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'Harper's Island': Let the murdering begin!

April 10, 2009 | 11:13 am

Harpers-island1

I started my TiVo playing the pilot of "Harper’s Island," and the first thing I realized was “I’m watching CBS.” I don’t remember the last time I watched CBS. I’ve never watched an episode of "CSI: Wherever" that didn’t feature a guy I knew in college playing a creepy video-camera dude. What else is on CBS? David Letterman. I think I saw part of "How I Met Your Mother" and "Big Bang Theory" on a plane.

Not watching CBS much, though, actually helped my plan to avoid any previews of "Harper’s Island." I wanted to come into it fresh and unbiased. It might have also helped if I’d avoided watching any episodes of "Lost" before "Harper’s Island" too. It’s hard to watch "Harper’s Island" without comparing it to the 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot over on ABC. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear someone say “the island” without thinking of "Lost" again.

Maybe it’s best if I just get all the things that reminded me of "Lost" out of the way right now. Out of my system. OK … of course, you have a group of people with complicated pasts on an island full of mystery.

Obvious.

Then you have the chubby guy with big sideburns for comic relief.

That happens a lot.

There’s the skinny blond girl, but at least she’s not pregnant.

Thomas Wellington (played on "Harper's Island" by Richard Burgi) shares some similarities to "Lost's" Christian Shephard. There’s a half dozen Sawyer wannabes running around. But hey, if you’re gonna lean on someone to get your show started, might as well find a strong shoulder to lean on.

"Harper’s Island" does have a lot of cool things going for it. The location, for one. Washington and the whole Pacific Northwest ties New England as the best place in the country to set a murder mystery. The ocean, the lighthouses, the forests, the endless miles of coffeehouses. Plenty of breathtaking locations.

It definitely has a strong level of gruesome. Bodies are hanging from trees, and the two murders that occurred both could be described with the verb “chop.” And the biggest thing "Harper’s Island" has going for it: Elaine Cassidy. The roll of Abby is probably the best written in the show as well, but more so because Cassidy is just so darn endearing. Plus we got to see her in her underwear.  Enjoyed that, thank you.

The rest of the cast works perfectly because I can’t wait to see all of them killed. It’s probably not intentional, but I’m looking forward to seeing which one gets brutally done in next week. We already lost the crazy uncle who brought a mariachi band to play himself off to the island. He was topping my list. But who’s next? The bride or groom?

Seems like Jim from "The Office" is marrying a publicity shot of Wendie Malick from the first season of "Dream On." They don’t really look at each other with a deep feeling of … what’s the word… acknowledgment.

Though I doubt either of them would die. How about the blonds? Oh, will he ever manage to propose? Can we get an ax in that David Spade forehead? Or the emo brother seeping with tattitude? One of the beer chugging groomsmen who always seem to be laughing at something not all that funny? That creepy little girl who was burning snails and talking to invisible friends? Hunter Jennings, the txting vampire?

If there’s one person who definitely shouldn’t die, it’s Sheriff Mills. "Harper’s Island" has a varied level of acting talent, but when Jim Beaver showed up it was just a whole different world. I want to cast Jim Beaver as my dad. The scene between Sheriff Mills and his estranged daughter was the highlight of the show. The sheriff should be in every episode. At the end he should kill the murderer, and then after it’s all over, he and I should go fishing.

Overall, "Harper’s Island" earned itself a second episode viewing. It’s hard to judge too harshly. Ninety percent of the episode was exposition. The show has a good premise, just takes a bit to set up. We have the strong hook, but now it just needs a little more bait. How’s that for a metaphor? The biggest problem right now is that the characters don’t even know there’s a murderer yet. Hopefully it won’t take them too long to get caught up with the audience. Then we’ll see if this show really gets rolling.

— Andrew Hanson

Photo: Elaine Cassidy and Christopher Gorham in "Harper's Island." Photo by CBS

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