V – TV Review

There’s something decidedly odd about all the rebooting going on these days, and when a show has a “gag,” we’re in even stranger territory. What’s odd about the whole deal, especially recently, is that there are so many television shows getting one reworking or another that decide against camp. In a kind of mirror effort to the reworking of Battlestar Galactica,┬áV is debuting tonight, and whether either of them are good or bad, the whole idea is just weird.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this reconstruction trend is messing with my childhood. I liked it better when someone would take something awesomely bad like The Dukes of Hazzard, and tell themselves they could make a pretty stupid movie out of it that might make some money. Fair enough really. But, the dripping with camptasticness Battlestar Galactica is suddenly deadly serious, and everyone speaks like it’s Patton or somesuch, and Cylons are hot chicks, and Liam Neeson is in The A-Team… well, I ran away with myself there a bit.

As if in snooty retort to the popularity of Battlestar Galactica‘s remake (Pfff… You think that’s a silly, camp sci-fi show? Watch this.), here comes V, with all the serious drama it can squeeze into a show we already know is about lizards in human suits.

That said, things actually work out pretty well, even if ABC has already opted for a strange split-airing. According to recent reports, four episodes will air consecutively, with the rest (allegedly) to follow… well, whenever. The late start, strange break, and ABC‘s penchant for shutting down shows make for a curious combination with the apparent budget.

As much as you may want to dismiss this one out of hand, it isn’t quite so easy once you’ve actually seen it. Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Scott Wolf, and a deliciously creepy Morena Baccarin work their roles very well, and though there are a few angles that play out less than perfectly, they are more or less mandatory given where the show is going insofar as remaining true to the original. A certain scene may make you roll your eyes, but how else were we going to get there?

The show has a tough road ahead, not least by way of people forgetting about it by episode five, but it’s certainly putting forward a real effort. With a tone surprisingly similar to ABC‘s other show about wacky goings on this year, FlashForward, there is no mistaking the idea that we’re very serious. There is some question about whether or not we’re taking ourselves a little too seriously here, but that’s the sort of thing that probably can’t be resolved until we’re a few more episodes in.

The real question about the series is how long does it progress with viewers knowing what’s coming? The pilot is almost a throwaway in terms of judging it, because you’re inclined to write anything it does poorly off as the necessary evil. In some ultimate sense it has a couple of twists and turns, but it telegraphs them almost ridiculously, and you probably won’t care. The show doesn’t make a serious effort in not making certain things, more or less, obvious, because it doesn’t make any difference. What’s the complaint? You knew that was going to happen? Of course you did.

But, when does the show break free? We have to play along with a first episode and the general establishment of the situation, but I don’t know how long the thing holds interest if it’s going to run through the general outline. Do we have to sit through the whole red dust thing? I’m not sure I’m apt to bother.

Wherever the exact point you pick up your goofy pin and jam it in this donkey, the truth is that if there had never been a first version, this one would be a pretty interesting show. The pilot leads us to believe there may be a little too much mother/son going on, and it’s hard to predict how all the terrorist angles and so on will develop over time, but it’s worth a look.

On the other hand, most of what was best about the original were things like watching Diana eat mice, and it’s hard to start down that road without the camp.

Are You Screening?

 

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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