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Review: '666 Park Avenue' is fun to visit, but pity the tenants

'666 Park Avenue' stars Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams as an evil couple who own the Drake apartment building. Sound fun? It is.

September 28, 2012|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams star in "666 Park Avenue."
Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams star in "666 Park Avenue." (Patrick Harbron, ABC )

As anyone foolhardy enough to have done so will tell you, often with obsessive detail, if you live in Manhattan there will come a time when it feels as if your apartment owns you, body and soul.

In Los Angeles, you can have a similar suspicion about your mortgage but it's not the same thing — a mortgage is only money but an apartment building is alive. It's animated by tenants, support systems, history, personality and sometimes, just possibly — and here we come to it — intent. Surely that elevator knows it's you when it decides to do its devilish little bounce.

That's one of the jokes of ABC's not-so-scary-but-still-great-fun "666 Park Avenue." Though it's a joke made nervously in the dark, it's a joke nonetheless, and not the only one. As Stephen King learned early and well, humor is horror's best accessory — nothing makes the eyes pop like a wink followed by, say, a beheading.

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Working loosely (as in he took the title and not much else) from a series of books by Gabriella Pierce, creator David Wilcox evokes as many knowing smiles as sudden gasps, first and foremost by casting Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams as the elegantly evil couple who own the Drake. Although the opening sequence makes it very clear that O'Quinn's Gavin Doran is a ruthless dealer in human souls, just the sight of the pair sitting, placidly diabolical, in donor circle seats is enough.

Mr. and Mrs. Satan go to the symphony — where do I sign? Here, here and here, apparently.

Into their finely appointed lair walk two of the wider-eyed people on the planet — a blond and lovely budding architect named Jane (Rachael Taylor) and her square-jawed and trustworthy consort, Henry ("Brothers & Sisters'" Dave Annable), who works in the mayor's office.

Young, in love and conveniently from out of town, they cannot believe their good fortune when Jane's Google-friendly knowledge of the Drake "convinces" Doran to make them co-managers of the building. It's a job that comes with a lavish apartment and a multi-page contract they sign without reading (and Henry is a lawyer!).

As Jane spends her days getting to know the (surprisingly dingy) laundry room, having bathtub romance with Henry and accepting expensive gifts, other tenants are having a less fun time. In perpetual escrow to Doran, they're being attacked by murderous elevator doors, falling off rooftops and getting sucked through walls.

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So, to recap: Take "Rosemary's Baby," cross it with "The Devil's Advocate," maybe glance at the BBC's "Bedlam," throw in a little Nancy Drew/Buffy, find a great building, cast with care and, voila! — a mainstream answer to FX's "American Horror Story." Which should not be taken as a pejorative!

The early revelation that the Dorans are in the soul-buying business is a bit worrisome — is "666 Park Avenue" simply going to show them in action, like some Mephistophelean version of "Pawn Wars"? — but I'm a sucker for O'Quinn, Williams and a ghost story under any guise. The addition of a plucky architect dispensing details about the Beaux-Arts movement, a young clairvoyant kleptomaniac (Samantha Logan) and a mosaic of power only ups the ante — if God is in the details, why shouldn't his fallen angel lurk there as well?

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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'666 Park Avenue'

Where: ABC

When: 10 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-14-SV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for sex and violence)

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