‘V’ is for ‘vacant’

ABC's VThe aliens arrive in the pilot of V. It’s downhill from there, as plenty of boring unoriginal stuff happens.

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.

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26 comments on this post

David
Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 7:18 pm (UTC -6)

It isn’t that bad. It is no LOST by any stretch of the imagination and as brilliant as it is I realize most shows can never be *that* good. It did start off slow in the first four episodes but I think it has improved since the return from hiatus. It doesn’t break any new ground but it is harmless mindless entertainment and there could be worse ways to spend an hour.

I’m not worried yet about the fact the writers are keeping the V’s plans shrouded in mystery afterall Lost doesn’t give everything away at the outset. Now if is glossed over or the explanation for why they haven’t just seized Earth isn’t satisfying then I’ll have a problem.

Right now I’m going to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out before deciding if I want to stick around should it get a new season.

Jim
Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 9:32 pm (UTC -6)

Heh, I’ve been watching this show since day one as well and completely agree. The first few episodes I was positive about the show, and its all been downhill from there. This show kind of reminds me of Earth: Final Conflict (itself probably a copy of the original V) in both its plot and the downhill trend of episodes. That show, like this one, became entirely unwatchable by Season 2 due to the overuse of standard sci-fi plots and lame acting.

It’s kind of funny that you mention the horrible music in that one scene because I feel like the music in V is overdone in general (lots of loud melodramatic music playing constantly) but that scene was a whole new low.

David
Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 11:38 pm (UTC -6)

I don’t quite understand Jammer saying he is going to watch it to see how bad it gets–I can sorta understand that mentality if it was a show you really enjoyed over the years and then it comes off the rails in its later years and you stick with it to the bitter end.

It has only been 7 episodes so if you hate it that much stop watching it. Oh well to each their own.

enniofan
Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 11:52 pm (UTC -6)

I haven’t really found it that compelling a watch either.

I don’t find it overly horrible or poorly made….but I do keep thinking “what if the team behind BSG got a hold of this show?”

Hank
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 1:05 am (UTC -6)

I agree with all those points.

I’ve watched V from the beginning. I also caught the first couple episodes of Flashforward. The two shows remind me of each other. They both have an interesting premise and reliable actors, and both try for a sci-fi/soap-opera combination (a la BSG and Lost), but fail to get that mix right.

Part of what made BSG work, was that the drama was tightly coupled to the sci-fi plotting. Together they made a coherent story that was both epic and personal at the same time. V (and what I saw of Flashforward) fail at bringing those two elements together. I feel like I could be watching two separate TV programs. In one Elizabeth Mitchell plays an FBI action hero. In the other she plays a mom worrying about her son. The two stories don’t entirely fit with each other, but they’ve been grafted together to ensure the resulting show meets all the key rating demographics.

Add in some tired cliche’s (Tyler blames himself for his parents divorce? surprise), some believability stretching story elements (don’t FBI agents have to go to work once in a while?), and a lack of compelling action sequences, and what you get is a show destined for “SeaQuest DSV” obscurity.

To avoid being entirely negative though: one think I do like about V is Anna’s relationship with Chad (the TV reporter). They both have agendas that aren’t transparent, so the game of cat and mouse they play is interesting to watch unfold. It’s one of the few story threads where you’re not always two steps ahead of the show.

PS. Has anyone here been following Flashforward? Is it any better?

Latex Zebra
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 2:45 am (UTC -6)

I’d rather watch rerruns of TNG… ;o)

Saw the pilot on SyFy the other night and despite loving the original, this did nothing for me at all. I probably wont watch it again.
I see the ratings are dropping for it as well so I don’t think it’ll get another season.

karatasiospa
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 6:04 am (UTC -6)

I don’t usually like series and movies about alien invasions to earth (with few ecxeptions such as the alien movie). Usually they are just action stories without any other substance so i;m not watching V either.

Quinalla
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:06 am (UTC -6)

I was really looking forward to the V remake, great cast from about every sci-fi show you’ve ever seen, I liked the original fairly well, and it is an interesting premise, but I have been disappointed. Sure, it’s not the worst show ever and it has had a few cool moments, but it could be so much better.

