`Glory Days' just might be a killer series

Preview: If the rest of the season is as fun and lively as the pilot, young viewers have something to look forward to.

January 16, 2002|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

OK, television lovers, get out your maps of TV Land, because we have a new locale to chart.

It's an island called Glory, and it's somewhere between Dawson's Creek and Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove. And, if its architect, Kevin Williamson, can build on the foundation that he lays in tonight's pilot, Glory Island could be a regular weekly stop for millions of young viewers.

Glory Days is a new WB series that is part murder-mystery-suspense and part twentysomething relationship drama from the creator of the feature film Scream and the WB teen drama Dawson's Creek. As a murder-mystery, it's not all that great.

The joke about Murder, She Wrote, the long-running drama set in Cabot Cove and geared toward CBS' older audience, was that the murderer always turned out to be a young person. In Glory Days, with WB's teen and early-20s demographics, it's just the opposite. Williamson needs to add a couple of real mystery writers to the staff.

But that's not really where the energy of this series comes from. There are three currents that Williamson is tapping for that, and they all have the potential to run very deep.

The first involves mythology and psychology. At the heart of Glory Days is Mike Dolan (Eddie Cahill), a good-looking (naturally on WB) young author who left the island of Glory following the death of his father and wrote a best-selling novel called Glory Days.

Though it was labeled a work of fiction, the residents of Glory read it as roman a clef and have been angry at Dolan ever since for the way he depicted them. At the heart of Dolan's novel is the story of his father's death, which he believes was a murder.

So, what you have is a young man on a quest, a prodigal returning home to try and re-establish ties with his community and avenge his father's death. As editor and publisher of Glory's newspaper, Dolan's father was patriarch of the island, and this is the son coming to claim that throne and restore a kind of order to the community.

But, as serious as that reads, there is a genuine sense of fun to the way it plays on the screen. The tone comes from Williamson's postmodern sensibility and constant pop culture references.

In the opening scene on a pier, seconds before the murder occurs, a high school teacher walks past with a group of students and says, "Note the wingspan of the seagull. Can anyone name its origin?"

"Chekhov?" a student asks, referring to the Russian author of the play The Seagull.

When characters in the series compare themselves and others on the island to characters in other TV series ranging from Jessica Fletcher to Sheriff Lobo (B.J. and the Bear), you can't help but smile.

You also find yourself smiling at some of the townsfolk. That's the third thing Williamson does well in the pilot - create a fictional community to which you want to return. He avoids the mistake made by so many dramas since Twin Peaks that are set in the Pacific Northwest and geared toward young people: making the townsfolk surreal in their strangeness.

The residents of Glory Island are more like characters in the feature film Fargo, a little strange but mainly believable. Poppy Montgomery, who played Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, is a delight as island medical examiner. At one point, she walks away from a corpse practically whistling with joy.

"He had a donor card," she says, smiling back toward the dead body when asked what she's so happy about. There's a lot of Monroe in the bouncy way she delivers the line.

Fargo? Monroe? Mythology? Yikes, I think I kind of like Glory Days even though I fear I'm going to meet a lot of murderers from my generation in coming weeks.

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