On TV: V
The main danger with turning the 1983 alien invasion miniseries V into a viable 2009 series is -- well -- doing it at all. V is a sci-fi monolith, a creepy bacchanal of ooze, lizard-people, and enough camp to make it all palatable. Its hair-raising birthing scene still competes with Alien for most unforgettable womb excretion ever. That said, it also belongs in 1983, when melodrama reigned and Muppet Workshop creations served as monsters in climactic scenes. ABC's new revamp compensates by taking V out of the puppet show and into the big-budget world of cityscapes, Scott Wolf, and special effects -- all the while gaining a self-seriousness that feels just as invasive as the "Visitors" themselves.
It's considered bad journalistic form to start an article with a question, and I vote to apply the same logic to budding science fiction series. Case in point: V opens with stills of white text that read: "Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you on 9/11? Where were you this morning?" So fart-knockingly stupid, ABC. The only lizard-alien associated with either of those events is the scaly Duck Phillips. Bottom line, let's leave the far-fetched "V meets 9-11" Venn diagrams to preteen messageboard hoverers, and not the viewers who understand the difference between reality and the new Scott Wolf alien series.
After that glaring error, V heads in the right direction. We meet a varied cast of people entering what seems like armageddon, as giant spaceships descend upon 29 different countries. A fawn-eyed Visitor (the formal name for aliens, and V's namesake) named Anna appears on a spaceship Jumbotron and greetings the gaping townspeople with a message: "We are of peace. Always." The streets fill with cheers, but our protagonists aren't so sure Anna is as much of a pacifist as she says. Plus, she speaks slowly and has dark hair -- which seems like trouble.
Our head skeptic is Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), an FBI counter-terrorist agent whose off days are spent chasing around her rascal teenager Tyler (Logan Huffman). She acquires search warrants and coincidental information connecting the alien race and regular old human terrorism, which should benefit Earth in the near future. Chad Decker (the aforementioned Wolf) is a sleazy TV journalist whose show Anna (Morena Baccarin) uses as a way for the Visitors to communicate with Earth. A few other side-plots emerge during this first hour, including Tyler's friendly allegiance with a cute blonde alien named Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) who gives tours of the mothership, but thus far we're just glimpsing what will certainly be a dogged investigation into our unnervingly friendly, intergalactic companions.
Mitchell is the clear star here, pumping through blocked doorways and juggling worldly and familial chaos, but her performance says something about V's goals. For all her heroism, she's also cardboard -- an expected protagonist whose humorlessness blanches the show's potential for exciting psychological drama. And about that drama: Amid all this comic book mise-en-scene, V is just too somber and muted -- from the tepid supporting cast to the putty-colored sky. But then again so was FlashForward, that other dystopian ABC series which went on to win a resilient following. V's setup thus far is intriguing and sinister, but in order to resist alienating finickier Earth-dwellers, it needs to wake up from its Zoloft haze and learn to reclaim the fun of sexy, creepy infiltration.