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'Buffy' vet Marti Noxon has `Pleasant' memories

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After graduating from the happy "Buffy" bubble, writer/producer Marti Noxon has been taking her lumps in the TV business and learning along the way.

After her first big post-"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" project, Fox's family drama "Still Life," proved stillborn, never making it on the air, Noxon moved on to partner with Dawn Parouse ("Still Life" and now, Fox's hit "Prison Break," on which Noxon has done some consulting) for "Point Pleasant."

Set in New Jersey but shot in San Diego, the supernatural soap focused on a mysterious girl named Christina (Elizabeth Harnois) who is fished from the Atlantic and proceeds to turn life upside down in a beachside town because she is, well, a spawn of Satan. Fox launched the show with great fanfare in January 2005, only to yank it after seven or eight episodes (not an uncommon fate for Fox dramas).

Fox Home Entertainment released all 13 episodes produced of "Point Pleasant" on DVD on Oct. 25.

Noxon, though, doesn't lay all the blame for the show's fate on the itchy trigger fingers of Fox executives.

"I think that `Point Pleasant' was a lot of things," Noxon says. "Ultimately, if I was being the most optimistic, I would say that I don't feel like we found the show until we were in about five or six episodes, and by that time, it was game over.

"There are good things and moments before that, but when we did hit our stride, say, `Oh, this is what it's supposed to be,' it was too late." Now, "Point Pleasant" did stay on longer than, say, "Wonderfalls," a quirky comedy-drama about a Niagara Falls slacker (Caroline Dhavernas) beset by chatty knickknacks, executive-produced by Todd Holland, Bryan Fuller ("Dead Like Me") and Tim Minear ("Angel," "Firefly"). It lasted but four episodes.

"Which is ridiculous," Noxon says, "because it doesn't matter whether you liked it or not, that show knew what it was. And God, so many people liked it. That's a case of where someone had already made their decision practically before it hit the air. They were just testing their instincts.

"I have an acquaintance who had a show that was on for two episodes and got yanked. What happens is, somebody in a position of power loses faith, but they say, `I could be wrong,' and they run it out just to see.

"That wasn't the case with `Point Pleasant.' They launched it big, but they got the sense really soon that it wasn't getting any traction, and they decided not to help it."

Asked why "Point Pleasant" didn't catch on with critics or large numbers of fans, Noxon says, "As I said, I feel like we didn't quite know what the show was. We were trying to do two things. We were trying to do a horror show and a soap opera, and we were getting a lot of encouragement to lean in the soap-opera direction. It seemed like those things could work together, but ultimately, it had way too much going on and way too many ideas.

"We started to tear it down as we went along, with more streamlined stories and more emphasis on the horror element. We figured out that Christina's character was stronger when she was spooky, and the strongest story wasn't really her, it was the people around her. Once we steered into that, it started to write easier and shoot easier and everybody was happier, but it was too late.

"But again, live and learn; I learned so much."

At first, Noxon says, she tried to apply her "Buffy" experience, but discovered that doesn't work in all supernatural dramas centered on blonde teen girls.

"We tried to approach it from a Buffy' paradigm,What's her struggle? What's the metaphor?' But it's a very different situation, because Christina couldn't be active in the way Buffy was.

"It's a rare thing to find a show in that genre. I like (The WB's) Supernatural' quite a bit. It's fun, the premise is simple, you can figure it out, you're with them, and they have something to do. What was missing here was,How is this going to sustain a show?'

"I said to some friends after, I'm never going to do another show with an apocalypse. Never again do I want to do one where it's,... and it's the end of the world!'"

Noxon is now steering her own ship, developing a pair of pilots, one of which she's sold to Fox and the other, to ABC.

"Very different for me," she says. "There's nary a monster nor spooky thing in sight. One of them is a female-driven cop soap opera, kind of `Hill Street Blues' with a main character who's a woman. The other is a big soap with four working women with children, and that's one that ABC actually brought to me.

"It wouldn't be on the same night as `Desperate Housewives,' but they've found a really strong female audience there, so they're looking for another show with all that stuff."

And neither show is centered on teenagers. Says Noxon, "My mom said to me a little while ago, Marti, you're a grownup now,' and she meant it in the most flattering way. She was always saying that onPoint Pleasant,' the stuff that really worked was the adults. She said, `Every time we go back to them, I'm good. I think it's time for you to write some adults.'"

Asked if she's going to miss the monsters, Noxon says, "Check back. Right now, I so don't."


(c) 2005, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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