In America, it’s Halloween weekend, filled with youngsters dressing up in costumes and visiting door-to-door, gathering candy and listening to spooky tales. The tradition comes, at least in part, from old Gaelic festivals, in particular one called Samhain. It marks the end of the harvest season, and in some places begins the Gaelic New Year. It is also the dividing line between what is known as the “lighter” and “darker” halves of the year.
While many think of the time as one for spirits and ghosts, the Samhain interpretation would mean the beginning of darkness, when the lines between the two worlds are the thinnest. Bonfires are lit to preserve the light, and the forces of evil, in disguise, come to visit the earth. In the case of one FOX television show in 2005, it would remind us of one girl’s future also on the edge, and her fate and behavior very much depends on the road taken from here. Ultimately, the influences upon her and the people she meets, both good and bad, might change the entire world. The sad part is, as the old proverb goes: Sometimes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Welcome to the small coastal town of Point Pleasant. A sleepy little bedroom community an hour or two south of New York City, the town’s peaceful existence is suddenly interrupted by a freak storm, which washes up the body of a teen-age high-schooler named Christina Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois). She’s revived by a local lifeguard, Jesse Parker (Samuel Page), and brought to a nearby doctor’s house to rest and recoup. Taken in by Dr. Ben Kramer (Richard Burgi) and his wife Meg (Susan Walters), she becomes friends with their tomboyish youngest daughter Judy (Aubrey Dollar). Christina’s reluctant to even remember her past, let alone be returned quickly to her mysterious, usually absent father.
Christina has an odd effect on those in Point Pleasant, as tendencies are amplified, feelings are given voice, and inhibitions are unknowingly ignored in those around her. Jesse’s girlfriend Paula (Cameron Richardson) is jealous of the relationship that might be growing between Christina and Jesse, and ends up with another boy, Terry (Brent Weber), causing a love triangle. (The sparks erupt at the end-of-summer bonfire — any references to Samhain are purely on purpose!) Meanwhile, Paula’s mom, Amber (Dina Meyer), is a former classmate of Dr. Kramer, and she decides that the good doctor should provide some tender loving care for her… especially after she’s dismissed by her latest target, Lucas Boyd (Grant Show), who’s just moved into the town as well.
It turns out that Boyd has a different target… he’s not only threatening Jesse’s religious mother Sarah (Claire Carey) because of her crusading son’s feelings toward Christina… but he’s ultimately trying to influence Christina towards darkness, as he works for her absent father. Of course, daddy’s rather busy, as daddy dearest is apparently Satan himself, which would make the lost Christina the devil’s daughter.
She’s also the daughter of a human woman, who left shortly after Christina was born. Christina’s search for her, and her interactions with the locals, will guide her towards either good or evil… and therein lies the conflict of the series. Which path will Christina ultimately choose, and what will happen to the others in the process?
“It feels good having her here. I feel good.”
–Meg Kramer, when Christina arrives in their home
While the Kramers are people of good heart, they’ve also dealt with tragedy along the way, as their daughter Isabelle died a few years earlier. Christina’s entry into their life seems to have brought new hope to Meg… but temptation is finding its way towards her husband, thanks to Amber. Burgeoning boyfriend Jesse and new companion Judy are trying to help, but have their own issues to deal with. The junior love triangle is starting too, but all these things are being nudged along by Boyd’s machinations and Christina’s emotions… and heaven (or hell) help those who get her angry.
Christina doesn’t know her capabilities early on, let alone the abilities of Lucas Boyd. Her presence seems to erase inhibitions, letting the true nature of the people around her come into play. And more often than not, there are other than just pure reasons for any particular action taken along the way. Christina is learning… but is she learning the strength of good? Or the anger and betrayal of evil?
“One of the challenges is to make it seem like it could happen to you. That struggle in the Christina character between the dark and the light seems to us to be a very good metaphor for being an adolescent.”
