“Soap” meets “Twin Peaks” in “Pasadena,” a new Fox TV show that serves up family values as only Mike White, writer of the homoerotic bigscreen black comedy “Chuck and Buck,” can.
White says the Friday night show, which is about the richest, most powerful family in the Southern California city, is a reaction to his earlier work on the touchy-feely WB hit “Dawson’s Creek.”
“I wanted to do a sort of anti-relationship show that doesn’t end each episode with a confrontation and a tearful hug,” he says. “A show about a family that never confronts each other and never tells the truth about anything.”
An eclectic roster of actors plays members of the dysfunctional McAllister family including Phillip Baker Hall, Natasha Wagner and former bad boy Balthazar Getty as the brooding black sheep. TV watchers will be most familiar with Dana Delaney; the show marks her first return to a primetime series since her Emmy-winning stint as a Vietnam War nurse on “China Beach.”
“I can’t tell you how fun it is to play this material. I’m not the nice girl anymore,” says Delaney of her role as society wife Catherine McAllister. “Now I get to be more demented and neurotic.”
That’s putting it mildly; on the pilot episode, under pressure from her philandering husband (Martin Donovan) and domineering mother (Barbara Babcock), Catherine destroys her dining room in a fit of redecorating rage.
“We’re in the middle of the first episode and it’s even quirkier and funnier and darker than the pilot,” Delaney promises. “And my character is going to be less of a victim and more of a troublemaker. She’s plotting behind the scenes, along the lines of a Lady Macbeth.”
With its bitchy and beautiful cast of characters, “Pasadena” sounds like the stuff of sudsers, but executive producer Robert Goodwin (“The Fugitive,” “The X-Files”) asserts that the series is an altogether stranger trip.
“It’s only like a soap if you squint your eyes and stare at it sideways. Mike White is so talented and he has such a unique voice. The show’s humorous and scary and full of action.”
Critics have already singled out “Pasadena” as one of the best shows of the new fall season. But the production also received some less savory publicity. After filming the pilot in and around the titular city, rising production costs forced the cast and crew to shoot the series in Vancouver. The decision by Fox angered labor orgs like the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild that claim a loss of 25,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in film and TV revenue to out-of-country production.
“It’s one of the ironies of filming a show in this day and age,” says White. “There are financial realities. But we’re still going to do a lot of second unit work in L.A. and we’re shooting on digital video. So there’s a lot of manipulation we can do to make it look like Pasadena but it’s going to be a challenge.”
When asked if he’d consider changing the show’s name to “Vancouver,” White jokes, “No. But I’m sure if we did we’d be shooting in Toronto.”
Regardless of the shooting locales, White, who recently wrote the upcoming film “Orange County,” says the show is designed to capture that SoCal state of mind.
“I grew up in L.A. and I’m trying to create a mythic version of it that may or may not really exist. But it’s definitely a little more outrageous. I think that things are more disturbing when they’re emotionally true. So as long as we can achieve that balance, we can get pretty deranged.”