Three Moons Over Milford

The moon has long been the subject of speculation, credited with romances, blamed for tragedies and occult occurrences. Our big rock in the sky affects our tides and emotions, and many believe that a full moon causes a rash of strange behavior and freakish accidents. So what if there wasn’t just one moon, but three?

In ABC Family’s new dramedy, Three Moons over Milford, that is the situation when a giant asteroid slams into our moon and splinters it into three parts, all hanging in the sky ominously close to one another. In the series, the result is a sudden increase in odd behavior — a woman washes her car in the nude, a businessman gets a bright red mohawk, a man and woman get married with her in a tux and him in a bridal gown. Those who don’t succumb to the weirdness must deal with a prevailing fatalism among their fellows, heightened by scientific conjectures about when the pieces will plummet to Earth and kill everyone. It may come in a few weeks or a few dozen years, but many believe the end is near.

The moons have an especially devastating effect on Milford, a quiet little town where, at one time, neighbors knew one another and the local coffee shop served plain coffee for just 50 cents. All that changed when mega-corporation Syndek located its headquarters in town: strangers arrived and coffee went up to Starbucks’ prices. The moon’s break-up turned life in Milford upside down: now, citizens call anything out of the ordinary “some three moons thing.”

New arrival Laura Davis (Elizabeth McGovern) finds her life unraveling as a result of the asteroid. Her husband, the founder of Syndek, abandoned her to climb the seven tallest mountains in the world. Unfortunately, he left her penniless and alone with their teenagers, Alex (Sam Murphy) and Lydia (Teresa Celentano). As if dealing with impending annihilation isn’t enough, Laura is now a broke single mother. Her difficulties were compounded by the fact that most of her neighbors hated her husband, and her by association, for wrecking their peaceful burg with big business. Superficially friendly towards her, the townsfolk were quick to turn on her as a result of her children’s behavior.

In the pilot episode, Laura’s kids served as a focus for her troubles. Lydia and a couple of friends accidentally burned down the high school while performing a Wiccan ritual in the gym one night. Though Lydia’s intentions were good, as she hoped the ritual would reunite the three parts of the moon, she was blamed for the fire. For his part, Alex met Claire (Samantha Leigh Quan), an engineer at Syndek who mistook the 16-year-old for a college man (understandable as actor Murphy looks far older than his character), and wanted to jump his bones once she realizes that he is a computer whiz. Alex, convinced the end is near, felt this was his only shot at losing his virginity, so he was more than happy to play along with Claire’s misconception.

Even as her kids floundered, Laura met Mack (Rob Boltin), town attorney and future love interest. He managed to get Lydia a mere slap on the wrist (community service and a public apology) on arson charges and hired Laura as his secretary. Let the sexual tension begin.

Yet another “quirky small town” series, Three Moons over Milford offers conventional characters: newly divorced mother, troublesome but good-hearted kids, and attractive love interest. Imagine the Gilmore girls moved to Twin Peaks and you get the idea. Moreover, the invariably light “dramedic” tone is too familiar.

The most interesting aspect of the show is the three moons, but they came into being before the action started: everyone in town had adjusted to the loss of the moon as we know it. A far more interesting opening to the series would have been to start with the asteroid’s impact on the moon, allowing viewers to see initial reactions to the celestial event, say, the missing husband’s transformation from corporate maven to world adventurer.

Though the premise has merit (the moon’s influence on our lives, literature, and religious beliefs is considerable), its filtering through predictable television formula makes Three Moons old already.

RATING 4 / 10