More inspired by than actually based on John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick, ABC’s soapy new drama is the show you don’t know you want to be watching. Taking place in a quintessentially quaint New England town known for its witchy past, Eastwick centers around flighty artist Roxie (Rebecca Romijn), journalist Joanna (Lindsay Price), and nurse and mother of five Kat (Jaime Ray Newman). The three become friends just as a brash, wealthy stranger, Darryl Van Horne (Paul Gross), blows into town. He develops an unusual interest in the trio and, in a Jack Nicholson-esque speech pattern, advises them on their numerous problems.
A significant pleasure of Eastwick is watching the women discover and come to terms with their powers (Kat is a modern-day Mother Nature, Roxie has visions of the future, and Joanna can command men and possibly objects to do her bidding), but it’s the madcap goings-on in Eastwick that are truly central to the show. While Joanna and her friend and colleague, Penny (Sara Rue), have been investigating Darryl’s mysterious and sordid past, Roxie has seen a vision of her seemingly friendly new neighbor, Jamie (Jack Huston), attempting to kill her. Meanwhile, after splitting from her temperamental husband, Raymond (Jon Bernthal), gentle Kat is resisting her attraction to Will (Johann Urb) because Joanna was in love with him first. Roxie’s love life, however, is in the worst shape after a statue of Darryl falls and kills her much younger boyfriend, Chad (Matt Dallas).
What sounds complicated and awfully dark on paper transforms magically into something smart and fun on screen. The visuals are rich, the dialogue is snappy, and the gradually emerging stories of Eastwick’s previous generations of witches and Darryl’s shadowy past add compelling layers. While unsolved mysteries lurk in every corner, Eastwick is not a frustrating mindbender like Lost. Though the show is frivolous at times, and Romijn seems to be channeling some of Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town shrillness, Eastwick is still utterly bewitching. Gross makes Darryl’s devilishness a campy treat, while Price, Newman, and Rue embody their roles as strong women in a treacherous and enchanted small town with relish. For those who miss the romantic entanglements of Lipstick Jungle or long for an adult fairy tale free of vampires, Eastwick is the place to be.