Two and a half stars
9 p.m. Wednesday on WLS-Channel 7
It's probably redundant to say that "Eastwick" isn't very original, considering that it's based on the movie "The Witches of Eastwick," which was based on the John Updike novel. Even the series isn't particularly fresh; there have been two earlier tries, in 1992 and 2002 - and that last adaptation boasted a cast that included Marcia Cross.
"Eastwick," in fact, feels like a combination of Cross's "Desperate Housewives" and "9 to 5," both of which already did it better. "Eastwick" is outdated on arrival. The show looks gorgeous, invoking a picturesque, small-town Salem that practically sparkles. The actors are good, the writing's fine, and it's pleasant enough to watch. It's just that it all adds up to a series of pale imitations.
Rebecca Romijn, Jaime Ray Newman and Lindsey Price ("Lipstick Jungle") aren't stepping into the shoes of Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer directly. Good move. Romijn's new character is a fertility-goddess sculptor - I suppose the world needs those, too - who scandalizes the town with her younger lover (Matt Dallas of "Kyle XY"). Newman is a full-time working mom of many, many children, and Lindsay Price is relegated to writing "fluff" at the local newspaper.
Really? In the 22 years since the movie came out, women still haven't figured out that they can leave their boorish husbands, or that they deserve equal treatment at work? Wait, it gets worse. When these three finally come together and find strength in friendship, what do they wish for?
A man, of course. Presumably to show them the way.
I'm not sure where the female-empowerment journey is going to go from the first episode, or if this is some sort of post-post-feminist irony I'm not picking up on. We will give them the benefit of the doubt. What really distracted me was that so many elements of the show reminded me of better entertainment.
Take the lovely Jaime Ray Newman. She's a dead ringer for Kelly Preston - and wouldn't she be good in this? Her jerk husband looks like he could be Eric Roberts' surly little brother. Any more Robertses at home? "Less Than Perfect's" Sara Rue is wasted as a sidekick, when she'd be much more interesting in a lead role.
And Paul Gross has the thankless job of following Jack Nicholson's act as the devilish Darryl Van Horne. He does ooze a bit of Jack's charm, and he has plenty of swagger. But ultimately, he's just another pale imitation. And Romijn's character is right - he DOES have '80s hair.
I won't tell you not to watch the show. Maybe you'll enjoy another tribute to female friendship. But I'll be spending my evening differently -- "Eastwick" gave me the urge to rent "Practical Magic" and "The Craft." Maybe "The Witches of Eastwick," too.