The Tyler storyline is very annoying and keeps getting worse. Anna keeps going on about how he is so important which is just such BS, Anna’s daughter could easily lure some other teen boy since Tyler is so much trouble. It is offensive to the viewer who knows he is important to the writers because he is the lead’s son, but it’s a waste since their interactions are terrible.

They can’t seem to figure out what they want to do with the priest character, which is a huge waste of the actor (he was a lead in The 4400). Though really, they can’t seem to figure out what they want to do with any of the characters, except maybe Anna. Her interactions with the others tend to be the scenes I like the best: with the reporter, her direct underling, the V doctor who is a secret rebel, her daughter, etc.

Alex1939
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:21 am (UTC -6)

I watch ‘V’ for Morena Baccarin.

I really don’t care if this show continues or not, but I will probably continue watching it if it stays on the air. The emo kid needs to die die die!

methane
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 11:06 am (UTC -6)

I generally agree with this. I watch V, but I sometimes get distracted while watching it, especially if I have my computer on. Yes, the son is boring, and the priest doesn’t add much (though I’ve liked the actor in some other roles).

I definitely prefer Flashforward, though I wouldn’t call it great. The worst part of that may be that the lead actor hasn’t gotten me to care about him for most of the season. That’s changed recently, but I think that has more to do with plot starting to come together. Then again, I’ve been watching Lost attentively for its whole run, and the pseudo-lead characters of Jack and Kate have been the least interesting for me for almost the entire run. It’s just these last few episodes where I’ve started to enjoy Jack’s character!

David
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 12:17 pm (UTC -6)

V is a bit better than Flash Forward. Flash Forward started off pretty good but as the fall stretch of episodes continued the series sort of deflated. The characters became less interesting and started to become the focus over the plot/conspiracy which was more compelling. Then they came back with the 2 hour premiere in March which was a middling offering but surprisingly the episodes since then have been much more engaging precisely because the writers seemed to have realized viewers would rather focus on the plot elements and tone down the character focus because they are so bland. This has led to tighter focus and more of a narrative drive & purpose.

FF is now watchable, diverting decent–not great– viewing. Personally, I’m fine with it lasting just a season and being considered a sort of extended mini-series. Afterall so many shows don’t have the material to sustain them for many seasons and tend to go off the rails such as HEROES.

alex99a
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 7:26 pm (UTC -6)

After watching the first batch and the first two current ones, I decided to let it go. Just not enough interesting going on, and I couldn’t make myself really care about what was happening. Besides, it airs opposite “Justified” on FX.

Mark
Friday, April 23, 2010, 11:45 am (UTC -6)

I was wondering if/when you’d speak out (I’ve been following this site for the BSG and ST reviews for some time). I totally agree with everything you’re saying. I was a huge ‘V’ fan when I was a kid because it had an allegorical plot based on Nazi Germany (that the red painted ‘V’ has become a sign FOR the visitors and not AGAINST them as in the original annoys me), lasers, camp, and stuff getting blow’d up. In the original, the teens, for better or for worse, acted like teens with somewhat believable and relevant problems like teen pregnancy. Hell, even the teen in the original that wore a brown uniform, a nod to the Nazi Brown Shirts, felt at least somewhat relevant.

But it feels like with this version, they’re simply plopping characters in front of us and not giving us a real compelling reason to care about them or their plight. The situations feel so wooden that the actors come across as simple plot devices and not characters, which makes it hard to watch. I ended up fast-forwarding through most of the week before’s episode because the whole “you’re not my real dad, sob!!” scene was just grueling to watch, and not because of any poignant emotion.

And what’s up with all the constant shrouding of intentions for everything on the show? By now in the original, we had some sense of what the aliens wanted and what the main characters had for motive. Hell, I rewatched the original V pilot miniseries recently and all of these things were clearly established by the end of that. We’re now a good chunk of the way into the series and I still have no real leads on WTF these people want on either side, and that’s severely draining any semblance of drama for me because it feels confused more than urgent.

I’m going to keep watching anyway for now to see if they can pull this series out, but I’m losing hope. They have potentially so many interesting things that could happen, even with the mess now, but I’m also thankful for my Tivo’s ability to fast-forward through those painful scenes involving that teenage kid.

Eduardo
Monday, April 26, 2010, 3:11 pm (UTC -6)

I saw the first 3 episodes, including the V pilot. The pilot was terrific, but i couldn’t bring myself to check anything after the 3rd show. Morena Baccarín is gorgeous, and Elizabeth Mitchell is a worthy lead. I just couldn’t care for the characters enough.

