×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hidden Palms

Having made his name with "Dawson's Creek" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer," Kevin Williamson finds a new setting for teen melodrama but strums a familiar tune.

With:
Cliff Wiatt - Michael Cassidy Johnny Miller - Taylor Handley Greta - Amber Heard Tess Wiatt - Sharon Lawrence Bob Hardy - D.W. Moffett Karen Hardy - Gail O'Grady Liza Witter - Ellary Porterfield Nikki Barnes - Tessa Thompson

Having made his name with “Dawson’s Creek” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Kevin Williamson finds a new setting for teen melodrama but strums a familiar tune. Reuniting Taylor Handley and Michael Cassidy from “The OC” in another upscale California zip code, Palm Springs, the producer whips up a souffle of teen angst, mystery, precocious kids and clueless parents, crafting an hour that breaks zero new ground, recycling the formula that powered past high-school soaps. It’s all in the execution, ultimately, and even with an accomplished cast, four episodes in, it’s at best a dry heat.

Understandably, Johnny (Handley) has issues and reason to be surly. After seeing dad blow his own head off before the credits roll, he’s gone through a stint in rehab and been whisked off to Palm Springs — where the heat, he’s told, drives people crazy — by mom (Gail O’Grady) and her new husband (D.W. Moffett).

In no time flat, Johnny begins meeting his local peers, each of them introduced in define-the-character exchanges — the highlight being the lovely Greta (Amber Heard), who flounces around a golf course in the moonlight (sprinklers on, of course) wearing a willowy dress resembling Dracula’s wives. Ditto for the preppy and dangerous Cliff (Cassidy), whose mom (Sharon Lawrence) is a high-spirited tramp; and brainy Liza (Ellary Porterfield), the across-the-street girl who conducts experiments with chemical compounds when she isn’t gazing longingly at Johnny.

Mirroring Williamson’s oeuvre (think of this as “Dawson’s Dune”), the kids are preternaturally articulate and the adults — who generally look about 12 years older than their offspring — are sex-crazed, self-absorbed and willing to let their children lecture them without ever once bringing up who pays the car insurance around here.

The snappy dialogue and rat-a-tat exchanges amount to a kind of speed dating — a shortcut, in essence, allowing Williamson and director Scott Winant (“thirtysomething”) to rapidly establish characters. Fortunately, the mystery plot does thicken in the subsequent hours, as Johnny begins to receive creepy instant messages containing vague warnings.

To the producers’ credit, this storyline advances fairly rapidly; it’s just not that engaging or surprising. Nor does it help appreciably when another beauty with rehab credentials, Nikki (Tessa Thompson), shows up after the premiere, creating a sketchily drawn Johnny-Nikki-Greta triangle that, with Cliff thrown in, might become a trapezoid.

Pity the talented adults saddled with one-dimensional roles and all the worst dialogue (another Williamson trademark), but the obvious goal here is to tap into the teen contingent — from their tortured relationships to brooding musical montages to the trippy, Dali-esque opening-credit sequence.

Pushing the show until after the season doesn’t look like a vote of confidence, but the limited summer competition might be an unexpected blessing.

The heat, after all, can drive people to do crazy things — like watching a warmed-over teen soap.

Hidden Palms

CW, Wed. May 30, 8 P.M.

Production: Filmed in Palm Springs and Phoenix by Lionsgate Television in association with Outerbanks Entertainment. Executive producers, Kevin Williamson, Scott Winant; co-executive producer, John Peter Kousakis; supervising producer, Daniel Arkin; producers, Carol Dunn Trussell, Steve Blackman, Barbie Kligman, Kimberly C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal; director, Winant; writer, Williamson.

Crew: Camera, Tim Suhrstedt; editor, Elba Sanchez-Short; music, James S. Levine; production designer, Joseph P. Lucky; casting, Greg Orson, Lesli Gelles. 60 MIN.

Cast: Cliff Wiatt - Michael Cassidy Johnny Miller - Taylor Handley Greta - Amber Heard Tess Wiatt - Sharon Lawrence Bob Hardy - D.W. Moffett Karen Hardy - Gail O'Grady Liza Witter - Ellary Porterfield Nikki Barnes - Tessa Thompson

More TV

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

  • Punisher Jessica Jones

    Marvel's 'The Punisher,' 'Jessica Jones' Canceled at Netflix

    The last of Netflix’s Marvel shows are officially ending. “The Punisher” has been canceled after its second season, and the upcoming third season of “Jessica Jones” will be its last, Netflix confirmed on Monday. The announcement comes after Netflix gave the ax to its other Marvel series: “Daredevil,” “Iron First,” and “Luke Cage.” “Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ will [...]

  • SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake'

    SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake' With 'Desperate Parents' Producer

    SND, the commercial arm of the French TV network M6, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “Family Shake,” a comedy series written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc. SND is the latest vertically integrated French film group to start handling live-action series, following TF1 Studio, Studiocanal and Gaumont, among others. Produced by Gaëlle Cholet at [...]

  • 'Super Shiro' Anime Series Inspired by

    'Super Shiro' Anime Series Inspired by 'Crayon Shin-chan'

    The enduringly popular Japanese cartoon franchise “Crayon Shin-chan” has inspired a new animated TV series, “Super Shiro.” “Crayon Shin-chan” has been on air since 1992 and inspired 26 feature films. “Super Shiro” is a fast-paced chase series, for kids, based on original IP by Yoshito Usui and scripted by on Kimiko Ueno.  The series is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content