding and inviting. The directing and camera work contribute a great deal to this. There are also subtle touches thrown in, like rotary phones, that make you feel a little bit outside of the comfort of the modern world.
But as great as the backdrop is, this show works because Vanessa Williams and Terry O’Quinn sell the hell out of it as building owners, and devils, Olivia and Gavin Doran. Williams is deliciously evil and O’Quinn’s role as her husband is the perfect mix of sinister baddie/condescending father-you-don’t-want-to-disappoint.
The Dorans have struck a deal with every resident in the building. The Dorans live on the 13th floor, obviously. Much like the violinist, there’s a writer who has sold his soul to write a hit Broadway play. Unfortunately, he spends too much time leering at his hot neighbor who’s always prancing around naked in front of her window. There’s also a zombie. Sadly, she never eats anyone’s brain. She stays alive as long as her husband kills the people Gavin Doran tells him to kill.
The show doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring their motivations and it isn’t going to deliver intense character studies in every episode. The central story is the mystery surrounding the Dorans and building itself, like that creepy ghost in the basement. The residents are simply a means to that end.
Although Jane takes seems to take up the most screen time she’s not the soul the Dorans are after. They want Henry, a young hotshot lawyer who works for the Mayor. Still, it seems that the real reason Jane and Henry moved into the Drake is to allow the viewers to uncover this demonic universe. Every bit of their characterizations scream “Plot Device!”. Jane has a background in architecture, so her professional curiosity gives her a reason to explore every inch of the building. She gets even more of a reason to dig around when Gavin tells her, that because of her knowledge of historic architecture, he wants her to assist with the building renovations. And one has to wonder how much of a wizkid lawyer Henry actually is, he doesn’t even read the rental contract before he signs on the dotted line. Whoops.
There’s nothing new here but that’s what makes it cool. If you nerd out for classic occult stories, you’ll be delighted by this and have a fair amount of fun. And that’s the key word here – fun. 666 Park Avenue isn’t high drama and it’s not meant to make you think. It’s horror candy and for that reason, it’s deserving of a spot on your Sunday night TV watching schedule.