November 4, 2009By Joe Diliberto Posted: Nov 4, 2009
The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we've seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.
This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering "universal health care" — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn't compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!
It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl...er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.
Of course, that could be due to the clichés in the plotline: Morris Chestnut played a man with a mysterious past that comes back to haunt him just as he's about to propose. And the FBI office investigating the case has a mole tipping off the bad guys, so our heroine — played by Elizabeth Mitchell, who has loads of science-fiction cred herself, thanks to her much-admired run as LOST's Juliet — has to act as a lone wolf. That is, when she isn't playing heroic single mom to surly teen Tyler, who has the requisite doofus best friend and a thing for comely newcomer Lisa. Zzzz...
Chad was told, "Compromising one's principles for the greater good is not a shameful act. It is a noble one." So if you want to watch V as currently constituted, then that's fine. It's diverting enough. But don't delude yourself into thinking it's for the greater good; it's actually more of a lowest common denominator.
Contrast all this with STARGATE UNIVERSE, which takes some familiar ideas (It's basically STARGATE crossed with STAR TREK: VOYAGER and a dash of LOST IN SPACE) and mashes them up into something greater than the sum of its parts. All SGU did was add a bunch of interesting character conflict, and really think about its premise; what's really powerful and interesting about it? Then the-powers-that-be wrote good stories around those characters and ideas. Simple, right?
Simple as A-B-C. But can ABC pull it off with V?