‘V’ is ‘pretty terrific’ in its plan to serve man

Nov. 03, 2009 | 3:28 p.m.

Is “V” for victory? The much-promoted alien-invasion series premieres tonight on ABC and, according to Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara, the pilot (like that smooth-talking alien lady) seems like the best thing to arrive on Earth in a long time. Here’s an excerpt of her review. — Geoff Boucher

 

Some story lines just never get old — star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, lizard men from outer space.

It’s impossible to tiptoe around the main plot device of ABC’s “V” — those aliens may be smart and purty but they’re up to no good — because it is, of course, a remake of the 1983 miniseries. And even if it weren’t, writers Kenneth Johnson and Scott Peters have infused the pilot with as many sly sci-fi references as CG special effects. [For the record: The review of the television series “V” in Tuesday’s Calendar said the pilot was written by Kenneth Johnson and Scott Peters. As the writer of the original miniseries, Johnson was given a “story by” credit. Peters wrote the pilot.]

Which are pretty terrific, as is the pilot in general. Although fans of the first “V” may find themselves longing for Richard Herd’s Supreme Commander in his jaunty jumpsuit and funky glasses, this “V” is not only sleeker, faster and more visually gripping, it promises to be thematically more compelling.

Its opening sequence is a masterpiece of back-story compression. What appears to be a temblor startles a series of characters (and an almost flawless cast gathered from various sci-fi hits): Erica Evans (“Lost’s” Elizabeth Mitchell) is an anti-terrorism agent with the FBI and divorced mother of Tyler (Logan Huffman), a basically decent but rebellious teen. Chad Decker (Scott Wolf from “Party of Five”) is a newscaster who aspires to do more than “read the news”; Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch of “The 4400”) is a young priest working among the homeless; and Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) has just purchased the engagement ring he hopes to offer Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto).

V visitors 

All of their plans are put on hold, however, when the quake turns out to be the arrival of an enormous spaceship, one of a matched set now hovering over all the major cities of the world. But even as the throngs prepare for the requisite scream-flee-and-die scene of mass hysteria, the underbelly of the craft becomes a screen and the lovely Anna (“Firefly’s” Morena Baccarin) assures everyone in flawless English (and French and Egyptian) that “the Visitors” are here to offer technology in exchange for a few undisclosed but very renewable resources, and they come in peace.

Undone by relief, Anna’s Audrey Hepburn haircut and the promise that the Visitors can cure 65 of our diseases, humans, or at least New Yorkers, neglect to consider that they are a renewable resource themselves. Like the gullible little oysters in “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” they quickly embrace the “V’s,” signing up for theme-park-like tours of the ship and, of course, merchandising like crazy. Fortunately, not everyone is convinced…

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Geoff Boucher

Elizabeth Mitchell in V Elizabeth Mitchell, unlikely action hero for “V” and “Lost”

Elizabeth Mitchell on shady motivations

Original “V” creator Kenneth Johnson returns to reptiles

Watch the first nine minutes of “V” pilot

“FlashForward” may actually be awful

“FlashForward” arrives with “Lost”-like expectations

“FlashForward” team downplays “Lost” comparisons

Photo credit: ABC

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