Empty8-9 p.m., Wednesday, May 30
Here's today's bit of irony. Although Kevin Williamson is among the leading creators of teen drama for TV ("Dawson's Creek" and "Glory Days" on the former WB Network, "Wasteland" on ABC), you have to look high and low for teenagers in his shows. Real teenagers, that is.
Williamson's teens are, at best, idealized versions. They are magazine-cover beautiful. Also, they speak like adults, which might not be too much of a problem because they look five to 10 years older than the faces in high school yearbooks.
"Hidden Palms" was ready for broadcast last fall, but for reasons that never get included in news releases, the eight-episode quasi-mystery series just sat on the shelf until the formal TV season was over.
Did the CW make a mistake? You won't hear an argument from this corner. "Palms," set and filmed in Palm Springs, is mostly silly, pretentious, soap opera-style TV with an escapist mentality and the subtlety of an avalanche. You might reasonably expect more from a cast that includes Gail O'Grady, D.W. Moffett and Sharon Lawrence. However, they do not play central figures in this series in which people older than 20 are mostly irrelevant. And sometimes you just can't be too fussy when a part is offered.
Taylor Handley stars as Johnny Miller, a high school junior who hit a rough patch. His dad committed suicide a year earlier, and his mother (O'Grady) remarried. The premiere opens with a downbeat Johnny, fresh from a stint in alcohol rehab, moving with his family into lavish digs in Palm Springs.
In practically no time, Johnny discovers that his new bedroom is the very room in which another good-looking but sad teen committed suicide a year earlier. The circumstances are shrouded in mystery, however, and Cliff (Michael Cassidy), his creepy neighbor and new best friend, and Greta (Amber Heard), his enigmatic heartthrob, are purposefully vague. No matter. Johnny must get to the bottom of this because it happened in his bedroom, darn it, so he's entitled to know.
Most of the "teen" acting is weak, unconvincing and over the top. But you have to give credit to Williamson for his prosocial efforts to weave the problem of teen alcoholism into the story. And give credit to director and exec producer Scott Winant for showing off the natural beauty of Palm Springs (even if the script belittles it as a mecca for the dead and dying). Finally, with the conclusion of "Dancing With the Stars," this might become the default place on TV for ogling.
Lionsgate Television in association with Outerbanks Entertainment
Executive producers: Kevin Williamson, Scott Winant
Producer: Carol Dunn Trussell
Creator-teleplay: Kevin Williamson
Director: Scott Winant
Director of photography: Tim Suhrstedt
Production designer: Joseph P. Lucky
Editor: Elba Sanchez-Short
Music: James S. Levine
Casting: Greg Orson, Lesli Gelles
Cliff Wiatt: Michael Cassidy
Johnny Miller: Taylor Handley
Greta Matthews: Amber Heard
Tess Wiatt: Sharon Lawrence
Bob Hardy: D.W. Moffett
Karen Hardy: Gail O'Grady
Liza Witter: Ellary Porterfield
Michelle Meadows: Dana Davis
Jessie Jo: Leslie Jordon