“666 Park Avenue” sets out to be the network TV answer to recent hits like “The Walking Dead” or “American Horror Story.” Not in plot, mind you — it’s its own show, not a plot copycat of either one. But of capitalizing on the horror conceit that has made both of the cable offerings popular. Unfortunately, whether it can succeed in delivering the scares remains to be seen.
There are things to like about the premiere episode. Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams are a lot of fun as Gavin and Olivia Doran, the evil couple who owns The Drake, a Manhattan luxury apartment building. The show leaves no doubt that of their bad nature, though it doesn’t come right out and say that Gavin is the Devil. The show will presumably continue to reveal whether Gavin is Satan or the guy that runs into the 7-11 to buy Satan a pack of cigarettes.
Either way, the two actors get to be deliciously menacing, which is a highlight of the first episode. As are the sets, costumes and general atmosphere the show establishes.
Unfortunately, while the atmosphere sets up feelings that something scary is going to happen, the actual scares are not there. And maybe that’s not what people are looking for, but we came in wanting something scary. It’s not as if a network television program can’t deliver on that front — “The Twilight Zone,” “Night Gallery,” “The Outer Limits,” parts of “Twin Peaks,” “American Gothic” were all quite scary. Just because the networks can’t be as graphic as the cable channels doesn’t mean they can’t do scary. And “666” could really raise the stakes by raising the scare factor.
As for the other actors on the show, Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable are Jane and Henry, the wide-eyed Midwestern couple hired by the Dorans to run the building. Watching them discover its secrets or seeing if Gavin can bring them over to the dark side could prove to be interesting story arcs, though Taylor and Annable need to step up their game a little to believably go toe-to-toe with O’Quinn and Williams.
Where the show needs to watch itself is that it doesn’t turn into a tenant-of-the-week serial, in which every episode chronicles one tenant’s literal deal with the Devil. That construct will get old very quickly.
Overall, “666 Park Avenue” has potential to be a fun follow-up to “Revenge,” which has moved to Sunday nights at 9 p.m., so we’ll give it a few episodes. What we’d like to see is a little more “American Horror Story” and a little less “Gossip Girl” with creepy music.
“666” premieres Sunday, Sept. 30 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.