The series centers on three small-town dwellers that are dissatisfied with their daily lives. Roxie (Rebecca Romijin) is a new-agey artist and single mom whose exploits with younger men, and tendency to speak her mind, are a source of constant embarrassment to her teenage daughter. Nurse Kat (Jaime Ray Newman) is a dutiful do-gooder who spends her days taking care of five kids and a layabout husband. Last is Joanna (Lindsay Price), a mousy journalist whose way with words does not extend beyond the newspaper page. In the pilot episode, these three disaffected females toss a coin in a fountain and wind up with a lot more than they wished for, specifically magical powers that could enable them to change their lives.
Despite its rich source material, and the general likeability of its three leads, Eastwick seems determined to take the easy route from A to B. Voiceover is often a warning sign in a pilot, and the opening monologue by historical society head Bun (Veronica Cartwright from the original film) is more awkward than informative. (Are remakes required by law to include actors from the original productions?)
The way in which the three heroines come together is similarly off-putting. Despite Bun’s insistence that they will be attracted to one another “like magnets,” the women’s first meeting feels unnatural rather than predestined. When Bun is hospitalized in the wake of a fluke red-ant attack, the three witches-to-be meet up in the waiting room. “Would you ladies like to get drunk?” Roxie poses to not-friends Kat and Joanna. During the gab fest that follows, the show continues to demonstrate a distinct lack of subtlety. The women discuss their respective wishes and previous dislike for one another as though these are common conversational tracts for virtual strangers.
In spite of its bluntness, Eastwick is not without a certain charm. The New England town is populated with a quirky cast (Sara Rue’s Penny is a stand-out). And now and then the writers achieve a particularly good line of dialogue. “I think you’re just a little groggy on account of the coma,” Kat explains after Bun’s red-ant attack.
The ladies hit on their supernatural skills relatively early in the episode, and their respective powers are predictably tied to their personalities. Idealistic Roxie experiences prophetic dreams, while caretaker Kat wields the power of Mother Earth. Tongue-tied Joanna possesses the power of persuasion, at least when it comes to men. Despite the lack of subtlety here, it is fun watching the women learn to wield their newfound abilities. Kat in particular seems ready for a change of station, quickly (if unintentionally) arranging for lightening to strike her boorish hubby. However, the show seems unwilling to contemplate the gravity of such acts, and how a wife might feel upon electrocuting her husband. Even if he maybe did deserve it.
For a story about female empowerment, it’s somewhat unfortunate that a man is the one to awaken these women to their talents. Devilish Darryl Van Horn (Paul Gross) is more smarmy than charming, making a play for Roxie shortly after her daughter’s almost-rape. Equally unclear are her reasons for kissing him back in this moment.
As a fan of supernatural programming in general and stories about witches in particular, I am not writing off Eastwick just yet. However, the showrunners need to show off their ability to write a truly great show about a trio of suburban witches, and not just give us Desperate Housewives with Wicca.