T Lo is Watching: “Falling Skies”

Posted on June 25, 2011

With The Killing giving us THE WORST FINALE EVER, and since Project Runway and The A-List: New York, don’t start for another month, we thought we’d devote some time to the latest “aliens among us” series, Falling Skies, from TNT. If you’re like us and you suffered through V and The Event, then you’re either sick of alien invasion TV shows or you’re holding out hope that someone might actually get it right one of these times. We watched the 2-hour pilot this week (which is OnDemand if you’re looking to catch up) and we were pleasantly surprised by this one.

We’re not going so far as to say it’s worth your time. Seriously, we’ve been burned too many times before. But we will say this show, right out of the gate, doesn’t suffer from the biggest problems the aforementioned shows did. It starts off in media res, months after the aliens successfully invaded earth. In other words, this isn’t a show about an alien invasion; it’s a show about an alien occupation. For us, that makes a huge difference. One of the most frustrating things about V was the fact that the entire planet seemed to treat an alien invasion like no big deal and even the people who were nominally the “resistance” were all clean, well-dressed people who, after a day of pretend-fighting aliens, would all go home at night to clean sheets and running water. In other words, V, and to a lesser extent The Event, were flawed on a conceptual level because they never treated an alien invasion like the BFD it’s supposed to be.

Not so with this show. It’s more like The Walking Dead in that sense. Everyone’s a refugeee and civilization is apparently over, for the time being. There’s a resistance, but it’s not the feel-good resistance of so many Hollywood apocalypses. There’s the self-appointed military, and then there’s the “civilians,” which in this case, is everyone who doesn’t have military-ready skill sets; that is to say, the vast majority of the population. Right there that sets up a tension that could provide a nice framework for all the stories going forward and could ask some rather uncomfortable questions about how quickly we’d revert back to… well, back to the days when armies decided the fate of the world.

The first two hours were focused on short-term missions; getting food and checking out an armory. It would be nice if the show continued in that vein. Clearly, the survivors are barely surviving at all and there are questions being asked about how this makeshift society is going to work. Meanwhile, the aliens are still out and about, harvesting earth’s children.

Oh, did we not mention? For once, the aliens have a seemingly simple goal: they want our kids. We’re sure it’ll be a while before we find out why, but it’s so refreshing to encounter aliens with simple-to-understand life plans. After 2 seasons of V, can anyone really sum up exactly what those Prada lizards were here for? Can anyone tell us what the “event” actually was? The problem with so many of the failed attempts at good sci-fi shows the last couple of years is that none of them seemed to understand the K.I.S.S. principle. The status quo of the fictional world should be fairly easy to sum up in a sentence or two. If it’s not, you’ll have a hard time keeping the audience engaged and a hard time building more complicated stories on top of your baseline. The premise here couldn’t be simpler and the pilot unfolds in a confident, low-key manner that fills you in nicely on the details, while introducing you to all the major players. A good, solid start, as far as we’re concerned. Although we’re warning you now: there’s a fairly cheesy (and painfully obvious) “Sawyer” ripoff right there in the pilot and we can’t say that fills us with confidence.

We’ll leave the rest of the summing up for our first real recap, but if you’re still looking for a decent alien invasion show, you might want to check this one out. It’s on TNT, Sunday nights at ten. Meet us on the couch.

[Picture credit: Ken Woroner/TNT]

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