Palms Away

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The CW is preparing to add midseason drama Hidden Palms, though no launch date yet.

You know what I noticed about palm trees while watching the pilot for this show? They are hard suckers to hide. Those are some tall trees, more like gracefully curved, or sometimes ominously tilting, ribbed telephone poles, with a thatch of green on top like a Dr. Seuss tree. But I digress, and I haven't even "gressed" yet.

I guess I am vamping before having to admit I kind of like this show, which is not targeted to me, 49-year-old guy that I am, by any stretch of any network programmer's imagination.

It has a Desperate Housewives: The Next Generation feel to it, which is clearly no accident and sticks out like a clutch of palms in the desert.

The show began unpromisingly for me with a guy shooting himself in the mouth on-screen, the blood flying out the back of his head like that news footage from a couple decades back of the very real disgraced Pennsylvania public servant Bud Dwyer killing himself in front of reporters. But the scene in Hidden Palms was blessedly brief and blurred, so I was able to get past it to the show proper, not that it was particularly proper. It is steamy and soapy as all such shows are, a little O.C., a little 90210, and probably a little lots of other, newer, shows I haven't seen.

It is about a boy, Johnny, who, witnessing his father's suicide up close and personal, is whisked from rainy Seattle to too-sunny Palm Springs by the mother he resents and the step-father he dislikes.There he will try to adjust to lying around the pool and partying with the beautiful sons and daughters of the beautiful people.

The houses all have that 90210 "living in an art museum" feel, and all the girls are straight out of the book of "Girls Too Hot To Have Ever Given This Author the Time of Day," but that too, is par for the course.

And speaking of course, the family lives in one of those "A Golf Course Runs Through It" communities that everybody who can't afford to live in mocks. That sets up the Country Club Brat Pack ethos that pervades and can get a little old. Still, for what it is, which is a teen-targeted soap, the show is pretty entertaining.

Taylor Handley as blond Johnny Miller (not the golfer, though I thought he was in Palm Springs, too), combines an aw-shucks hunkiness with just enough regular-guy goofiness to make him a character too identify with rather than resent. Amber Heard plays Greta, who combines a little of Lyla from Friday Night Lights with a touch of Jennie Garth smattering of Kathleen Turner as teenager.

Then there is Cliff Wiatt, the kid with perfect teeth and a penchant for kicking puppies, a sort of combination Greg Marmalard and Eddie Haskel inserted into the plot to twist it when necessary and played confidently by Michael Cassidy.

Throw in the "not as hot as Greta but has a thing for Johnny" neighbor, and the "girl out of Johnny's rehab past" entangling alliance, and you've got a love quadrangle with ample opportunity for various combinations.

I won't give away the ending of episode two, but it did make me want to tune in to episode three.

Also worth turning in for is that guy whose name I don't know–I am too lazy to stick the DVD back in and check the credits–who was so good as Betty White's buddy on Boston Legal, the little guy who kept whacking people–his mother most notably–with frying pans. He plays an endearing transvestite alcoholic country club employee, Jesse Joe, who is the most convincing woman this side of Clarice on Boston Legal.

Bottom line on this show: Good looking teens, prtty good acting, and decent, if uneven, writing. At one point, for example, Johnny's mother, who feels guilty because her infidelity contributed to her husband's suicide, says to Johnny with a straight face that: " I didn't put a gun to his head." Without some obvious recognition by the characters of the irony in that line, it just hangs there like a soar thumb on the end of an unhidden palm.

If you like this sort of show, my guess is you'll like it. It's at least worth a sample.

By John Eggerton

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