Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Monday, April 13, 2009


Harper's Island is a gimmick show in the grand but bargain-budget tradition of master showman William Castle and his reality-TV bastard stepchild Mark Burnett. It's best described as And Then There Were None Because I Know What You Did Last Summer When We Were Survivors, but that was probably too long a title to be marketable. The show has been promoted as a "Mystery Event," which is CBS's way of saying it's a miniseries with a conclusive ending—in 13 weeks, to be exact. This is a rarity amid the current vogue for never-ending serials with no hope of a satisfying resolution. For better or worse, Harper's Island will come to a close in the dog days of summer revealing the identity of its mystery killer and answering the age old question, "Who Will Survive"

Survivor was definitely the inspiration for this fictional show's central gimmick. Each week, at least one of the wedding party guests on the isolated titular island will be killed off and Jeff Probst will be on hand to put out their cigars. Not really. But the show's biggest flaw is that it's a gimmick show that doesn't effectively exploit its gimmicky nature. It would be one thing if the script made a real attempt at strong characterizations and a compelling mystery, but based on the sketchy first episode, Friday the 13th Part 3D was more complex and Fred Walton's April Fool's Day much wittier. Read the rest of this review at SLANT MAGAZINE

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