The teenage son was certainly a negative from the start. And they need to give the priest a direction.

I don’t know why there was behind the scenes turmoil. I’d never seen the Kenneth Johnson original miniseries, so i can’t judge it that much. I did know Scott Peters’ work on the 4400, but that show also had Ira Steven Behr as showrunner, who kept it watchable.

Mitch
Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 10:44 pm (UTC -6)

I totally agree with Jammer’s assessment of V. Even as a stand alone sci-fi series and pretending the original never happened, it’s just bland, dull and generic stuff being dished out. Hah, I thought exactly that at times, I could be watching an episode of 24 or any other action cop show a few episodes back!

I still can’t help comparing it with the original 1983 mini-series though (and later the weekly spin-off that followed it 1984-85 if I remember right). I grew up watching those between my years in elementary and junior high school. That was all we talked about, each episode was exciting, new, fresh and characters you cared about. Heck, and who could forget the strange alien-sounding voices the Vistors had, the humming noise of the shuttle craft, the cool noise of the laser weapons, those red uniforms, the symbol-icon used by the Vistors (to this day I still remember how to draw it!). As someone above mentioned, the allegory to the Nazis had a big affect too, it made the whole thing more frightening and on edge.

This new series is just so poor in many ways. I couldn’t care less for the characters, everything just plods along so slowly and without payoff (or any payoff is so paint by the numbers, you know what’s going to happen next). Hah, I love the uniform of the new Visitors, a jogging suit?? This all reminds me so much of ABC’s The Invasion, another sci-fi series that was greatly hyped, moved along so slowly and went nowhere, and then got cancelled after 1 season. You can almost bet V will be cancelled if not this season, certainty the next.

I’m still watching it for almost the same reason Jammer is, sometimes something is just so bad, it can be entertaining to see if they can top the level of badness by the next episode. 😉 I have been debating whether to keep watching it or not though.

Mitch
Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 10:54 pm (UTC -6)

Oh, and what’s the deal with the Vistors calling themselves “V”s? That is pretty hokey and ridiculous…it’d be like Autobots and Deception in the original TV show calling themselves “The Transformers” (you can tell I grew up in the 80’s, huh?). 🙂 Or the BBC timelord character of the Doctor addressing himself by saying “Hello there, my name is Doctor Who!”.

“V” was the nickname humans gave them in the original series. The aliens didn’t refer to themselves as “V”s. I don’t know, it sort of breaks the 4th wall in a strange and silly way.

JLP
Monday, May 3, 2010, 1:29 pm (UTC -6)

What are you people talking about!!! I live in the UK and have been waiting for V since it was advertised in 2009 (btw it only started being shown recently – currently just watched episode 4)

I have found this programme to be more interesting than a lot of series out there that are trying to pass themselves off as anything but pretty lights and/or people trying to entertain a generation of dumbed down individuals.

I may be wrong, episodes 5 onwards may be utterly crap but from what I read from Jammer’s reviews, a lot of series have issues with season one, its what they do onwards that makes the programme count and most importantly, what the viewers take from them.

Tim
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 9:44 pm (UTC -6)

I had such high hopes for this show. It could have been done so well. Kenneth Johnson’s original mini-series is a classic! I’m just not connecting with any of these characters. The one exception being the minor character of Joshua, the Fifth Column doctor. But the leads aren’t doing it for me. And I agree that the Tyler character is HORRIBLE!

But I’m sticking with it because I think its actually slowly getting better. Anna’s daughter (her name escapes me) has become infinitely more interesting now that she actually has feelings for Tyler. But they need to pick up the pace and reveal SOMETHING of what the Visitors are doing here.

James
Monday, May 10, 2010, 9:49 am (UTC -6)

I like V, I know it´s not that great, not the tv revelation series of the year, but´s still keeps my eye on it, I think it´s enough interesting me to date (I´m seeing Lost and Battlestar, and I´m agreed, those are great peaces of art in tv sci-fi world) but V is an average series, with average action, and average characters, that fulfill my need of entertaining… I really hope that gets a second season, at least to have a decent final.

