×
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

  • Game of Thrones Cast

    What's Next for 'Game of Thrones'' Cast Members

    Eight years and eight seasons later, the “Game of Thrones” cast finally has some downtime to relax or move onto other projects. Some stars, like Kit Harington, who told Variety that he doesn’t plan on taking another role as physically demanding as Jon Snow, certainly deserve a break, but others have wasted no time getting back on [...]

  • 'Fleabag' Season 2 Review: How Its

    'Fleabag': Season 2’s Top 10 Breaks From Reality, Ranked (Column)

    The searing first season of “Fleabag” felt like a complete story in and of itself. As adapted from Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, the series expanded on the world of a woman wild with lust and grief with such expert ease that by the time it ended, even Waller-Bridge herself was sure that it was the [...]

  • Richard Madden Says 'Game of Thrones'

    Richard Madden Says the 'Game of Thrones' Cast Deserves a Medal

    Richard Madden is thankful for his time on “Game of Thrones,” but is also happy to have been able to move on when he did. The “Bodyguard” star sat down with “Sharper Objects'” Amy Adams for Variety’s Actors on Actors, where he expressed some incredulity at the idea of spending so long with just one [...]

  • MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r)

    Submissions Now Welcome for Third 'Meet the Press' Film Festival

    Chuck Todd’s quest to bring “Meet the Press” to the movies continues. The third annual Meet the Press Film Festival, held in collaboration with the American Film Institute, will take place on October 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C., and remains a haven for issue-focused documentary shorts. Todd believes the event serves a critical mission: [...]

  • Winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song

    Netherlands' Duncan Laurence Wins 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

    Madonna’s controversial performance may have grabbed the headlines, but Duncan Laurence won the nearly four-hour-long 2019 Eurovision Song Contest for the Netherlands with the song “Arcade,” which he cowrote with Joel Sjöö and Wouter Hardy. Laurence won a total of 492 points from the expert juries and televoters in a contest that was touch and [...]

  • 'SNL' Cold Open Has Alec Baldwin's

    'SNL' Cold Open Has Alec Baldwin's Trump Rocking Out to Queen

    The cold open for the season finale of “Saturday Night Live” saw the Trump administration taking some liberties with a rock classic. Alec Baldwin returned as President Donald Trump, letting America know that he is going to be taking it easy now that summer is nearly here. He then said he was going to do [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content