I knew most of the details of what was coming because my good buddy Toby got his a few days before I did. Then again he's in New York and as a result doesn't have to cope with Canada Customs examining packages coming across the border. Still, there's a bit of a thrill in getting something like this, and since this is really the first time that I've received a package like this it was a bit special. The package included a one page newspaper talking about the disappearance of Entertainment Editor and well-known blogger Brent McKee and included a link to the online version of the news story.
Besides the newspaper, the package included this post card featuring scenes from around Haplin Minnesota – known as "Happy Town" to the locals – Miranda Kirby, your full service realtor. There's a certain sinister quality to the picture son the card. Maybe it's the strange colour to the photos, or maybe it's the clouds.
There's also a from Big Dave's Pizza Barn, where the New York style pizzas have an authentic quality: "The best way to do that is to use authentic New York City tap water in the dough – shipped to Haplin direct from New York, twice a week." The list of pizzas is small and rather pedestrian.
But the main feature of the menu is a map of Haplin and the surrounding district.
Then there's a two sided snow globe. On one side is scene on a lake with the woods behind (it also appears on the post card) and on the other a scene of downtown Haplin, dominated by the Our Daily Bread Factory – "The Bready" to the locals – looming over the town like a somehow sinister industrial-era castle. And there's something else that's a bit sinister on one of the buildings, the sign of the notorious Magic Man.
There's a bag of Our Daily "bread." Apparently it actually contains a T-shirt, but it's packed in there too tightly for me to get it out without damaging the bag.
There's a fridge magnet seemingly advertising a German movie - Die Blaue Tur (The Blue Door) which has the tag line "Betreten auf eigene gefahr" ("Enter at your own risk") - but really advertises the House Of Ushers movie memorabilia store.
Finally there's a coffee mug with the Magic Man's symbol on it.
There was actually one other thing in the package, a sheet of paper with a web address where I could watch the first episode of Happy Town online before the general public. And that's where the frustrations comes in, because when I went to the link I was duly informed that the video was unavailable to me. Because I live in Canada, or at least not in the United States. I mean I know why it happens; someone else owns the rights to Happy Town in Canada and they aren't participating in the ABC promotional campaign. Still would it really have hurt to send out a DVD or even a USB drive with the first episode of the show on it? I promise I won't make illegal copies and sell them on my front lawn
So I won't be able to tell you what I think of Happy Town before the show actually airs. Which I sort of think is unfortunate. Part of the purpose of a media critic is to give potential patrons an informed opinion about a TV show or a movie or a game before the material is released to the general public. The principle, which TV executives are obviously aware of, is that positive comments from critics even if they are bloggers will help to draw viewers to their product. And if critics don't like it, well there is still the chance that it might hit anyway "proving the critics wrong." But that only works if critics are able to see the show before it airs. The problem here is that while I am indeed a Canadian, my blog has an audience that is not exclusively Canadian. In fact according to Google Analytics the majority of the people who visit this blog in the past month came from the United States. The thing about the Internet is that you reach an audience without boundaries, unless of course you are dealing with companies that aren't aware of the fact. I guess what I'm saying is that would it have killed ABC to have included a DVD or a USB drive instead of tantalizing me with a website that I can't use?
As far as the press kit goes, I loved it, maybe because it was my first, or maybe because it seemed like fun. It might even be worth something someday, if Happy Town turns out to be a big hit. It might be worth more if the show has a short run and develops a small but devoted – even rabid – fan following. Will it influence what I write about the show? Well if that was why they sent it out it's a failure because when it comes to reviewing shows, I call them as I see them... when I can see them.