Starz’s original horror series, “Shining Vale,” starring Courteney Cox, introduces us to Pat Phelps, a woman suffering from writer’s block who is moving from Brooklyn to Shining Vale with her husband, Terry, and two children, Gaynor and Jake. The dysfunctional family makes this move as they deal with Pat’s infidelity with a plumber, which she blames on her state of mind.
In the two 30-odd minute episodes of “Shining Vale,” we are shown how Pat is seeing ghosts or could be dealing with her mental health issues. There are light references thrown at Slyvia Plath and “The Bell Jar,” perhaps to establish the fact that Pat, as a writer, may be dealing with not just infidelity but also some hidden psychosis. It is also established in the series that Pat’s mother too suffered from psychosis.
Even though the series was announced in 2018, because of the pandemic, the shooting kept getting postponed, and we finally got to see Courteney Cox headlining a show, in 2022. As Patricia Phelps, Courteney Cox is effortless and walks through the character with a lot of ease. In just two episodes, she manages to keep the audiences hooked onto a plot that tethers on mental health and/or horror. Greg Kinnear as Terry, Pat’s husband, is also fitting in the role. Her children, played by Gus Birney and Dylan Gage, will perhaps have more fleshed-out roles as the series progresses. Her daughter, Gaynor, is a rebellious teen who clearly doesn’t get along with her mother. Her son Jake seems to have some neuro-divergence himself as he is socially awkward and unable to make friends except for when he is connecting with people via metaverse and augmented reality games.
But what we really want to see is how and who Rosemary is. Played by Mira Sorvino, it is revealed in the first two episodes that Rosemary, a former house owner of Shining Vale, could be haunting Pat and her family. Even though Pat is the only one aware of the unexplained events happening around her, it may very well be her hallucinations. Pat even sees a little girl, who is later revealed to be Rosemary’s younger self. Pat, who as we know is suffering from writer’s block, is threatened by her editor with being fired if she doesn’t send them the first chapter of her novel. Pat wrote a book years ago which became a hit. She has been trying to write the sequel but has not been able to do it due to her mental health issues. Pat receives a bit of help from the unexplained events happening around her. The “Shining Vale” episode ends with Pat discovering a secret passageway in a cupboard that has a secret peep-hole. However, she is shocked out of her wits when she is tapped on the shoulder by Rosemary, who tells her that she isn’t losing her mind.
In the past few years, a lot of series have been made on mental health issues, be it “13 Reasons Why,” “Euphoria,” or the “United States of Tara,” to name a few. We honestly do feel that the makers of “Shining Vale” do have a point to drive home rather than just show a dysfunctional family being haunted by ghosts, a plot done to death in Hollywood. As for the leads, they have two Oscar winners and Courteney Cox, who is probably one of the greatest television icons present. There is not much to complain about, as the makers have ensured that the mystery of the series does remain watertight. The house they live in fits to the T when it comes to a haunted setting. It has a melancholic backdrop, with wooden interiors and a wide garden. The town is sheepish, with one of Phelps’ neighbors supposedly into cult-like behavior.
It will also be interesting to see how the rebellious Gaynor, who joins a chastity group for the sake of her boyfriend and his mom, is clearly hiding her own secrets or is part of a cult, and who also knows that maybe Pat’s haunting could be real after all and not in her head.
All said and done, the series belongs to Courteney Cox. For her loyal fans from the 90s, this series serves as a treat as she is present in every frame and is the glue that holds the series together. The first two episodes have indeed piqued the interests of the fans, and we wonder how they will build up the mystery as the story progresses.
“Shining Vale” is a 2022 Horror Comedy series created by Jeff Astrof and Sharon Horgan.