Three Moons Over Milford

Three Moons Over MilfordSince the world didn’t end last weekend, a surprisingly fun, light-hearted show about impending doom seems fitting this week. Three Moons Over Milford aired for all of 8 episodes on ABC Family in 2006. Although the pilot has a happy, shiny tone, I suspect the show was too quirky even for the network home of Kyle XY.

We first hear, via radio broadcast (a handy plot device for opening pilot episodes), about how people around the world are increasingly engaging in risky behaviors like skydiving and running with the bulls. Elizabeth McGovern, who has a whole Lauren Graham thing going on, trots out of her ridiculously cool, modern house and jogs around the town to give the viewer a once-over of Milford, VT, founded in 1738.

Milford looks for all the world like Stars Hollow, CT but despite its New England charm we get hints that things are amiss. An elderly man joyously rides a scooter, a woman waters her lawn in the nude, and a newlywed couple displays some fun-with-gender-swapping.

We get the set-up via the opening credits: A meteor struck the moon, splitting into three pieces now hovering precariously on the horizon, threatening to destroy the Earth at any moment. One interesting element of the episode is that, until the climax, we’re only show the moon(s) in reflections. Images of the three jigsaw piece chunks show up in a swimming pool, in puddles and in windows.

We get to know Laura Davis (McGovern) and her family, which looks like it would be perfect in a world with an intact moon. Only now, her white collar husband Carl (Henry Czerny) parks his Porshe in front of his yurt, where he is getting in touch with… something. It’s not quite clear, as his lifestyle seems to be a generic jumble of Eastern and new age mysticism. When Laura goes to see him, the two debate which one of them is “missing mankind’s last, greatest opportunity.”

Back story on the family is parcelled out little by little, but we learn the most when Laura goes to see a small-time lawyer about her daughter’s indiscretion with a open flame (more on that in a moment). The lawyer, Mark (Rob Boltin) is destined to be the love interest from the moment we meet him and this point is underscored when we learn that he harbors hatred for the Davis family. (Enemies in the pilot=making out by season finale.) It seems the Davises came to town to launch a company with the nondescript name Syndek in an ultra-modern glass building, bringing a more worldly type of citizen to this backwoods town and driving up the price of coffee (among other things, presumably).

Mark has his own problems. His overbearing mother tells him, “Sarah Louise called for you,” with a strain in her voice warning him against this person. We finally catch a glimpse of her at the very end of the episode. Her mysterious introduction serves as the hook to urge the viewer back for episode 2.

Laura’s teen daughter, Lydia (never-seen-before-or-since-but-not-half-bad Teresa Celentano) is dabbling in witchcraft. She and her friends gather in the school gym to take part in a worldwide ceremony to reunite the moons. Their mission ends in the aforementioned fire. Lydia talks like a Gilmore Girl. (Do you see where I’m going with this? According to the blogosphere, the similarities to Gilmore Girls only got stronger as the series went on.)

The son, Alex (Sam Murphy) is celebrating his 16th birthday and looking forward to owning car. In the meantime he’s lying about his age and hooking up with a neighbor in her 20s, Claire (Samantha Quan). Claire typifies the pervasive worldview. She has vowed to grab what/who she wants in life, but once she throws herself at Alex she keeps repeating, “This isn’t me.” It’s as though everyone is trying to reinvent themselves, and is unsure how, in light of the looming Armageddon.

It’s odd, when you think about it, that someone needed to make a show about a world that could end at any moment. Because, really, the world could end at any moment—whether you believe it will be by an act of the divine, nuclear holocaust or zombie apocalypse. Only a handful of people seemed inspired to act on the warnings of May 21, but let’s face it, the guy behind it seemed like a nut. If the moon was split in three (however physically improbable; I’d love to hear Sheldon Cooper’s take) you couldn’t help but consider the reality. Maybe the premise was too much for ABC Family’s demo to process.

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Gilmore Girls

Despite being off the air for two years now, Gilmore Girls still has a strong following, with reruns airing on ABC Family, and plenty of discussion in the blogosphere. This highly successful show must have started off on the right foot, right?

The pilot is thin on actual plot. It’s the kind of pilot that focuses on setting up a world in which a show will take place. I’d say the writers’ intention here was simply to train the audience in how to listen to these characters speak. The rapid fire dialogue filled with nonstop, sometimes obscure, pop culture references, is what makes someone either love or hate this show. When Rory, the cute, 16-year-old protagonist meets a guy, Dean (Jared Padalecki, now on Supernatural), she interrupts her own incessant babbling to say, “I never talk this much.” Already, only a few minutes into this pilot, we know that can’t possibly be true.

The opening scene in which Rory (Alexis Bledel) and her also cute mother, Lorelei (Lauren Graham) sit at the diner discussing a scattershot array of topics heavily weighted toward lip gloss, leaves me feeling a little empty. They come off as vapid girly-girls. Soon enough, though, we find out that Rory reads a lot of classic literature—a character trait that seems forced at this stage. The diner is run by a less-than-friendly guy in a ball cap named Luke who, it is hinted, has the hots for Lorelei. Lorelei is immediately portrayed as the “best friend” type of mom, acting as a pal to her daughter and letting her indulge a caffeine addiction. We see her limits, though, when she runs a flirtatious adult male away from Rory.

So, we are introduced to the quaint New England town of Star’s Hollow, Connecticut, which looks like the next studio lot tour could wander through the background at any moment. There’s the diner—we know it’s important since the episode both begins and ends there—and there’s a very busy inn, where Lorelei works, and naturally, a public school. We find out quickly that everybody knows everybody. Having a new kid in school, in this case Dean, is always a handy device for introducing characters and locations.

The most interesting character is Rory’s Korean best friend, Lane, whose parents are already planning her betrothal to a fiscally promising young man, and who changes clothes on her way to school so her mother doesn’t see her in a Woodstock T-shirt. Her ultra-conservative mother and Lorelei’s friend Sookie are both funny characters, but fall into the common pilot trap of making everyone a stereotype.

The same is true of Lorelei’s parents, rich socialites who live half an hour away, and who have been largely estranged from their offspring. Snarkiness appears to be matrilineal. It is all Lorelei can do to swallow her pride and ask them for the money to send Rory to a private school. I have to wonder, why private school? Star’s Hollow doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of place where metal detectors or drug dogs are de riguer in the high school, and Lorelei is portrayed as a strong, down-to-earth type for whom public school should be good enough. If growing up Gilmore didn’t lead to the life she wanted for herself, why does she want it for her daughter? But, we have to accept the lure of private school to care whether Lorelei can come to an agreement with her parents, and whether Rory can tear herself from her new crush. And, I know teenage girls are fickle—I was one—but she’s really so in love with a guy she talked to for 20 minutes that she is ready to change her whole life’s plan and jeopardize her best pals relationship with her mother?

The whole thing ends with a sickeningly cute exchange.

Luke: You do not want to grow up to be like your mom.

Rory: Sorry. Too late.

Based on this pilot, I hate this show. I watched the last couple of seasons, and found it pretty entertaining. The more mature version of Rory was interesting, her success in college enviable. The teenybopper version, however, and her teenybopper-past-her-expiration-date mom were just annoying. Sorry, fans, I know you are plentiful, but this pilot promises just another teen drama about nothing.