Point Pleasant: The Complete Series (DVD)

The spawn of Satan is really a good-looking blonde in a bikini? Figures.

From writer/producer Marti Noxon, Joss Whedon’s second in command during the later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comes another series about pretty young girl with a supernatural destiny. But instead of vampires, laughs, and chop-socky action, Point Pleasant offers satanic gloominess, sexy soap opera shenanigans, and enough teenage girl angst to fill a year’s worth of after school specials.

Teen girl Christina Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois, Pretty Persuasion) falls out of nowhere into the ocean during a violent summer storm off the course of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. She is rescued, but ends up alone in this strange place. After her millionaire father cuts her off, she decides to stay in town to be with her new friends and search for clues about her long-lost mother’s identity. Her parental issues don’t end there, though. Christina begins to manifest amazing powers, creating horrible mishaps for the people around her whenever she gets angry. It turns out her real father is not a tycoon, but is none other than Satan himself, and that this quaint little New Jersey tourist trap is about to become ground zero for the apocalypse. But until that happens, Christina will move in with…

The Kramers. High school outsider Judy Kramer (Aubrey Dollar, The Perfect You) takes an instant liking to Christina. Dad Ben Kramer (Richard Burgi, The Sentinel) is the local doctor, watchful over his wife Meg (Susan Walters, Elvis and Me), who is still traumatized by the death of their older daughter two years earlier. The Kramers spend a lot of time with their friends…

The Parkers. Hunky teen lifeguard Jesse Parker (Sam Page, The Brotherhood) is the one who rescued Christina from the ocean, leading to considerable romantic tension between the two of them. His dad Logan (Alex Carter, The Island) is the local cop, and his mom Sarah (Clare Carey, Coach) is a strictly-religious church secretary. Logan suffers from feelings of jealousy, still not forgiving Sarah after an indiscretion years ago. But that’s nothing compared to…

The Hargroves. Teen beach bunny Paula (Cameron Richardson, Supercross) is Jesse’s girlfriend, and she’s in full-on vengeance mode after seeing him get all flirty with Christina. She’ll go to any lengths to humiliate Jesse if she can’t win him back. Like daughter like mother, apparently, because mom Amber Hargrove (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers) is a former glam girl afraid of losing her looks as she ages. Her only goal in life, apparently, is to get Ben Kramer into bed with her. Meanwhile, she’s unaware of her daughter’s run-ins with…

The Burkes. A rival for Paula’s affections, Terry Burke (Brent Weber, Sports Talk) is not as well-to-do as the rest of Point Pleasant, and is often regarded as little more than Jesse’s lifeguard sidekick. Terry’s dad, David (John Diehl, Jurassic Park III), is in a coma, and Terry spends hours each day reading to him. Frustrated with the direction his life is headed, Terry eventually joins forces with…

Lucas Boyd. A mysterious but charismatic rich guy, Boyd (Grant Show, Melrose Place) moves into a gigantic mansion and claims he’s there to purchase every piece of real estate in the entire town. His real agenda, though, is to watch over Christina, and influence her into following in her devilish daddy’s footsteps. In his spare time, he also likes to mess with the other residents of Point Pleasant, sneakily corrupting them and convincing them to be horrible and evil to each other. Hanging out with Boyd in the mansion are his sniveling toadie Wes (Adam Busch, “Warren the Nerd” from Buffy) and his recently returned-from-the-dead girlfriend Holly (Elisabeth Ann Bennett, Moving In), who’s so sneaky and untrustworthy that he has to keep her tied to a chair at all times.

Now that all the pieces are on chess board, it’s time to kick off the final battle between good and evil on the shores of Point Pleasant, while we’re also wondering who will hook up with who in any given episode.

“It’s funny—when I pictured evil personified, you’re more…fluffy than what leaps to mind.”

We have to wonder just what the target audience was for Point Pleasant. All the stuff about the pretty girl with the amazing supernatural powers fighting the devil would seem to draw in the horror and sci-fi fans. The increasingly numerous relationship dramas and romantic betrayals probably appeal more to the soap opera fans. With this melding of styles, neither one comes out well. The demonic parts of the story are not well-defined, and viewers need a large scorecard to keep track of all the characters and who’s trying to seduce who in any given episode.

Keeping track of all the plotlines running through this series requires viewers to watch aggressively. Miss five minutes and you’ve missed something that will come back into play later on, or an important bit of background info about a character. Normally, this would be a good thing, but only if the creators were able to tie it all together. Instead, there are several elements of the plot that are either forgotten about or have their direction changed on a whim. If it all came together in the conclusion somehow, then the series would be rewarding. Instead, although there is a suitably gripping finale, the many side stories don’t really add up to much. In early episodes, Paula and Amber are major players, going to any lengths to seduce the men they want. By the end of the series, though, they are down to only one or two scenes per episode, pushed aside by other plotlines.