—Point Pleasant Creator Marti Noxon
Marti Noxon was one of the people behind Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Just as fighting otherworldly forces was seen in Buffy as a metaphor for the alienation of high school and the trials of those young people finding their way, so too were the efforts of Christina and the residents of Point Pleasant to be seen as a supernatural search for morality and meaning. The struggles of each of the characters adds to the choices Christina ultimately has to make, and whether she comes down on the side of good or evil depends more on their natures than any one of them realizes. And once Christina makes her final choice, the fate of the world could depend on it.
“It’s all about duality, it’s about the best of people and the worst of people. The fate of the world is going to come to a head in this really ordinary place. It’s kind of fun, because it gives you an excuse for people to really look at themselves and say, you know, what do I want to be?”
This is just a much more modern-day approach to the whole idea of Halloween, and some of its antecedents. The observance of All Saint’s Day in many Christian religions is also traditionally the same weekend as Samhain, giving the “holiday” a feeling of yin and yang, of dark and light… a duality, just as Noxon and Point Pleasant were going for. Characters did things you didn’t always expect, and even the best person in town had, if not evil, at least some doubt as to their own place in the occurrence of events larger than themselves.
This wasn’t necessarily even the big battle between good and evil, although the outcome would portend such a thing. The battle on Point Pleasant could be likened more to the preliminaries of a chess match, where certain characters (instead of chess pieces), each of different strengths and weaknesses, fought more for position and possibilities than for ultimate domination… although such a thing might ultimately come. And, opposed by enough lesser pieces, even the best and brightest of those among us could fall.
These are sometimes uncomfortable choices for everyone, and yet they are choices each of us makes every day, in matters large and small. Unlike the characters on Point Pleasant, we aren’t archetypes on a canvas where we’re influencing the anti-Christ, but we are in a position where our choices influence those we love, those we interact with, and most importantly, how we see the world each day. Marti Noxon is right when she sees Point Pleasant as a metaphor for these types of things, but they’re not just symbolic of choices for adolescents. As soon as we are responsible for ourselves, we are responsible for shaping our own views on the world around us.
The scariest part of all this is not even how our choices affect us, but how they affect those in our lives. For that is the part which is really out of our control, and yet all we can do is present, hopefully, the best of ourselves to everyone around us, to display the virtues of compassion, empathy, love, and honor, even when our own natures (and our own dualities) want us to do otherwise. Perhaps this is reading too much into a prime-time television series like Point Pleasant, and yet it is part-and-parcel of the influences of viewers’ lives, and one would hope that the lessons learned there would be good ones. Because otherwise, television becomes the good-intentioned road to Hell its worst critics believe it to be, instead of what its supporters hope for… a path, not to Hell, but to a better place for all.
ELISABETH HARNOIS (Christina Nickson) was almost born an actress, starting her career in front of the camera at the age of three. As a tween into a teen, she was Alice, the lead in the live-action TV version of Adventures in Wonderland for The Disney Channel. After Point Pleasant, she appeared as a recurring character on One Tree Hill and is now a regular on the current season of CSI.
SAMUEL PAGE (Jesse Parker) earned a college degree in ecology, and promptly came home and announced to his family that he was moving to Hollywood to become an actor. The move turned out successfully, as he’s played regular and recurring roles on American Dreams, Shark, Mad Men, Desperate Housewives, and Gossip Girl. He’s also modeled, and appears on the cover of the current Xmas catalog for the J. Crew clothing brand.
RICHARD BURGI (Dr. Ben Kramer) was the star of one of the few UPN hits not named Star Trek, in the 3 1/2 seasons of The Sentinel. He’s also had runs in Judging Amy, The District, Harper’s Island, and Desperate Housewives. Fans of short-lived series almost saw him as another hero, as he was one of the rumored candidates for the lead in the CBS series The Flash.
SUSAN WALTERS (Meg Kramer) was a regular on both Hotel and Nightingales before finding a lasting series in Dear John. After Point Pleasant, she was seen in both One Tree Hill and The Vampire Diaries, in addition to a soap role on The Young and the Restless. During an earlier stint on the daytime series, she’d met her soon-to-be-husband in real life.
