“Eastwick” is a remarkably bland show. A weird cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “Charmed,” the ABC dramedy — based on John Updike’s novel The Witches of Eastwick and the 1987 Jack Nicholson movie of the same name (there have also been two other serial attempts) — is about as magically charming as a rotting pumpkin.
“Eastwick” concerns three women, whose troubles are the same as those of the female characters from 1987 — a boorish louse of a husband; unequal treatment at work; and the lack of a good man (although the individual character traits are all jumbled up). Set in a Salem-like small town (think Stars Hollow, plus a certain mystical quality), Rebecca Romijn plays Roxie Torcoletti, a free-spirit type, an artsy sculptor hard-up for some quality man-boning, ever since her husband passed away and left her to care for her teenage daughter. Jaime Ray Newman plays Kat Gardner, a dead-ringer for Kelly Preston, who is stuck in a marriage to a lazy, boorish, abusive lout — she feels she can’t get out because of their five children. Meanwhile, Lindsay Price plays Joanna Frankel, a mousy reporter who can’t get a leg-up at work because she’s a bit of a doormat.
The three women don’t really care for one another, but are nevertheless brought together one day when they each find 50 cent pieces and simultaneously throw them in the town-square fountains, which apparently reveals their hidden talents for witchcraft. Roxie has visions of the future; Kat can affect mother nature; and Joanna can control people’s actions with her, ummm … sex appeal, I think.
Things go particularly pear-shaped when the three of them all wish for a good man, and that man arrives in the form of Paul Gross’ Daryl Van Horne, a sleazy slash sexy (supposedly, anyway) mogul who moves into town, buys up a mansion and the newspaper, and becomes the mysterious man in the three women’s lives (psssst. Hint: He’s their warlock pimp).
“Eastwick” aims really hard for some sort of “Northern Exposure” type of quirkiness, but it comes off flat, almost in opposition to the show’s jangly score. The three female leads are serviceable, but they all feel like pale imitations of other iterations of the source material (even 22 years later, you can hardly be expected to erase the memories of Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer). Paul Gross is the weakest link, as he has the doubly hard challenge of taking on a role Jack Nicholson popularized. He’s not just a poor man’s Nicholson — he’s a poor man’s Ray Wise, saddled with a lousy haircut.
I gave “Eastwick” two episodes, thinking it might improve on its lackluster pilot. But the second episode was not only more of a mess, it revealed the show for what it is: A nighttime soap opera with witches and season-long narrative arcs that I have absolutely no interest in following through on. There’s a decent amount of talent assembled here, but the tone is confused and the overarching mystery — if there even is one — is buried beneath the women’s frequent attempts to get laid. There’s a very modest amount of potential in “Eastwick” but almost nothing to keep you tuned in to discover it.