As our lead, Elisabeth Harnois is eye-gougingly sexy, but, sadly, she’s just not strong enough of an actress to carry a series. She does have some great moments, especially during those times when she takes a step toward her dark side, but at other times it seems she’s just reading her lines out loud, rather than creating a character. Other actors do better, especially Burgi and Meyer, but the scripts they’re given have such flat, mundane dialogue; it’d be a challenge for any performer.

The writers left numerous inconsistencies throughout the series, and they distract viewers from the narratives at hand. Judy is often described as the sarcastic one, and yet she almost never makes snarky comments. In one scene, she calls herself a “goth girl” while wearing brightly colored beach wear. An early episode ends when the Kramers’ boat goes up in flames, but in the next episode it’s immediately forgotten about. I guess the boat was well-insured. At one point, there’s the mandatory scene where a dog growls at someone no else suspects is evil. This dog is supposed to be the Kramers’ beloved pet, but it’s never seen or mentioned again anywhere in the series. These are just a few of many examples. The writers do, however, maintain consistency when it comes to cast members shedding their clothes on a regular basis. Whenever there’s an opportunity to see the guys shirtless or the girls in their bikini tops, the writers take full advantage of it.

Early on, there’s a quick scene in which the man Christina believed to be her father tells her he’s cutting her off and that she’s on her own. Harnois plays the scene with a stunned look on her face. Christina then goes back to the Kramers and asks to stay with them longer. This should be a devastating moment for the character, and she should be dealing with feelings of rejection and alienation. Instead, one gets the sense that the writers are thinking, “We need to wrap up this ‘fake father’ subplot so Christina will have a reason to stay in Point Pleasant and we can continue our series.” There’s enough emotional power in these two scenes for an entire episode, but it isn’t taken advantage of.

So if the acting isn’t up to par and the writing is sloppy, is there any saving grace for Point Pleasant? That would be Grant Show as the demonic Boyd. As usual, the villain gets all the good lines, and Show clearly enjoys the role. Whether he’s secretly manipulating townspeople to indulge their darker desires, or facing off with Christina about her world-destroying destiny, the series really sparks whenever Show is on screen.

Interestingly, the conclusion of the series could be read as an ending, or as a “to be continued,” depending on how you read it. Although the producers, cast, and crew no doubt wanted a second season to keep the paychecks rolling in, the ending is wonderfully ambiguous. It does leave the door open for more, and yet it also closes the door on Point Pleasant in an unexpected yet satisfying way.

Given Point Pleasant‘s pedigree, the obvious comparison is to hold it up against Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For a clearer examination, though, let’s view it in contrast to the British series Hex. Like Point Pleasant, Hex also features a supernaturally-powered pretty blonde menaced by devilish foe, with a few sexy soap subplots thrown in. The difference is that Hex really puts viewers in the heads of characters, giving us a troubled female hero we can care about and really root for. This is done through smart writing and heartfelt acting. It’s not perfect either, but Hex comes a lot closer to reaching the same goals that Point Pleasant shot for.

If the series is a missed opportunity, that’s not the case with the visual quality on this three-disc set. For example, check out the opening shot of the first episode. The camera is underwater, looking up at the surface. The stillness of the water is broken by a few raindrops, and then more as a full-blown storm breaks out. Seen from below, the crystal clear picture allows viewers to make out every drop as it hits. It’s an amazing image, one made even more amazing by this DVD transfer. Audio is excellent as well, making the most of the waves hitting the short during beach scenes, not to mention the theme song by composer Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands). The only extra here is a short featurette where Noxon and the actors offer sound bites about the series and their characters, which is mostly obvious if you’ve already watched the show. And although it doesn’t technically count as an “extra,” I have to admit that’s some seriously cool cover art.

I wanted to love Point Pleasant. I like the concept, and despite my criticisms of them, I also like the performers. Everything was in place for a dramatic, scary, and sexy series, one that could have lasted several seasons. Instead, the whole thing fell apart in the writing. It’s as if the writers didn’t see what a great concept they had to play with, and instead mostly relied on the same old soap opera plots and dull dialogue we’ve all seen before. Despite the occasional moment of greatness, Point Pleasant just isn’t all it could be.

The Verdict

It’s sad to see so much potential wasted. It must be the work of the devil. Guilty.

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