Tuesday, November 03, 2009

V - Very Much in Need of Work But Still Watchable

Warning: Spoilers!
(spoilage factor: about the same as the hamster in the original TV movie)

The remake of V was one of the TV shows I was eagerly anticipating over the summer months. Another SF show to shake up the cop-heavy evening TV roster these days (although one of the lead characters is an FBI agent! Ugh.) is a good thing. And while I remember the original V being reasonably good when it hit the air back in the 80's, sometimes, as BSG has shown us (although it's inspiration was a crap-fest, so there was nowhere to go but up in that case), a remake with a new twist or two on the storyline can be a breath of fresh air in the world of entertainment (aside from The Bionic Woman, that is).

The new version that aired tonight was reasonably entertaining and has the potential to fill a season or two. But it was far from perfect.

My biggest beef was the TV interview scene where journalist Chad Decker (played by Scott Wolf) folds like a cheap deck chair when alien commander Anna (Firefly's Morena Baccarin) gives him the "only ask the nice questions or the show's over" routine. Ah, no. It would be believable for a cub fresh out of journalism school to be intimidated and fall for that, but not a seasoned reporter who's been around long enough and done enough to earn a spot on a major TV station, especially one who's news director trusted with the assignment of covering the arrival of the aliens. Oh sure, the scene makes an attempt to be credible by having Decker say something to the effect of "that's not how we do things around here", and after it's over he grouses about it, but the bottom line is no self-respecting journalist would fall for that kind of blackmail. I've been a reporter and I can tell you that in reality, that scene would have played out in just the opposite way: seconds to air and Anna bats her big brown eyes and gives the my-way-or-the-highway schtick. One of three things would then happen: 1) the reporter would shrug and say something like "let's see where the conversation takes us" or "let's see what happens" and then proceed to ask whatever he'd intended to all along, including the tough questions (very likely); 2) the reporter might lie and say "okay" and then ambush the alien with the rough stuff mid-interview (less likely, but plausible); or 3) the reporter sticks to his guns and insists he's asking whatever questions he wants to, and the story -rightly so - goes from "polite sit-down interview with Commanderette Zircon" to "what are the aliens trying to hide?" - and he might even tell her quite bluntly that this would be what would happen if she didn't agree to sit down and answer all the questions, the good and the bad, as he asked them. Scenario 3 is also very, very likely.

I was also somewhat annoyed at universal healthcare being used as a tool of the Visitors to win over the unsuspecting human population and put the Earth one step closer to the shadow of their nefarious schemes. Fact is, this offer would utterly fail to influence most of the developed world. Most industrialized nations have some form of universal healthcare. The Americans are among the few holdouts. Most of the rest of the world that doesn't have it wants it, and the clumsy attempt by the writers to imply that it might be sinister, or, heavens to betsy, an alien notion, will probably be lost or laughable to audiences outside the US. This is cheap theatrics at its worst. At a time when Americans are debating whether to do the smart thing and adopt some form of universal healthcare to ensure people get the help they need, this sort of snide association with bad guys cheapens the discussion. Makes me glad to be in Canada where if Visitors tried to entice us with that offer we'd probably reply: "Oh. That's nice. Not a bad idea. We already have it though. Tommy Douglas and all that."

Then of course there's the whole "they've been here conspiring against us in secret for a long time now!" sub-plot that's been done to death and is completely unnecessary. Simplicity, guys! Simplicity! This really doesn't have to be the X-Files to work! Although, since they do seem to be determined ot make this a major crutch of the plot, I did like Morris Chestnut's Visitor-in-disguise character, Ryan, and the choices he has to make. In a way he reminded me of the Simon aboard the fleet in the recent BSG movie The Plan, however the advantage of the Cylon is that his plot was able to explore this dilemma succinctly and effectively in occasional scenes during a 2-hour feature, while the Visitor may have to hash his issues out over an entire season or two, which runs the risk of becoming tiresome.

Lastly, killing-off Alan Tudyk in the pilot was lame. I don't say this as an irate Firefly fanboy (although, while not a Browncoat, I do quite enjoy the exploits of Serenity's crew). The fact is that the man's a good enough actor that it would have been a treat to see him play an alien double-agent.

On the up side, Baccarin's (I hate to say it) serenity is very effective at making her character intensely creepy (especially since we know pretty much what these planet-leapin' lizards are up to). And I'm interested to see how the series plays out and what sort of deviations they'll make from the original.

Of course, the real question is, when will Marc Singer and Michael Ironside make an appearance and start kickin' ass and taking names?

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