4 August 2004 | rrichr
I'll almost always have something better to do than watch a prime time soap. But I gave North Shore a shot because I wanted to spot locations. My rationale: if I can't currently be in the islands, in my opinion that only place on Earth where a sane person could want to be, I could maybe catch glimpses of some of the places I've been. Oahu is certainly nice enough but boasts only a few areas that would be sufficiently tropical and frameworthy for filming. Sure enough, I did recognize some of them. However, despite the fact that I'm not remotely in the series' target demographic, I'm still sort of watching.
Apparently North Shore is a solid go for season one and will probably get the green for a second season. However, I suspect that the show will run out of believable story ideas before season three, if it lives that long, and be forced to start recycling. There are only so many ways to shuffle the show's sun-splashed but limited deck, just a finite number of credible high-end guests to run past the Grand Waimea Hotel's front desk, and a limited number of romantic permutations. The length of time that contrivance can be disguised by complexity is also finite. The recent episode involving the Vice President's spirited daughter already stressed the believability envelope just a tad. (However, it did give Kristoffer Polaha the opportunity to deliver some beautiful Stink Eye to a thuggish Secret Service agent who tried to coerce him into helping cover up the visiting Veep's intimate indiscretions.)
Although North Shore's characters are somewhat formulaic, they're not entirely without appeal and all handle their chores more than adequately. Kristoffer Polaha's Jason Matthews, the hotel's General Manager, transmits a lot of believable humanity. Jason is respected and liked, qualities that are not often found together in the high-end workplace. The Jason character is very comfortable in his own skin and easy to root for. Brooke Burns, who plays the Grand Waimea's 'Guest Relations' Manager and Jason's former flame, Nicole Booth, has been dinged for her lack of range, but as the emotionally-planed corporate princess, who has been groomed from birth to excel for Daddy, she's just fine in the role. I completely bought her anguish when, in a recent episode she walked in on Jason while he was working it out with Tessa. Nicole had just left her fiancé at the altar to reconnect with Jason. In fact, the sequence made me wince; soapy but so nasty
Corey Sevier's Gabriel Miller, a talented surfer, who longs to turn pro while struggling to outgrow his adolescent goofiness, also works well. Anyone who feels that he or she has a gift but cannot quite find the way to get it across, to make it work, will relate to Gabriel. He's hormonal but still too much of a waterman to forget to tie down a borrowed jet ski, which subsequently rolls off its trailer and lands him in one-finger poi with a local bad boy from whom he borrowed the machine. But it seems that every script contains at least one moment when credibility must go on stand-by. The hotel's concierge from the dark side, Tessa, played with edge by Amanda Righetti, is a girl who could make a guy seriously consider giving up women, perhaps appropriate as Tessa has pretty much given up on men, although she's still up for making a meal of one now and then. It'll be Tessa vs. Nicole in upcoming episodes. I think I know who'll win but the war should be amusing. I've always liked James Remar, who built a career playing borderline personalities. His hotel owner, Vincent Colville, is an interesting against-type play. Colville gives the impression that he already knows everything that will happen and that the Grand Waimea, although dear to his heart, is also just a stepping stone. Still, he's the sort of boss almost anyone would like to have; tough, smart, but always fair.
The thing is, Hawaii is actually a far more interesting place than the environs of the Grand Waimea, and on several levels. But one has to be willing, and sufficiently patient, to see beneath the obvious surface to get at what I'm talking about. Young local (although not necessarily Hawaiian) men with bad attitudes are certainly a part of island life and have always been, right from Captain Cook on, but there's more. Unfortunately, North Shore, whose target audience will, presumably, begin to nod off just past tan lines, will probably not permit the series to mine the real mana and remain happily fixated on who's screwing whom, literally and figuratively. If you were in the islands on 9/11, as I was, sitting beneath the sheltering trees on 'Anini Beach, you may know what I mean. The islands are another place, out of time, almost not of this earth. Viewing televised coverage of the attack on the Towers from there, it seemed that an act of such stunning and precise brutality was simply impossible; the baddest of bad dreams. Against this essential, ancient, fleeting, and fading quality, even the Grand Waimea, ostensibly a perfect hotel in a perfect place, feels a bit like the Pentagon.