Think about how easily this idea could have gone south. Apply too little creative thought, and this souped-up updating of NBC's much-loved 1983 miniseriescould easily have become the same cheesy, tacky rehash mess that NBC made of Knight Rider. Overthink the project, and you risk bleeding all the fun out of it and creating an overly dark lump like Bionic Woman.
Tonight, writer Scott Peters, whose The 4400 was one of TV's best recent alien-invasion dramas, hits all the right chords. He adds just enough modern media twists and political/sleeper-cell parallels to contemporize the story without drowning it in paranoia. The clothes and hair have changed, no doubt for the better, but the essentials are all in place – including, we can only hope, the visitors' legendary fondness for hamsters.
What he and ABC have landed on is a show in which the effects are good but not dominant, the characters are strong, and the story is (as it was) crystal clear. Space visitors have landed, and it's up to a few hardy souls to save a gullible world.
I never saw the original series, so I have no frame of reference with which to compare this update. Still, I liked the new Bionic Woman and I loved Sci Fi Channel's reimagined Battlestar Galactica, so perhaps I'm easy to please, but that doesn't take away at all from how much I enjoyed the first hour. Still, I am warned:
As with those Americans looking up at Anna's lovely face on that hovering spaceship HDTV, it would be unwise to be too easily seduced. V opens incredibly well. But so did the original miniseries, only to peter out as an open-ended show. Embrace the show, but keep your eyes open.
Update: To some people, the show is political commentary:
Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.
The news media swoons in admiration -- one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: "Why don't you show some respect?!" The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader's origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: "Embracing change is never easy."
So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait -- did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who's come here to eat us?
Welcome to ABC's "V," the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it's also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president's supporters and delight his detractors.
Regarding V, I would like this cigar to be just a cigar.