A new drama brews on the 'North Shore'
|||Who's Who on "North Shore"|
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Will spunky MJ and hunky Chris make good on their entrepreneurial ventures? And will they ever hook up?
And what about young Gabriel? Will he ever be a professional surfer or will he spend the rest of his days as lifeguard to the rich and spoiled?
And who will he hook up with?
By the end of tomorrow's premiere show, these and other seemingly pointless questions may very well burn in the minds of the as-yet unidentified audience for Fox's new Hawai'i-based drama "North Shore."
The series, shot entirely on O'ahu, premieres tomorrow in its designated 7 p.m. (HST) slot on Fox.
"I think the show has potential to have Tuesday-morning water-cooler power," said Harry Bring, a producer of the show.
Bring should know. He was unit production manager when "Melrose Place" enjoyed its eight-year run in the same Monday-night time slot.
"Everybody who wasn't watching Monday Night Football was watching us," he said.
In fact, Bring sees a little bit of Melrose and a few other successful shows in "North Shore."
"It's 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' 'The Love Boat,' 'Melrose Place,' and 'The O.C.' all in one," Bring said. "
Fox has been more than happy to invite comparisons between "The O.C.," a hit in its first season on the network, and "North Shore." Both offer sexy, soapy drama with direct appeal to a most valuable demographic.
"Our core audience is 18 to 35," Bring said. "The stories come from these mostly young upstarts working at an extremely high-end luxury resort, and their interactions with each other and with the hotel guests.
"There are love triangles, old flames, a little back-stabbing, a little conniving ..."
In other words, grade-A prime-time fodder.
" 'The O.C.' and 'Melrose,' both phenomenally well received, are dyed-in-the-wool soap operas," said 'North Shore' executive producer Bert Salke. "We take a postmodern approach by taking the best elements of different types of shows. 'North Shore' combines the best approaches of soap operas with a strong element of wish fulfillment, of being rich and staying at a luxury hotel in paradise."
Executive producer Chris Brancato who with Salke has written or produced for "The X-Files," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Boomtown" as well as three feature films says the new series also has a sense of fun and humor.
"It's a little like 'Sex in the City," he said. "We like to call it 'Sex on the Beach.' "
The ensemble cast includes Kristoffer Polaha ("America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Story"), Brooke Burns ("Baywatch"), James Remar ("48 Hours"), Amanda Righetti ("The O.C."), Nikki DeLoach ("Traveller"), Jay Kenneth Johnson ("Days of Our Lives"), Corey Sevier ("Black Sash"), and Honolulu-born Jason Momoa ("Baywatch Hawaii").
"It's a phenomenal cast," Salke said. "It's a group of actors that is ready to break out. They're all on the cusp, which is exactly what we wanted."
In tomorrow's debut episode, hotel general manager Jason Matthews (Polaha) is stunned by the arrival of former love Nicole Booth (Burns), who has been hired as the hotel's new director of guest relations.
Jason promises patriarchal owner Vincent Colville (Remar) that he can work with Nicole, but that proves harder than expected.
Much of the initial tension is generated by Jason and Nicole's unresolved issues, but the one-hour premiere also offers some intriguing glimpses at the rest of the characters.
MJ (DeLoach) is starting her own fashion business so that she won't have to continue "schlepping drinks to tourists who spend more in a week than I make in a year."
Chris (Johnson), a potential love interest, also has dreams of bigger and better things with his extreme-adventure side business.
Along with MJ, Jason's closest friend on the show is bartender Frankie Seau (Momoa), a local's local with handy connections and, as later episodes will reveal, a mysterious past.
Gabriel Miller (Sevier) is the hotel's lifeguard and an aspiring professional surfer. He's the show's link to younger viewers and a great excuse to include some choice surfing footage in each show.
Finally, Tessa Lewis (Righetti) draws on her history as a con artist to ably assume the role of the hotel's concierge.
"Amanda will be our Heather Locklear," Bring predicted.
Of course, Hawai'i itself plays a huge role in the series. The first episode opens with Jason driving along Kamehameha Highway, flashing a shaka to a buddy in a helicopter flying above.
The intertwining story lines take the characters to various points on the island, from big-wave spots to an auto-body shop staffed by "locals" who look like they've been dressed by the wardrobe consultants for "Death Wish II."
However uneven their initial attempts at representing Island life may be, the writers and producers' affection for the Islands seems evident. The "local" characters are generally sympathetic, compared to the overbearing tourists they serve, issues of class and privilege are gently raised, and as expected, the background is visually stunning.
"The guests come to paradise thinking they'll escape their problems, but even though Hawai'i is a paradise, they find out that being here won't solve their problems," Brancato said.
"They realize this with the help of people who live and work here," he said. "We try to show that even though these people live in paradise, the issues are the same: They still need to pay the rent, they still want to fall in love."
While Brancato works out of Los Angeles, he said his visits to O'ahu for scouting and shooting allowed him to get a better sense of the island and yielded good story ideas.
Once, while eating at a North Shore restaurant, he noticed a trail leading to what he later learned was a transient encampment for seasonal surfers.
That detail made it into a episode about Gabriel and the sacrifices many surfers make to live and surf on the North Shore.
Both Salke and Brancato said their representations of the island and its people will sharpen as the series progresses.
"It's important for us to do a good job in capturing what it is that makes this place special," Salke said. "All of us involved with the show love Hawai'i."
They'll find out tomorrow just how mutual that feeling is.
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-2461.
The son of a local surfboard shaper, Jason has worked his way up the hotel-industry ladder to become the general manager of the Grand Waimea. He's good with the guests and popular with his hotel staff, but still smarting from his failed relationship with Nicole two years earlier.
Nicole takes a position at the Grand Waimea to get away from the controlling hand of her billionaire hotelier father. Or maybe it's because she and Jason still have unfinished business.
A self-made man, Vincent owns the hotel and will do whatever it takes to protect it.
Like a classic bartender, Frankie is a friend and adviser to all, but not much is known about his past.
Jason's roommate and surrogate sister works as a waitress at the hotel but dreams of turning her T-shirt line into a full-fledged fashion business.
Jay Kenneth Johnson
Chris runs a extreme-sports business that caters to hotel guests. There's chemistry between him and the feisty and formidable MJ.
The youngest staff member is torn between his desire to become a professional surfer and his responsibilities as the hotel lifeguard.
A former con artist, Tessa arrives under curious circumstances and stays on as the hotel's concierge.