September 23, 2009 / 6:24 AM / 9 years ago

"Eastwick" shows promise but doesn't yet cast spell

Actress Rebecca Romijn from "Ugly Betty" arrives at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 27, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Before committing yourself to ABC’s new hour comedy-drama “Eastwick,” try to turn off your brain. Forget the 1987 movie and its four big stars; forget that “Charmed” ran for eight seasons; forget that TV translations in 1992 and 2002 of the same source material died early. Once you’re into it, try to forget the two boob and one vibrator “jokes” that materialize during the first five minutes.

If you can do all that, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy “Eastwick,” which premieres Wednesday. It’s a breezy, bright trip to the dark side in which star Rebecca Romijn’s hair magically stays well-coiffed and Paul Gross has a devil of a time making his smoky tones not recall Jack Nicholson’s in the movie.

Gross is Darryl Van Horne, a self-declared “demon” who has brought together three women of the town of Eastwick — a “flaky” sculptress (Romijn), a shy newspaper reporter (Lindsay Price) and an overworked mom and nurse (Jaime Ray Newman) — after they make a wish on found coins. Having met Darryl, their potential soars (along with their libidos), and unexpected powers emerge, including the ability to call lightning from the sky, foresee a date rape and obtain powdered doughnuts on command.

Although Veronica Cartwright reprises her character from “The Witches of Eastwick,” the producers wisely have not tried to compress the entire film into the pilot. That said, it also means the writers get to coast for the first few episodes on high-octane plot, and they’ve got Romijn and Gross, who have a surprising chemistry that makes their scenes pop.

Gross is truly engrossing as the devil who might have an ounce of good in him; sadly, there’s little magic emitting from the other witches, who seem wan and wrung out.

So light a candle; “Eastwick” shows promise, if not actual wizardry, at this stage. But with fewer attempts at humor concerning body parts/bodily fluid and a few more pointed zingers on the nature of evil and the lure of the forbidden, it could turn into a truly potent potion.

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