July 6, 2010 / 11:17 PM / 10 years ago

"Haven" a town worth visiting, briefly

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Small towns rarely have translated well through the Hollywood filter during recent years. Wholesome intimacy always turns out to mask insular weirdness and sometimes outright sinister behavior, and the tiny, titular seaside hamlet of “Haven,” premiering Friday on Syfy, is no exception.

Here, men are blown off cliffs mysteriously, a local policeman can’t feel pain, and the weather seems to have a mind of its own. Sent into all of this by her boss is FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose). She is a state-raised orphan (a fact that becomes relevant later) investigating the death of an escaped prisoner. She has a snappy wit and a devil-may-care ‘tude: When the police chief asks whether she is there to step on his toes, she fires back, “Not in these shoes.”

In no time flat, she develops a Nick-and-Nora rapport with the chief’s son — the aforementioned pain-free policeman Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) — and shoots different sparks with roguish smuggler Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour).

Such a winning cast of characters and sharp dialogue deserved better than a midshow derailment, however. There they are, charming their way through the murder investigation — which turns out to have supernatural overtones — wrapping it up with an eye-roller of a Hallmark-card solution, and then the writers abruptly cease caring about that supernatural miracle entirely, shifting the narrative emphasis to a barely developed subplot engine that will require Parker to stick around town.

What a sad, frustrating development to see the two plots Scotch-taped together, all seams showing. That Syfy already has a series about a small town of unique citizenry — it’s called “Eureka” — and that ABC just launched “The Gates” probably isn’t relevant, but if that’s where “Haven” is heading, the road is going to feel very well worn. Even having a Stephen King connection — his “The Colorado Kid” is said to have inspired the series, but beyond a newspaper headline, it’s hard to see how based on the pilot — isn’t going to help.

“Haven” is a show one will like for 20 reasons, and one that will irritate for 25 more. It has some good bones, though, and a strong, willing cast. Whether the big picture is even worth delving into, however, is one mystery that probably won’t be so easily solved.

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