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November 5, 2009

V - the new ABC series is actually pretty darn good!

I was torn when I heard that they were re-making "V", that kitschy SF series from the 1980s about lizard aliens who come to Earth in apparently human form, ostensibly in peace and good will but ultimately to take us for food and remove our water because they need both.

The first episode of what will be a 4-episode November launch, followed by a Spring full launch, was shown on Tuesday night.  Reports say that it was the highest rated new scripted show this season (it saddens me that they now have to add that "scripted" caveat to these things).  That's definitely good news, though it will depend on how it goes the next three weeks to see if it can retain that audience. So far, it will definitely retain me.

The basics are still there, though we don't know what the Visitors want this time around, other than that it's not good for humanity!  I'm sure they'll get rid of the stupid "Visitors need water" premise, as water is the most abundant resource in the universe.  Any civilization that can produce starships that can cross the vastness of space will not have any problem getting water.

My main criticism of the show was that the Visitors were revealed for what they were much too fast, and that was before I knew that this was a 4-episode launch (effectively a 4-hour miniseries that stretches over 4 weeks).  Knowing that now, I definitely think they were revealed too fast.  There should have been a lot of tension, a lot of hints that things aren't necessarily what they seem, but not the total reveal.  On the other hand, I can see why they might feel they need to do it like this.  Pretty much everybody knows the premise from the old show, even if they didn't actually watch the old one, so having the big reveal be that they're lizards wouldn't be that effective.  Whether the reasoning was good or bad, it just felt too rushed.  Of course, the revelation of some of the new details was quite good, especially the fact that they have been among us for a long time, even before they revealed themselves.

The acting is actually pretty good so far, headlined by Morena Baccarin as the leader (at least publicly) of the Visitors.  She comes off slicker than a politician with the ingratiating smile and seemingly open manner, but we haven't seen her when she's being herself.  Once we start seeing that, we'll see how well Baccarin plays the role, but she was pretty good here.  I also really liked Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols, a man with a past he's trying very hard to hide from the woman he's about to ask to marry him.  When his secret past is truly revealed, and then even more of it is revealed at the end of the episode, it's quite shocking.  Considering his associate Georgie (David Richmond-Peck) didn't even know the other part of his past, you have to wonder exactly what the two of them were involved in before.  Also, it's always nice to see Alan Tudyk (I loved him in Dodgeball) again; let's hope he doesn't get killed off.

The production values are first-rate, and the cinematography seems to be taking it's cue from Battlestar Galactica, despite the subject matter and settings being so totally different.  Everything's kind of greyed out, almost gritty.  It's quite well-done, and unfortunately puts the old series to shame even when you realize that they couldn't do a lot of things in the 80s they could do now.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about this, at least briefly.  In Hollywood in this day and age, I can't believe this was even made without major script and plot changes.  At least from the pilot episode, I have to say this is one of the most Conservative shows out there.  It's almost blatantly anti-Obama, almost too much so at times; I wish they'd been a bit more subtle.  When journalist Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) gets the chance of a lifetime to interview Anna, he jumps at it.  Then, before the interview, she demands that he not ask her any questions that will "put the Visitors in a bad light" or the interview won't happen.  Chad's conflicted, but he ultimately agrees.  She then rubs his nose in it by saying, on-camera, that he's free to ask anything he wants.  They have nothing to hide.  Finally, she actually makes a Universal Health Care pitch during the interview!  They do realize that she's the bad guy, right?

There are quite a few other references too.  Talk about admiration turning to "devotion" and even "worship," the fact that the Visitors come claiming to bring us anything that we want and need to lead us out of the Hell that we're currently in.  The message of "hope."  It's all quite obvious.  There's one reference about "unnecessary wars" that could conceivably be about Bush, but it seems much more general than that.  I was quite surprised (ok, I knew about this ahead of time, but I was surprised when I first heard about it).

All in all, this was a strong pilot episode with a few nits (Vic Holtreman at Screen Rant wonders why the Visitors gave their ships the ability to basically turn into huge-screen TVs to broadcast messages when Anna claims they never expected to ever meet intelligent life anywhere else in the universe).  I'm definitely sticking around for the 4-episodes and will make a decision on the Spring launch afterwards.  But so far so good!


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