Preview of ABC’s new show Happy Town
BY FRED TOPEL
Happy Town is ABC’s new mysterious spooky show. If you want to get wrapped up in another TV obsession, you can check out the town of town of Haplin, MN, where a killer called The Magic Man is making people disappear. It’s so freaky, even the stars have a hard time explaining.
The creators of the show imagined Geoff Stults for the role of Tommy Conroy. They’d worked with him on October Road and wanted to build a show around him. Tommy is the son of Haplin’s sheriff, an officer on the case himself.
“This is one of those shows that for a year now I’ve been trying to figure out what that one liner is,” Stults said. “It’s hard for me to describe it. I keep constantly asking the creators to write something down and they still don’t know. I would say that it’s a small town mystery with hijinks. I don’t know, it takes a little bit more explaining that just a one liner but I would say it’s a small town mystery kind of comparable, I would say less Twin Peaks-y, more Stephen King-y.”
M.C. Gainey plays Sheriff Griffin Conroy. You may recognize him from another major TV obsession, Lost, where he played The Others’ Tom Friendly with his big bushy jungle beard. Imagine him as a tough dad and a tough cop.
“Oh my god, you can well imagine if you’re familiar at all with what I laughingly refer to as a career, I don’t get to play many parents,” Gainey said. “I am not a parental type so I’ve invested a great deal in this knucklehead. He’s my boy. I couldn’t be prouder of him except that he’s got a little Barney Fife in him. He’s not really hitting that edge for a cop. He’s not really hitting it but I think I can bring him around. I’ll get the Fife out of him and he’ll be okay. Yes, loving father, loving grandfather, that’s acting, baby. Killing people, not a problem. Grandchildren, that’s acting.”
Amy Acker plays Tommy’s wife Rachel. She thought she had a grip on Happy Town, but then the next episode would change everything. “There were certain things where I would be like I’m sort of moving past that, and then all of a sudden I would be like oh no, and now that happened?” Acker said. “Now I’ve got to go way over here. Just things that you don’t know ever what’s going to happen to you so it’s like oh, wow, I thought I was going to be all happy again and now looks what I have to deal with.”
The creators of the show do know where they’re going. Co-producer Josh Appelbaum said they want to tell the audience who the Magic Man is as soon as possible. “Our biggest thing was let’s not frustrate the audience,” Appelbaum said. “Let’s not drag these mysteries out to the point where audience want to kill themselves. So one of the things we were very diligent about was every week in these episodes, there will be an answer to one of the mysteries of the show. It’ll open up more mysteries but in a pretty profound way you’ll find out answers to questions. So much so that at the end of the eight episodes, the big mystery of who is the Magic Man will be revealed in the final moments of the first eight episodes. It’ll completely turn the show on its head in a fantastic way. We’re not into dragging out the answers.”
Now that they’ve finished the first eight episodes, the actors feel more secure in knowing the answers to the mysteries they’ve been playing. “I hate throwing comparisons out there because it’s not fair,” Stults said. “Nowhere near tonally or conceptually like Lost but [it’s like] the whole idea of how’d they get there, who did it, the big mystery of Lost that they’re trying to figure out. Every week questions get answered and then when you get answers, sometimes it creates more questions.”
Happy Town gives Gainey a few more answers than Lost did. “After Lost, it’s just a pleasure to know what you’re doing,” Gainey said. “On Lost I never knew what I was doing at all. In the second season, I ran barefooted through the jungle for like 6 episodes. In episode 7, the script came out and Evangeline Lilly found my beard in my locker. I’m like, ‘Wait, I have a locker? Why do I have a locker? I’m barefoot. And this is a fake beard? Would it kill somebody to tell you that?’ So it’s nice to do something where you have some idea where it’s going.”
Just give Happy Town a chance. They’re going to give you a lot in only eight episodes. Then if you like it, maybe there’ll be a full season next year. “Look, I think what’s great about it is we have these eight episodes,” Appelbaum said. “It’s not a huge commitment for an audience but I guarantee you it’ll be a wildly satisfying experience. You’ll get whatever level of commitment you put into it, you’ll get week in and week out, you’re going to get so much out of the show. We jammed a lot of story in there. It’s incident, events. There’s not a lot of episodes that are filler and trying to delay the storytelling.”
Happy Town premieres April 28 on ABC.
Photo by ABC.
“HAPPY TOWN” SNEAK PEEK