July 2009

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Maybe the third time will be the charm, at least as far as television adaptations go. Way back in 1992, Carlton Cuse and Jeffrey Boam wrote a pilot for Warner Bros. that was based on The Witches of Eastwick, but it never went anywhere. Then came the hour-long series Eastwick ten years later, with Desperate Housewives’ star Marcia Cross playing Jane in a short-lived Fox series that was written by Jon Cowan and Robert L. Rovner.

Now Eastwick is coming to TV again, this time “loosely” based on John Updike’s novel and the movie The Witches of Eastwick. The continuing plot of this fall’s ABC-TV series will apparently come closer to the 1987 supernatural film. There are other changes, including the era and names of characters. Updike’s novel was, of course, set in the Vietnam War era, but the TV series, which is scheduled to air on Wednesday evenings at 10 p.m. EST, will be a contemporary fantasy-drama with light overtones in the mold of Desperate Housewives. As its described on the ABC-TV publicity site, “Three very different women find themselves drawn together by a mysterious man who unleashes unique powers in each of them, and this small New England town will never be the same.”

Eastwick stars Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty, X-Men) as the sassy and somewhat flakey head witch, Roxie Torcoletti, who’s the artist; Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle) as Joanna Frankel, an uptight local reporter; and Jamie Ray Newman (Eureka) as easy-going Kat Gardener, a mother of five. Paul Gross plays Darryl Van Horne. In addition, Sara Rue is Penny, Veronica Cartwright (who starred as Felicia in the 1987 film) is Bun, Johann Urb is Will, Jon Bernthal is Raymond, and Ashley Benson is Mia.

The new series is produced by Warner Bros. Television, with Maggie Friedman (Spellbound, Once and Again) the executive producer and writer. The pilot was directed by David Nutter, who won a primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special (Band of Brothers).

Here’s the official website for the series, if you’re curious. The top photo featuring (l to r) Romijn, Gross, Price, and Newman is provided courtesy of ABC/Kevin Foley. The bottom photo of Price, Romijn, and Newman is courtesy of ABC/Robert Voets.

If it sounds maudlin, it probably is. But John Updike at least would have been flattered by the company: poets like Sidney Lanier, Philiss Wheatley, Stephen Benet, Edgar Allan Poe, Randall Jarrell, Frank O’Hara, and James Merrill. The most recent attention comes from The Dead Poets Society of America, which has nothing to do with the Robin Williams movie and everything to do with documenting the final resting places of more than 60 American poets. Walter Skold, from Freeport, Maine, made the pilgrimage to the Plowville cemetery to find the Updike family headstone, where family members had scattered some of John’s ashes the day of the tribute at the Reading Library, April 5, 2009.

Skold’s project involves collecting videos of people reading at the gravesites of his favorite poets and posting them online, and he asked Updike Society members Joan Youngerman (a childhood friend of John’s) and board member Jack De Bellis (best known to Updike scholars for his John Updike Encyclopedia and bibliographies) to participate in a graveside tribute that De Bellis said was respectful and sincere. The event was covered for the Reading Eagle by Bruce R. Posten, whose story, “Grave Pursuit: Man taking cross-country trek to document burial sites of U.S. poets stops by John Updike’s family plot in Plowville,” was posted on July 10, 2009. Posten had earlier written the story, “Updike’s children spread his ashes in Robeson Township.” According to Skold’s website, he’s done “43 Poets in Twenty-One Days!”