Since Lost and 24 are wrapping up this year, and it looks like FlashForward and V are on the bubble, we're looking for another sci-fi show to hook us in, and ABC's upcoming supernatural Happy Town is making a strong case for being the next TV obsession. Set in Haplin, Minn., the show deals with people who are disappearing in kidnappings that many think are the work of "the Magic Man." Others say there's nothing wrong, nothing to worry about. We got to the bottom of the mystery at WonderCon in San Francisco. (Spoilers ahead!)
Happy Town stars M.C. Gainey, Geoff Stults and Amy Acker and producer Josh Appelbaum met with a group of reporters before premiering the show at WonderCon. They gave us nine reasons to get excited, or rather nine vague questions that we just need to answer. Happy Town premieres April 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Just because they're played by actors doesn't mean they're people
M.C. Gainey (Lost's Tom Friendly) plays Haplin sheriff Griffin Conroy. Based on the mysterious circumstances of the show's plot, Gainey has a wild theory about who he's dealing with. "It's just one of those towns [where] you don't know what's going on there, and the people who do know what's going on, I'm not even sure they're people," Gainey said. So what does that mean? Aliens? Robots? "I don't know that I'm at liberty to tell you much more than that, except that this ain't your average little small town."
If the people aren't people, neither are the animals
Series co-creator Josh Appelbaum dodged Gainey's theory about the people of Haplin by turning attention to the town's animals. "Let me put it this way," Appelbaum said. "Whether the characters aren't people, there will be an introduction of some animals into the show that there's something going on with these animals that the animals might not be what they seem."
Can you even trust your wife in Happy Town?
Geoff Stults plays Haplin officer Tommy Conroy, Griffin's son. He's married to the lovely Rachel (Amy Acker), who doesn't want to stick around Haplin. Stults said Rachel might not be so innocent. "You'll find out that she knows a little bit more than she's letting on, or she's a bigger part of it than she's letting on," Stults said.
Can a TV show really scare us?
Appelbaum brought up a good point: Have there ever been any scary TV shows? Even vampire shows are more action and drama. It's hard to be scared with the lights on and a small screen, so if Happy Town delivers, bravo, sirs. "We were like, let's just make our cry from hell," Appelbaum said. "Particularly ABC, they haven't had a truly scary show on the air in a while. In fact, I don't know that any network has put on just a straight-up scary show. We were like, 'Let's just come up with what our version of a cry from hell would be.' We're also huge Twin Peaks fans, Stephen King fans, so this was sort of our opportunity to hit that genre and have fun with it."
You can say it's not sci-fi, but really it's sci-fi
The creators are trying to emphasize the frightening, mysterious real-world qualities of Happy Town. Even the cast doesn't buy it. Acker thinks if the Magic Man is making people disappear, there's no other explanation. "There's not vampires, but you've got people disappearing," Acker said. "You don't know what's happening to you. They were saying more illusion than supernatural, but still. I would like to know what the illusions are, because they really look good."
Tom Friendly kicks ass
We love M.C. Gainey on Lost, so we're willing to give Gainey's sheriff a shot, especially if he gets to freak out and kick some ass. "I go a little crazy," Gainey said. "I go a little bit crazy. I kick a lot of ass in this later on. You stick around, I get to kick ass and take names. Heavily armed and heavily medicated, I'm out there busting it up."
It's easy to follow a show about a small town
We love FlashForward and V, but they can be overwhelming. Appelbaum points out, "Those shows are fantastic and I'm a fan of them both, but maybe, I'm just guessing, the fact when these shows are about such huge global events, maybe it's harder for an audience to grasp onto it. They feel like there's so much going on. This is a small-town show. There is a simplicity to that, and there's a mystery in the town. There are several mysteries, but there is a central mystery: Who is the Magic Man? It's very classic, old-school storytelling. It isn't about this vast cast of characters or global events. It's this town, there are these people, there's a mystery, who's behind these abductions, what's going on? So I think it's very familiar storytelling for an audience, even though we're trying to do it in an unconventional way."
Happy Town will actually wrap up in eight weeks
If you're worried about getting invested in another long-term commitment, Happy Town promises to answer the Magic Man mystery in its first eight shows. "The audience finds out who the Magic Man is at the end of season one," Stults said. "It's in such kind of dramatic fashion that it really shakes up the fundamental [nature of] the characters, it changes everything. It will change everything in such a way that it's almost earth-shattering to the people of Happy Town. You didn't see it coming."
But if you like it, there's more
You may just want to check out after you find out who the Magic Man is, but Appelbaum thinks you'll want to stick around for another season. "Once you answer that question, it opens up a whole other layer of mysteries," Appelbaum said. "How is that humanly possible? What does that mean? What is that about? What does that mean about all the other people in the town? I think people will be like, 'Now I've got to keep watching to figure out what the repercussions of that will be.' Plus the fact that in the final episode, one way or the other, the audience is going to find out who the Magic Man is. That doesn't necessarily mean the other characters on the show will. There's still going to be the drama of that moving forward, of when is this person going to be found."