Let’s get this out of the way right at the start. Haven is Eureka, except with cranky Maine people instead of polite middle Americans. Haven is Fringe, except with down to Earth local folk who hate you and your fancy book learning. Haven is X-Files, except it’s not full of itself. Haven is Happy Town, except it’s not canceled, yet. Haven is Twin Peaks, except seen through the Stephen King Lens instead of the David Lynch Lens.
Except it’s really not pure Stephen King, but more like how other people view Stephen King. As Mike Hale explains at the New York Times: "Stephen King’s novella “The Colorado Kid” features two old men who run a small newspaper in Maine, a female summer intern and a 25-year-old mystery. In “Haven,” a new television series ever so slightly based on the novella, the two newspapermen (now brothers) have become comic relief, and the young woman has taken center stage. Instead of a reporter she’s an F.B.I. agent who’s touchy (she’s an orphan) but vulnerable (she reads young-adult novels)."
All of which is to say that Haven, whatever else it is, however well it does it, is derivative of a whole bunch of shows, wrapped in a new package that’s designed to get you to not change the channel after you’re done watching Warehouse 13.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I can only hope that as the show finds its legs it begins to develop its own style.
Because it doesn’t have one, yet.
Watching the first episode, however, which you can do right here until SyFy takes it away from you, it’s hard to see Haven solely as everything its referencing because it hasn’t yet found itself.
For my part, this is what I kept thinking of:
A Pepperidge Farm commercial.
So you succeeded in making my hungry for raisin bread, SyFy. Well done.
(At our house growing up, Pepperidge Farm's’s Raisin Bread was the Holy Grail of breads. We’d get it only every-so-often, and when we did you knew you better let it last. You could have two pieces a night. Any more than that and you were getting evil glares from the parents in the den.)
Most overtly, however, is how Haven compares to Eureka, and it’s almost as if they simply went down a checklist of what makes Eureka, Eureka and did the opposite.
Eureka has a male lead, Haven has a female lead. Jack Carter is probably the least educated guy in a town full of science geniuses, but his common sense approach gives him an edge in solving mysteries. Audrey Parker is probably the most educated woman in a town full of common sense locals, but her FBI training gives her an edge in solving mysteries.
Eureka = Science, Haven = Supernatural.
Eureka = Lighthearted fun, Haven = dour creepiness.
Eureka is a town fixated on the future, while Haven is a town fixated on the past.
In Eureka, people spy on you by using some crazy piece of advanced tech that probably cost the taxpayers three million dollars. In Haven, people spy on you by looking through a window as they sip coffee.
In the first episode, Audrey (played by Emily Rose) gets sent to Haven to investigate an escaped convict, which leads her to a lady who controls the weather even though she doesn’t realize it. There’s a probable love triangle set up between Audrey and Nathan (underacted by Lucas Bryant) and Crocker (overacted by Eric Balfour).
Nathan is a local, do-gooder cop and Duke is a local, do-badder criminal. This might be the least appealing love triangle in years, so batten down the hatches.
Frustratingly, nobody ever acts like anything surprises them in Haven (unless they’re a middle-aged woman who just realized all that weird weather stuff that’s been happening around her all her life is actually her fault).
Audrey wakes up naked in an unknown bed (it’s Crocker’s) and instead of being surprised, she remembers she’s hot and therefore must go looking for whomever put her in that bed wearing Esquire fetish gear: panties, a male’s button-up shirt, her gun, and every inch of leg she can muster up. This passes for logic in Haven.
Nobody in this show displays what you would call exemplary acting, but Rose is the best of the bunch. (At least, one hopes, until they give Nicholas Campbell something to do besides stand around, act grumpy, and spy on you through windows. Campbell was the lead in Davinci's Inquest and he won a bunch of Canadian acting awards for the part.)
The character of Audrey is kind of all over the place (she’s a flirt, she’s tough, nothing fazes her, a picture fazes her) which taxes Rose’s range, but she doesn’t bother me the way Bryant and Balfour did.
Audrey sees a picture in an old issue of the town’s paper of a woman who looks just like her – except with brown hair. And she’s an orphan! (No way!) And no one knows anything about that woman! (No way!) And . . .
Honestly, the show would have been better off setting itself up as harmless formula (like Eureka) rather than trying to tie in some darker mysteries (like Fringe). All of this secret backstory stuff better pick up steam quick because there’s just not a lot of chemistry between any of the actors, so the show is going to need to survive on the writing.
And the episode was apparently written by the two guys who wrote Shrek 3. That was depressing and unfunny, but not in the kind of depressing and unfunny way that Haven wants to be depressing and unfunny.
I’ll give Haven a while to win me over because, at the very least, it doesn’t try to make you think Audrey heading to Haven is just the most amazing coincidence in the history of Little Orphan Audreys. Her ultra serious boss is seen in Haven at episode’s end saying dramatically vague things about Audrey staying in town being part of some greater plan.
(Do all of our bosses talk this way after we get off the phone with them' “Yes, Mark has taken easily to using the color printer. When the time is right, we will snatch away the yellow ink, just as we’ve planned.”)
Since I watch all my TV on Hulu, it’s not like I have a 500 channel universe of options staring back at me from the TV, and there’s not an abundance of shows piling up in the queue.
Slap that recommendation on a poster.
The series has got to improve, however, because if all the show does is remind me how much I love Pepperidge Farm stuff, that’s going to get expensive.
And I’m going to get Fat . . . ter.