EASTPORT – A deadly game of murder and suspense holds this sleepy New England town hostage after a local family is savagely murdered.
The killer taunts his would-be captors with the message, “You must play my game if you want to catch me.”
No, it’s not just another day Down East, it’s the premiere of “Murder in Small Town X.” The series will air at 9 p.m. Tuesday on Fox affiliates. Those who don’t have cable can watch the program on Canadian Channel 9.
The show sounds like a takeoff of the reality-based show “Survivor.” The contestants of “Small Town X” are trained in investigative techniques by a police sergeant, then they enter the fictional world of Sunrise. According to a story in the June 21 issue of TV Guide, the 10 contestants – five men and five women – were plucked off the streets of America to be a part of the series.
In February, Final Stretch Productions landed in Eastport with cameras and crew, and for a short time, they transformed the community of empty stores and vacant streets into a Hollywood set.
There was a new energy in the city as lights were strung, vacant buildings were transformed and signs were added, announcing that the town had a new name: “Sunrise.”
For a time the sun did rise over the city as the crew spent Hollywood dollars buying everything in sight. Merchants were pleased and cash registers were ringing. Every motel room, bed-and-breakfast, and empty room was rented. Restaurants became meeting sites for production people, and many Eastport residents developed new friends.
While they were in town, the crew added a huge statue of a fisherman to the wharf that they happily donated to the city when they left. They also blew up a boat and wrecked a car. They were mum about the plot, but word on the street was that it was a “weird mystery.”
The made-for-television series, that is expected to run for several weeks, already has spawned its own Web site: www.fox.com/smalltownx/.
Couch potatoes are invited to watch what is billed as a groundbreaking series, and then turn to the Web, where they can track suspects and “match wits with the killers.”
A blurb on each of the players sounds like a nighttime soap opera or life as usual in a small town. There is the sleazy Flint family, led by Nate Flint, who has a “a darker side.” Patriarch C.R. Flint who has a “darker history.” There is his daughter, Abigail, who has a “wild bad girl streak.”
Then there are the other characters, Cop Dudley Duncan, who would rather do anything than solve a crime; Mayor Emerson Bowden, who is described as a hard-core Republican; and the ferryboat operator, who suffers from Gulf War syndrome.
Another character, Hayden DeBeck, a former wealthy businessman, founded the “mind-science philosophy that drives a secret society.” It has been reported that the sweepers who were seen all over Eastport during filming may be a part of that secret society.
Of course there is the usual array of characters that includes the drinker and political activities.
In addition to blurbs on all of the characters, the Web site has a discussion section posing such important ideas as creating a calendar of the “hot men” in Eastport. The idea was put forth by someone calling herself or himself “Hotgirl.” “I saw many hot men in Eastport-Sunrise? I think we should do a calendar of Eastport-Sunrise hunks. Who would you like to see on your wall?”
Other discussion sections include: “Do you know Brian the Hottie?” and “How did they feed Hollywood in Eastport?” According to the writer, the film crew was fed “the best food ever served to a movie crew.”
There is even a section that deals with a view that reality TV will corrupt America. “Honestly, there is no way I can persuade you that this show is bad. The media already has done its damage to our country,” the anonymous Web writer wrote. He suggests people read a book.
Another self-appointed critic suggests that reality television is using murder as entertainment. They claim television would never dare to broadcast a program called “Rape in Small Town X” or “AIDS in Small Town X.” “Society has placed a stigma on such topics, but not murder,” the person wrote. They recommended viewers complain to Fox or its sponsors.
AXELP1 suggested that the series was scary and recommended people stay together.
City Manager George “Bud” Finch said Thursday that people in Eastport are looking forward to Tuesday night. During the past few days, representatives of FOX News from Portland and Boston have been in Eastport interviewing local people about the upcoming show. Because the program is going to air on Canadian television, the Canadian newspapers also have visited Down East to interview the locals.
The Cannery Restaurant, Finch said, is going to hold a pre-evening dinner and get-together Tuesday prior to the opening show.
The series already has spawned some tourism, and once it airs, Finch said, he hopes it attracts more visitors to the area. “We all are very excited about it,” he said.
Finch said he has remained in contact with the film company, but admitted he is a pragmatist who recognizes that Eastport won’t become Hollywood East. He did say he was optimistic other film companies may find the area a perfect back-lot movie set. “Stephen King is one of Maine’s more famous writers of mystery movies and just maybe this might catch his eye as a place to film one of his films,” he said.
The city manager said he too was bitten by the Hollywood bug and would be in the opening segment.
“I’ll be there as Sen. Finch, with the mayor and his wife on the platform on the opening day. I also will be there the last day, presuming they don’t cut it out. That is what I call is my one-tenth of a second claim to fame,” he said.