AUBREY DOLLAR (Judy Kramer) has been featured previously on this site as the young reporter Cindy Thomas on Women’s Murder Club. Another actress who started young, her first movie appearance was just prior to her teens. She appeared for three seasons on Guiding Light, and also had a recurring role on Dawson’s Creek.
GRANT SHOW (Lucas Boyd) also started in soaps, playing on Ryan’s Hope for three years. He hit prime-time stardom on the original Melrose Place, and was later seen in Swingtown, Accidentally on Purpose, Dirt, Private Practice, and Big Love.
CAMERON RICHARDSON (Paula Hargrove) started as a model before making the jump to acting. Her first role was as a regular on the series Cover Me, which was later followed by Skin, 12 Miles of Bad Road, and Harper’s Island. Now a new mother, she recently modeled for Forever 21’s maternity line during her pregnancy.
DINA MEYER (Amber Hargrove) has been featured on Beverly Hills, 90210 (the original) and Miss Match. She’s likely more familiar to genre audiences, having appeared in Johnny Mnemonic, Dragonheart, Star Trek: Nemesis, Starship Troopers, and the Saw movie series, as well as starring on the TV series Birds of Prey. Athletic by nature, she has performed many of her own stunts on-screen, and suffered a concussion during one particularly nasty stunt on Starship Troopers.
BRENT WEBER (Terry Burke) was discovered by a modeling agency when he accompanied his sister to an open call. His career includes guest spots on Scrubs and CSI: Miami, and a featured role on the daytime soap All My Children.
CLARE CAREY (Sarah Parker) was a featured player on the comedy Coach, playing daughter Kelly Fox. She was the “mother” of the Olsen Twins in the series So Little Time, and also a regular on the first season of Jericho and Crash. She’s most recently been featured in multiple episodes of Chuck.
Point Pleasant is, thankfully, available on DVD, including five episodes never broadcast during its original run. Since it was designed as a mid-season replacement, there’s a definite conclusion to the series if you get to watch all thirteen episodes… and a choice is made, although there’s plenty of room for more of the series to continue, had it been successful. Alas, it was not, as FOX pulled the plug after Point Pleasant failed to garner the desired ratings, especially up against hits like Grey’s Anatomy and the original CSI. Somehow, a series all about choices wasn’t one viewers made the choice to watch. Maybe some of the less than perfect decisions of the characters hit a bit too close to home….
“I’ve found that evil usually triumphs unless good is very, very careful.”
–Dr. Leonard McCoy, Star Trek
OK, so I’m a Star Trek fan from way back… so sue me. But in this case, I think this is the most appropriate quote to describe Point Pleasant, and the displayed duality between good and evil. If you wish to go another route, famed Christian writer C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) described in his book, The Screwtape Letters, how ethics really fell into four categories… and how “good” only fit one of them. A person making the right choices for the right reasons is doing “good”. A person doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons is obviously evil. But “right things for the wrong reasons”, and “wrong things for the right reasons”, are, to Lewis, simply rationalizations for evil masquerading as good. Hence, the old saying about how “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
As we examine ourselves and the lives we lead, how many choices do each of us make which would fall far too easily into the “rationalization” categories? Those are the ones which cause each of us doubt, and reflect upon those around us, positively or negatively… and we don’t always know how they’re seen. Even if you aren’t religious in any way, those choices in life still have to be made, and still will be part of how we know ourselves… and how others come to know us. We all have a duality inside… it’s what we create from it that makes our entire world… for good or evil.
13 hour-long episodes — 8 aired — 5 unaired (all available on DVD)
First aired episode: January 19, 2005
Final aired episode: March 17, 2005
Aired at Friday @ 8/7 Central? No, FOX premiered the series on a Wednesday night, before the series settled into its regular Thursday night slot at 9/8 Central.
Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.