Jayson
Monday, May 10, 2010, 7:15 pm (UTC -6)

“V” isn’t all that bad and despite some lackluster episodes I’m giving at a chance if for no other reason than it happens to be after “Lost” and there is nothing else on, lol. But anyway it’s getting better little by little and hopeflly the writers will have figured out by the end of the season what works and doesn’t work.

Grumpy
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 12:13 pm (UTC -6)

“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?”

To distinguish itself from NBC’s V, of course. Speaking of which…

“”V” was the nickname humans gave them in the original series.”

Not exactly. “V” was for “victory” against the occupiers, explicitly recalling WW2. Only coincidentally did it also stand for “visitors,” which exactly nobody pointed out, ever.

Mitch
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 2:35 am (UTC -6)

The bottom line is, at best, V is (generously speaking!) just a mildly entertaining show. The premise is exciting and grabs me, but the show itself….. vastly disappointments me. Very much like Star Trek Voyager or Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. You keep watching because of the fantastic premise, but it’s a carrot on a stick! So far this feels like some generic cop show, with some kind of X-files twist with aliens thrown somewhere in the mix (or should I say mess).

And saying it pales to the original 1983 mini-series (or weekly TV show) is the understatement of the decade. All this new series has done is make me want to re-watch the original. 🙂

All this is moot debating of course. I predict ABC’s V will be canceled shortly and be very much forgotten (like say other failed TV show reboots… Knight Rider anyone).

AR
Friday, May 14, 2010, 3:00 pm (UTC -6)

And it looks like ABC has renewed V for 13 more episodes. They must think its ratings are “good enoguh” because it can’t possibly be because of its quality. I always thought that it and FlashForward would both be cancelled, or if one survived that it would be FF, boy was I wrong.

Mitch
Sunday, May 16, 2010, 11:55 pm (UTC -6)

I’m a bit surprised ABC renewed V, it’s ratings have been consistently falling. I suppose they figure it’s worth a gamble keeping it on life-support for now…MAYBE the ratings trend will reverse and it’ll become popular. Phht, yeah, right. Unless they totally reboot the show and its writing for season 2, they’re just delaying its guaranteed cancellation.

On another note, NBC canceled Heroes (okay, it’s more fantasy than sci-fi, but..) Can’t say I’m displeased. It started off as a fantastic show, and turned into complete dreck that I’ve been embarrassed to watch. Even so, it was more entertaining than V. Will I watch V next season? Well if ABC is giving it another chance, I suppose so will I, but if I see more of the dreadful writing and show going nowhere after the first few episodes, I’ll call it quits.

Ron
Friday, May 21, 2010, 5:38 pm (UTC -6)

I don’t think I have been to Jammer’s reviews since Enterprise ended.

I enjoy FF, and hope to learn how it was going to proceed. The story implies that it was to run until 2016, which was going to be the ominous “The End.” No idea how they could maintain the story that long. How many times can we find out the guy we thought was Mr. Big was really some other guy’s underling?

I like watching V for the Vancouver locations. The church is a well-known east-side landmark. My wife enjoys the episodes. A bit too intense for me.

Idiot-boy, as we call him, is the Wesley Crusher of this show. Seems he was put there to bring in a teen (girl?) audience. Idiot-reporter is as bad.

Really, this show is over when we answer the question, “Why don’t the Vs just slaughter and/or feast on humanity, and be done with it?” How long can they string that question along?

Ron Stewart

Mitch
Monday, May 16, 2011, 10:33 pm (UTC -6)

Funny, that by chance, I should come back to comment exactly 1 year to the day.

So, I indeed gave ‘V’ a second chance, much like ABC did. More than that, I forced myself to watch the entire second season. Was there a change of direction in writing, the reboot I had hoped for? Absolutely not, it just got more dreadful as time went on. No interesting or original story lines, slow pacing, dull and cliched characters with little or no believability. Still just a run-of-the-mill cop show with a bit of an alien twist really. It ended with a cliff-hanger, but the only cliff-hanger which left me on edge was whether or not ABC would have enough sense to cancel it.

Thankfully, it was canceled late last week. Jammer you were spot on, V was for vacant. And forgettable, doubt I’d even remember it at all in a few years.

Now that it’s over, I think I’ll go re-watch the 1983 mini series and TV show so I can really forget about the remake! 🙂

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