Yet another cancelled TV show that deals with the supernatural, Point Pleasant was created by Marti Noxon, a staff writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Teaming up Noxon with John McLaughlin (Carnivale) seems like a good idea on paper... it's just a shame the resultant show ended up a bit more of a teen soap than a dark supernatural drama. Point Pleasant only made it through 8 episodes before it was taken off the air in the US, but this DVD set shows all 13 episodes made, and luckily the story does come to a satisfactory conclusion.
The show is set in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, a small seaside town where the locals all know each other and get along just well enough. Three key local families feature prominently in the show, so I'll go through them briefly:
- The Kramers – daughter Judy (Aubrey Dollar), mother Meg (Susan Walters) and father Ben (Richard Burgi). The family are still recovering from the loss of oldest daughter Isabella, but Ben's job as a local doctor throws the family right in the middle of the action for Point Pleasant.
- The Parkers – son Jesse (Sam Page), mother Sarah (Clare Carey) and father Logan (Alex Carter). Jesse's the town hunk and lifeguard, Sarah the dedicated Churchgoer and Logan the local cop whose a little overly protective of his wife.
- The Hargroves – daughter Paula (Cameron Richardson) and mother Amber (Dina Meyer). Paula is Jesse's girlfriend and her mother is a singleton always on the lookout for a man, and seems a little obsessed with making Ben Kramer stray from his marital vows.
But these families would continue in their sleepy little existences if it wasn't for Jesse saving an unconscious girl from the sea in the opening episode and bringing her to Ben Kramer for medical attention. Her name is Christina Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois) and after she says her father is often away on business, the Kramers invite her to stay a while until she recovers from her accident. A little later on they discover that she was on her way to Point Pleasant to search for her birth mother.
Which is interesting, because Christina's parents are really the crux of the entire show. Christina is the child of the Devil, though we are told a few times that her mother was good and she has the potential to fight the evil within and become less than her destiny demands. Another new arrival shortly follows Christina – his name is Lucas Boyd (Grant Show) and he's in town to monitor Christina's development and to provide us with the obligatory bad guy (who is of course the best character in the show!).
The action of the show revolves around Christina's struggle with her powers, and her romance with Jesse (much to the disgust of Paula, who soon becomes his ex-girlfriend, moving onto his best friend for companionship instead). Yes, it sounds a little soapy, and that's because it is. The show really isn't as dark as it needs to be to make any of the storyline believable. It has a lot of the same feel as The OC, but it's not executed nearly as well and the whole supernatural thing often seems to get in the way of the teen storylines and general melodrama. For example, it's quite hard to believe that Judy and Jesse would learn certain sinister facts about Christina and just take them onboard quite quickly and move on with things... but for me, the moment when the show turns is when we start to hear more about Jesse and his role in the war to come.
This is not to say the series is without its good aspects. The premise itself is a decent one and there are a few episodes that stand out. I particularly liked 'The Lonely Hunter' for the bitchy party moments and 'Last Dance' for the historical elements. Perhaps also because they heavily feature Boyd, who really is the best thing about the show, demonic and tricksy but also charismatic – he's the kind of evil I wanted Christina to be, not the angsty whiner she appears to be right until the very last couple of episodes. And even then she seems to become her 'true' self awfully fast and - oddly - to prioritise taking it out on those who've been kind to her over those she's actually had issues with from the start.
Nor is it just the writing that fails to live up to the premise behind the show; the acting isn't strong enough to support the concept either. Elisabeth Harnois doesn't quite manage the emotional depths the character of Christina needs in order to make her struggle come across as anything more than angsty, and though the rest of the cast do manage slightly better, the central role is crucial to the believability of the story. But maybe that's taking it all a little too seriously…
Point Pleasant is quite a fun series, even if it doesn't really live up to the quality I often expect from an early-cancelled show. Whilst there are many terrific series out there that got axed in their first or second season through a bad call on the part of the TV execs, sometimes shows are binned quite justifiably because they don't live up to anyone's expectations. I'm fairly sure this was the case here; it's a decent idea, but we have plenty of shows with strong, conflicted female leads and Point Pleasant just isn't strong enough to stand out from the pack.
Christina Nickson is rescued from the ocean by local lifeguard Jesse Parker, who rushes her straight to the home of local doctor, Ben Kramer. The Kramers invite Christina to stay a while, as she tells them her father is away on business. And so the sleepy seaside town of Point Pleasant indelibly becomes the staging ground for a battle between good and evil.
