Tuned In: 'Hidden Palms' is a teen drama worth discovering
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Starring: Taylor Handley.
If you like your prime-time pleasures guilty, but not as guilt-inducing as all the mindless reality shows foisted on viewers over the summer, the premiere of The CW's "Hidden Palms" may be your last best chance to get hooked on an original scripted, broadcast network drama until fall.
Just don't get too attached: The fact that it's airing in the summer likely means a lack of faith on the part of network executives.
A perfectly serviceable teen drama from the producers of "Dawson's Creek" (Kevin Williamson) and "My So-Called Life" (Scott Winant), "Hidden Palms" (8 p.m. Wednesday, WPCW) is certainly a better show than The CW's "One Tree Hill" and more mainstream and accessible than the network's "Veronica Mars."
It's the story of Johnny (Taylor Handley, gun-wielding Oliver on "The O.C."), who moves from Seattle to Palm Springs, Calif., with his mom (Gail O'Grady, "American Dreams") and stepdad (D.W. Moffett).
Viewers meet Johnny in a prologue on the night of his father's suicide when Johnny is a clean-cut kid -- he does his homework while clad in an oxford button-down and sweater -- and then we're reintroduced to him a year later when he's perfected a disaffected youth look: An army jacket over dark T-shirts, perfect gear for the kid who's just out of rehab for alcohol abuse.
In Palm Springs, Johnny meets ne'er-do-well neighbor Cliff (Michael Cassidy, nice-guy Zach on "The O.C."), who initially comes off as a vaguely menacing cad. Evidently producers felt that wasn't enough to clue in the audience, so late in the pilot he kicks a dog.
Cliff has some sort of history with Greta (Amber Heard), the hottie Johnny romps through sprinklers with on a golf course at night. Cliff and Greta were friends with the kid who lived in Johnny's room before him. That boy, Eddie (J.D. Pardo), is now dead, which sets up a mystery that runs through the eight-episode series. (Williamson promised closure at a January press conference: "Yes, there is a wrap-up. Yes, we do reveal everything we need to reveal. And yes, [the story] continues.")
Initially, some of the character archetypes seem like a retread of "Dawson's" with Greta as the Jen character and less glamorous neighbor Liza (Ellary Porterfield) as the Joey, but subsequent episodes appear to disprove that notion.
Some of the dialogue is clearly tapped from the same well of self-awareness that drove "Dawson's." When Greta asks Johnny why he's a virgin, he replies, "The first time is inevitable, which makes it predictable, which makes it boring."
TV kids: So wise, so inexplicably articulate.
Trivia buffs take note: "Palms" marks a reunion of sorts for "NYPD Blue" series regulars O'Grady and Sharon Lawrence, who plays Cliff's mom. They're the primary adult players in this drama after the pilot. A whole other family is introduced this week, but don't get too attached to the mayor, his wife or their daughter, because they disappear after the pilot. The show appears to have been tinkered with to concentrate more on the teens than their parents.
"Hidden Palms" is by no means great television, but in a summer of reality shows and reruns, you could do a lot worse.
First Published May 25, 2007 8:15 am