Friday, November 6, 2009

Pilot Review: V

Premiered November 3 at 8pm

The arrival of the visitors has certainly been promoted quite extensively, and it would be difficult not to have been by this point that they were coming. Much of the actual arrival sequence was shown in teasers, but the impact of the appearance of the monstrous ships is staged effectively. It’s comparable to the similar scene in “Independence Day,” a superb compliment, but the homage is undercut when characters actually compare it to the film, which apparently exists in the fictional world of the Visitors. The arrival is at times dramatic and intense, and at others comical at best. The human characters on this show are mostly laughable and poorly written, each one more contrived than the next. Counterterrorism agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) is hopelessly paranoid and takes every moment too seriously, trying to make deadpan jokes accompanied by alternately steely and panicked expressions. This is hardly a character fit for Mitchell, who before her transformative season five portrayal of Juliet on “Lost,” used to be typecast as the insanely creepy villainess (see “Running Scared” to see how terrifying emotionless she can be). Morris Chestnut is also given little to do as a man with a mysterious past who has more of a connection to things than it initially appears. Logan Huffman is the most unfortunate character on the show, Erica’s son Tyler, who, when he’s not saying something stupid, is just getting himself way too obviously close to the Visitors. Scott Wolf is typically unremarkable as a TV reporter who cites his occupation as a journalist as a reason to be uptight and obnoxious. The dialogue is tragic and painful, and the stories aren’t much better. Alan Tudyk’s one-shot role was evidently going to be so short-lived from the start of the episode, and his betrayal of Erica can be seen coming from his first moment onscreen. The Visitors are at least a bit more intriguing, and sci-fi series vets Morena Baccarin (“Firefly”) and Laura Vandervoort (“Smallville”) instill them both with an enticing but subtly creepy demeanor. Beyond the cast and the writing, the show’s attempted incorporation of modernity and technology ruins the dated feel it could and probably should have, like with the ambassador program Tyler applies to, and the show will likely be a victim of its own attempt to be hip. Still, I’m interested enough to see what’s going to happen, and I suppose the show deserves credit for that.

How will it work as a series? There’s a lot to be sorted out, and Erica’s investigation and the Visitors’ integration into society should provide interesting material for a while. This show may likely follow the trajectory of “Flash Forward,” which, after a far more awe-inspiring pilot, seems to have gotten caught up with its conspiracy theories and the doggedness of its lead investigator’s search for the truth. If the focus remains equally on the Visitors themselves, the show may stay fresh, but it can only go on so long before the Visitors become truly acclimated to society.
How long will it last? The way ABC is rolling out the show isn’t a strong start, airing four episodes in November and then saving the rest of its episodes for midway through 2010. Nonetheless, the pilot drew strong ratings, though I suspect that it will plummet week-to-week as the show’s novelty wears off. My prediction is that it won’t survive its hiatus and will find itself pulled from the air before the end of its initial run, though it could surprise me and make it to a second season.

Pilot grade: C-

No comments: