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Television review: 'Haven' on Syfy

The new series, loosely based on a Stephen King novella, achieves its aim of creepy amusement.

July 09, 2010|Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

"Haven," a new series premiering Friday on Syfy, is like the Syfy series "Eureka" in that it concerns a small piney town populated by the abnormally gifted. And it is like the Syfy series "Warehouse 13" in that it is like "The X-Files," setting two good-looking officers of the law — male and female, local cop and federal agent — against otherworldly phenomena. She is open to the supernatural; he has a condition that makes it impossible for him to feel pain. She's an orphan, he has father issues. I smell love.

That it is based on a 2005 Stephen King novella, "The Colorado Kid," gives the series a certain genre authority, but it has so little to do with the book — a kind of arty, open-ended detective story, King in a Paul Auster mood — that its origin is really beside the point. (It isn't even in the same genre; the series involves the supernatural, the novella does not.) More to the point is that several of the hands who crafted the TV version also worked on USA's adaptation of "The Dead Zone" (also from a King novel).

Viewers sad about the end of "Happy Town" and looking for another creepy municipal drama filmed in Canada may find this a port in the storm, though it is more cheaply appointed and less spectacularly cast. Still, it would be pointless to attack the show for not achieving things that are beyond its ambitions. It wants to scare you a little, and to amuse you a little more. If, in the first respect, it's no "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," perhaps it's "The Brain From Planet Arous," and that film scared me plenty when I was a kid — though, truth to tell, I did scare easy. To the second point, the conversation between the leads wears a big sign marked "banter," but the actors are easy to be around. It's all right; it's not bad.

Emily Rose ("Brothers & Sisters," "John From Cincinnati") is Audrey Parker, FBI, who comes to Haven — up in King's Maine country — in search of an escaped prisoner. She is greeted by a sudden crack in the road, a road one might think was deliberately trying to… but no, that's impossible. Det. Nathan Wournos (Lucas Bryant) helpfully keeps her from going over a cliff, though I'm afraid he cannot save the rental car.

Rose seems a little soft for the role, but given that this is not, like, the real FBI, just the pretend TV kind, it doesn't matter much, and Bryant has an interesting, likable dryness. Eric Balfour, who does seem to pop up all over, plays Duke, a charming rapscallion who lives on a boat and gets Nathan's goat; he gets most of the best lines as well, or makes it seem that way. There is also a pair of quirky newsmen, central figures in the King novella but just expository comedy relief here; they produce the mysterious old photograph that will lead to Audrey sticking around town for another 12 episodes, at least.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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