‘V’ is for ‘vacant’
I’m not sure how many Jammer’s Realm viewers of V are out there, but I thought I would chime in with an installment of Other Things Jammer Watches.
Today’s installment: V, or “ABC’s V,” as the network likes to say. (What is it about ABC that has to advertise that its shows are its shows? And why is the V logo on ABC’s ads slapped on top of a backdrop of a Chicago skyline when the show takes place in New York?)
I’ve been watching V since the pilot, which I thought was pretty engaging (if unoriginal, even setting aside the fact that the show is a remake) as pilots go. It established the premise with a compelling Independence Day-like arrival of the aliens, and then thrust itself into a workable, albeit hardly riveting, mix of action and intrigue. The production values were above average. The characters were a workable motley crew. The themes of paranoia and notions of sleeper agents and double agents and hybrid children reminded me of some of Battlestar Galactica‘s strengths.
After the pilot, the initial brief fall run of episodes was … well, not all that great. Just sorta okay. Just enough for me to come back. Granted, one of the show’s central “emotional” plots, involving the Elizabeth Mitchell character’s son, was pretty damn lame. During the long midseason hiatus of the show, much was made of the fact that the show was going to be tweaked and new showrunner Scott Rosenbaum (he of The Shield) was hired. V was being billed as being more urgent and better and more compelling in the new year. I’d hoped the mother/son subplot would get less lame, among other things.
But I’m totally not seeing it. Aside from a cool scene here or there (e.g., alien sex that then ends with the mate being apparently eaten), this show is just a sluggish morass of derivative themes and empty-shell characters. And excessive, obvious green-screen scenes on the ship. Elizabeth Mitchell (she of Lost) is a capable lead, but the show has saddled her with … well, just not much that’s interesting. And plenty that is just plain bad, like almost every scene involving her son, who acts like an annoying plot device that is driven toward the visitors not because his character makes sense, but because he is an idiot and the story needs him to go in that direction to maintain the illusion that this show has anything at stake.
Over the past few weeks, the show has just become ridiculous. Last night’s episode featured the ultimate in sci-fi stories being reduced to boring police procedural details and action movie cliches. When that guy was under sniper fire and then panicked and got shot, I rolled my eyes because the whole thing was just so predictably executed. Why is a sci-fi show about lizards giving me a scene at an amusement park where a guy is being shot at by a human sniper like something that would happen on 24? Granted, 24 would have done it more competently.
In the post-Battlestar, post-Lost television landscape where sci-fi has been proven as something that can appeal to mainstream tastes while still telling compelling sci-fi stories that have imagination and brilliance to them, V plays like particularly lame-brained sci-fi. The plots are mechanical, the characters are ciphers who spew cliches, and the mythology is nonexistent.
And the show has managed to jump the shark already, with one of the most unintentionally hilariously godawful awkward gratuitous teenage sex scenes of all time. (What were they thinking with that song??? And I don’t use three question marks lightly.)
And the use of “blue energy” (as opposed to “green energy,” I suppose) in this episode managed to make this whole enterprise feel like a show sinking in its hokum. Ooooh, ahhhh! Lightning in a bottle! Literally!
The simple fact is that the show has no legs to stand on in the absence of the V’s having any explained motivation for not simply conquering humanity immediately. Why are they here, and what do they want, and why should we care? And can’t this be done without seeming like a lazy parody of sci-fi?
At this point, I think I’m going to keep watching V just to see how bad it can get.