Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall TV Round Up 4: V

Liked it, didn't love it.

For those in the industry--particularly screenwriters--the above is the most hated phrase in the industry.  But it sums up fairly nicely how I felt about V.  Or, rather, how V left me feeling about it.

What we have here is a lot of story and very little character development.  There's at least half a season arc, reveals, and drama crammed into the pilot, which made the show feel rushed and didn't set up things as well as it could have.  Part of this kind of sci-fi/adventure show is taking the audience along on a journey of discovery: who are the Visitors?  Why are they here?  What do they want?  How do they plan to get it?  What does that mean for humanity?  The pilot effectively took out the who, why, and summed up the last few questions with: nothing good, everyone's going to die (or at least suffer horribly).  Read More...

(BTW, everyone already knows the Visitors are giant lizards, yes?  This is not shocking.)

This show could easily occupy the void left by Battlestar Galactica in tackling some serious thematic issues. Off the top of my head:

  • You have the messianic quality of the V's and the public's desire to accept them at face value.  Manipulation of mass media (Anna's statement that "we cannot afford any bad publicity" was too telling--I really don't think she'd blithely admit that to a reporter, given their masterful handling of the human race so far).

  • Identity--in the teenager who's trying to find some place to fit in and runs to the Vs because they're exotic and Mom says not to (allegory to Hitler Youth aside); the reveal that Ryan is a sleeper!V himself--a reveal I would have built up to--and identifies with humanity enough to ask a Human woman to marry him; the reporter's desire for success in his chosen field is attainable only by ignoring the very nature of what he wants to do.

  • The chaos of religions trying to reconcile the existence of aliens and God (though if the aliens maintain they look exactly like us then that whole 'made in God's image' thing at least takes care of Christianity).  There's a lot to mine in Joel Gretsch's Father Landry, who goes against the Vatican's edict to accept the Visitor's with open arms and instead preaches a more wary, suspicious approach.  "We're all so quick to jump on the bandwagon.  A ride on the bandwagon, it sounds like fun. But before we get on, let us at least make sure it is sturdy."  And he's right, they should have to earn Humanity's trust because with all they've shown that the know about us, they did not have to appear to us as they did, with 29 ships over world capitals.  That's the kind of subtlety that should inform the show, and that characters should eventually ask.  ($10 says the other Priest is a sleeper!V.  Or a Human V agent.)

  • Terrorism is written by the victors.  One of the main characters is a female FBI agent who hooks up with a group of anti-V dissidents.  For a terrorist cell that claims the Vs have been here for a while and have infiltrated every aspect of Human society, have the ability to by a lot of C4, and are dangerous enough to attract FBI attention, these people aren't too good at keeping their meetings secret.  Text messages on cell phones, concrete evidence, the leaders appear at the first-contact gatherings...worst terrorist/conspiracy theory group I've ever seen.  This is a fairly sloppy set up to ask "what defines terrorism?"  It does not fill me with hope.

  • Alan Tudyk is awesome.  This is a theme that should be expounded upon, at length, by every show on TV.  And Morena Baccarin is fantastic.
I'm giving this show the benefit of the doubt.  But I have to say that if it comes to Lizard vs Toaster, I have no doubt the toaster wins.  Lizard says "Frak."


sleepingnaked said...

Part of me hopes they were so obvious about things because there are much more subtle things in motion. It did spell a lot of things out--almost like Battlestar for Dummies--but I have hope that it will get better. The part that gets me, though, is the universal health care. I understand allegories, I understand symbolism, but they're making this so blatant and so perfect that there's absolutely nothing there except for the fall.

I think it would be interesting if the show delved into the backstories, instead. Spent a few episodes showing how the characters got that way, how the V infiltrated. Maybe even the rest of the reason. I doubt that will happen, but I can hope?

Al said...


I share your hope, but I'm not sure. They've had a lot of trouble in production--so much so that ABC has decided to test out the whole 'pods' thing where they're showing a handful of episodes (either 4 or 6 I think), then taking a long break and coming back with the rest of the season. And I think they even changed Show Runners so...we'll see. I'm definitely giving it a chance. (As for the health care thing, I ignored it in the hopes it goes far, far away. Selective blindness.)

I agree on the back stories, and that all goes to character development, which was abysmal in the first episode. Particularly since they were trying to make Elizabeth Mitchell's character the focus of the show, and her FBI Agent mom was the blandest of them all. I'm with you, hoping it gets better!