2: 'Human Nature'
Christina and Jesse get quite close, to the vexation of Jesse's girlfriend, Paula. Lucas Boyd, a sinister and yet charismatic employee of Christina's father, arrives in town to watch over her. Meanwhile, the town prepares for its annual boat parade and Christina goes to church.
3: 'Who's Your Daddy?'
Boyd hooks up with Paula's mother, Amber, the two having a mutual interest in the Kramers it seems. Christina confronts her 'father' and challenges Boyd when he seeks out her friend, Judy Kramer.
4: 'The Lonely Hunter'
The town prepares to watch a meteor shower, and Boyd hosts an explosive dinner party with Logan and Sarah Burke, Amber, and Ben and Meg Kramer. At the same time, the next generation (Jesse, Paula, Christina) have a similarly explosive time at a beach party.
5: 'Last Dance'
A fund-raising dance marathon is organised by Boyd and it leads to memories of times past at Point Pleasant and gives us some useful insight into Boyd's history and character. Judy starts to see Christina in a new light as her rivalry with Paula over Jesse escalates. Meg and Ambers' continuing friendship starts to worry Ben.
6: 'Secrets and Lies'
Christina ups her search for her birth mother and locates the doctor that delivered her with interesting conclusions. Judy and Jesse join forces to try and find out what Christina is up to, but Jesse loses his nerve along the way. We find out that Ben's been harbouring a secret from Meg, a secret about the death of their older daughter Isabella.
Judy kicks Christina out of the Kramer household and Jesse discovers something secret from his past. Both Christina and Jesse decide separately to leave town and end up on the same bus, but quickly learn that running away never solved anything. Amber discovers Ben's secret and in a moment reconsiders her plans to break up his marriage.
8: 'Swimming With Boyd'
Jesse learns more about his past, but he isn't entirely happy with what he hears. Meg's grasp on reality seems to take a turn for the worse as she seems to be speaking to her dead daughter Isabella. Meanwhile, Christina and Judy band together to try and find out more about Boyd.
9: 'Waking the Dead'
Judy meets a potential new boyfriend, but the party it all happens at doesn't exactly turn out well, with resurrections and burning barns as well as something surprising from Jesse.
10: 'Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Choked'
Boyd finds out about Jesse and is none too pleased to do so. Meg overhears Ben and Amber discussing a secret and assumes they've been having an affair. Holly, from Boyd's past, makes a definite impression.
People begin to disappear from Point Pleasant, and one of these is Jesse's mother, Sarah. Meanwhile, Jesse escapes from a kidnapper and seeks out Christina. However, the meeting doesn't go all that well and after a scary vision, Jesse is on the run again. Christina, meanwhile, knows it's now time to start picking sides for real.
12: 'Mother's Day'
Christina gets a real shock when her mother shows up in Point Pleasant and it's not quite the Hallmark moment Christina has been hoping for. Meg gets placed in a psychiatric ward which leads Judy to slight Christina (which becomes very quickly relevant). Jesse learns of both his and Sarah's role in defeating Christina and seems strangely OK with it all.
13: 'Let the War Commence'
The town sheriff finally locates the missing townspeople and places his own mark on the 'final battle'. Christina turns up at the Kramers and isn't quite herself, or is she now fully herself? She locks the doors and awaits the arrival of both Boyd and Jesse… destinies are coming to completion in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
The show is presented here in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and the image looks as good as you'd expect from such a recent show. The detail is strong throughout and colours are both rich and natural-looking. There's no real issues with the picture quality except a very occasional touch of softness in darker scenes, but really nothing to take away from enjoyment of the show.
Point Pleasant has a Dolby Digital 2.0 English soundtrack that shows quite a lot of versatility and range. Dialogue is clear throughout and the background music is well-suited and I didn't find it ever getting in the way of speech. Subtitles are available in English only.
There's only one extra included on the set and that's a fairly standard 'making of' featurette that appears on the third disc. It's around 15-minutes long and features clips of the show and actors talking about their characters (rather than giving any real insight into the show). Marti Noxon also appears on this feature, but there's nothing really substantial here, unfortunately.
Point Pleasant may be heavy on the teen drama, and it may be flawed, but it isn't a terrible show – it just doesn't quite live up to expectations. The presentation on DVD is good in terms of the transfers, and though weak in the way of special features, it does present the opportunity to watch the entire show (including the unaired episodes) and to see how the series was brought to a proper conclusion. As such it's a useful contribution and will be sure to be of interest to fans. With the striking packaging, it's also sure to catch the eye.