CBS is often derided by TV critics for being a network entirely built on boilerplate procedural crime dramas. The new drama Harper’s Island, premiering tonight at 10pm, goes against that trend in the polar opposite direction. As serialized as TV can be, the 13-episode horror show chronicles a doomed wedding party on a remote island as a serial killer picks them off one by one.
It’s a lot like Friday the 13th, but as a series. The cast starts out huge at 25 major characters, but Harper’s Island promises to kill at least one off every episode, slowly whittling the cast down until the killer is revealed. With the fate’s of the characters unknown, it plays more like a reality show than a typical scripted drama.
The story begins when Henry (Christopher Gorham) and Trish (Supernatural’s Katie Cassidy) set sail for Harper’s Island where they will be married. She’s a rich girl with a wealthy, ruthless father (Richard Burgi) and he’s from a poor, working class family, being guided through life by his wacky uncle (Harry Hamlin).
Between their families, bridesmaids and groomsmen, the cast is a bit too large, a necessary problem when you plan to kill off most of your cast in 13 episodes. The hour-long pilot is way too short and it’s almost impossible to remember all the characters, but a few pop out, mostly Trish’s ditzy friend Chloe and her foppish British boyfriend.
The story is primarily driven by Abby Mills, Henry’s best friend and a former resident of Harper’s Island. She left a long time ago when a serial killer named John Wakefield killed a lot of people, including her mother. While Abby is reluctant to return home, her father, the local sheriff (played by another Supernatural star, Jim Beaver) is happy to see her.
The first episode gets off to a very promising start, despite the unwieldy cast size, thanks to some gruesome deaths and classic soap opera intrigue. Veteran older actors like Burgi, Hamlin and Beaver are all perfect as the stereotypical caricatures of their classic horror film roles. It’s impossible to make a show based on the premise of any horror film seem realistic or genuinely dramatic, so going over the top is the only way to do it.
It be a bit difficult to get into the large cast and intensely serialized nature, but for fans who start following along now, there will be a wonderfully satisfying conclusion during June when every other scripted show has gone off the air.
And you can follow along at BuddyTV all season long and play our new Fantasy TV league for Harper’s Island. Instead of predicting eliminated reality show contestants, now you can predict who will get killed off every week, so make your picks and try to figure out who’s the killer.
Predict Who Dies on Harper’s Island>>
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of CBS)