ABC’s Happy Town: A Truly Grimm Fairy Tale

“It’s beautiful cinema, it’s emotional and character building storytelling and it’s quite grisly at the end. “  That’s how executive producer Andre Nemec  describes his new ABC series Happy Town. Now me, I’d describe it in simpler terms. Happy Town is dark chocolate for television. And man, do I love dark chocolate.

It all takes place in the small town of Haplin, Minnesota, and to quote Deputy Sheriff “Root Beer” Rogers, everyone gets a nickname in a small town, including the town itself.  Local folk call it Happy Town because. . . well, gosh darn, everyone in town is so darned happy!

It could be the welcoming small town mentality, or maybe it’s because the place always smells like fresh baked bread thanks to “Our Daily” bread factory that employs half the town.

But when it comes right down to, the folks in Happy Town are a little too happy. They say things like “fricky frack,” and “no can do-fus,” and “cuter than a mouse’s pocketbook.” It’s that kind of overly sweet behavior that makes you feel like you’re about to be served as dinner instead of invited to it.

One person you don’t have to worry about is Tommy Conroy (Geoff Stults, October Road.) Tommy is a fun dad and he loves his wife Rachel (Amy Acker, Dollhouse) even if she does want to move to the big city. Tommy’s a deputy and his dad (M.C. Gainey) has been sheriff for more than a coon’s age and he’s done a great job. Thanks to Sheriff Conroy, Happy Town has been nothing but happy for the last five years.

Before that? Well, that’s story, let me tell you. Back then something awful happened. The Magic Man made half a dozen citizens disappear into thin air, including the granddaughter of the town matriarch Peggy Haplin (Frances Conroy). Her son, John (Steven Weber, Brothers and Sisters) runs the local bread factory and he’s not going to let anyone forget about that terrible time until he finds out what happened to his daughter and the others.

Then there’s that new girl, Henley Boone (Lauren German). She’s come to town to open a candle shop and until she can find a place to stay, she’s checked in to the Meadows Boarding house which is home to a gossipy group of aging widows and one charming outsider – namely Mr. Merritt Grieves (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park). Grieves has come to Haplin to open a movie memorabilia shop which makes no sense whatsoever and that’s why it’s delightful!

Want to pay a visit to Happy Town? You’ll get your chance on April 28. That’s the day the town will begin to fall apart thanks to a gruesome murder. Lucky you!

Dark secrets, unsolved crimes, twisted motives, magic, movie memorabilia and bloody murder – what more could a person want out of a Wednesday night?

Production Notes:

Happy Town’s directorial style reminds me of Hitchcock, particularly The Birds. It has that same ability to take something completely pedestrian and turn it into something utterly scary.

The cinematography and the location make it look more movie than TV and when you watch them walk out on that frozen lake, know that it’s a real frozen lake, and that adds a depth you just can’t get with a matte painting or a computer.

The most compelling reason to watch Happy Town is for the dialogue. It’s like an episode of Gilmore Girls if there was a murderer running loose in Stars Hollow. The cutesy colloquialisms push the script just to the edge of parody but after you laugh, you’ll shiver because there’s something utterly creepy about everything that’s going on in this small town.

Watch Happy Town if you liked:

Harper’s Island, Twin Peaks, American Gothic, Point Pleasant

ABC’s Happy Town is like a dark chocolate truffle. It’s smooth, it’s rich and it’s sinfully delicious.

Don’t miss the season premiere, Wednesday, April 28 at 10:00 on ABC.

(ABC/BOB D’AMICO) ROBERT WISDOM, JAY PAULSON, AMY ACKER, GEOFF STULTS, SARAH GADON, BEN SCHNETZER, STEVEN WEBER, SAM NEILL, LAUREN GERMAN

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