When a TV show isnâ€™t working creatively, executives will sometimes bring in a new lead producer in hopes that he or she will be able to take the idea the network liked and turn it into an overall show the network will like. That can work on occasion - see AMCâ€™s â€œRubicon,â€ which parted ways with its creator after a single episode - but more often than not, the new boss has inherits too much baggage from the old boss to do more than make minor, unsatisfying tweaks.
That seems to be the case with ABCâ€™s â€œV,â€ which begins its second season - and first full one under the aegis of producer Scott Rosenbaum - tomorrow night at 9 p.m.
Scott Peters, the man originally in charge of remaking the fondly-remembered â€˜80s alien invasion series, was replaced after a handful of mediocre episodes filled with thin characters and scripts that couldnâ€™t make up their mind about what viewers might know/remember about the original â€œV.â€ Rosenbaum, a veteran of â€œThe Shieldâ€ and â€œChuck,â€ took over, and in the handful of his episodes I watched last spring, it seemed like he was struggling to make Petersâ€™ two-dimensional characters seem interesting.
My hope was that with eight season one episodes under his belt, and a full hiatus in which to course correct further, Rosenbaum might have finally wrangled â€œVâ€ into something that worked. But heâ€™s still stuck with too many bad concepts and/or characters from Petersâ€™ brief run.
(Minor spoilers follow.)
The premiere opens with a sequence oddly reminiscent of â€œFlashForwardâ€ - ABCâ€™s other much-hyped, much-more-disappointing sci-fi show from last season, which died so that â€œVâ€ could live - in which FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) wakes up on a city street where all the people around her are either asleep or dead. She runs around frantically searching for her dim-witted son Tyler (Logan Huffman) only to find him on the verge of a horrible death...
â€¦ but before I could enjoy the impending demise of not only the biggest anchor on â€œVâ€ itself, but one of the most annoying characters introduced anywhere last season, Erica woke up from her dream, Tyler was still fine, and â€œVâ€ was still stuck with him, Ericaâ€™s sketchy maternal issues and the rest of what didnâ€™t work with the show last year.
If anything, Rosenbaum seems to have accepted that heâ€™s in charge of a show that should be enjoyed ironically, and has upped the cheese factor in year two.
Ryan (Morris Chestnut), the alien who has joined with the human resistance, begins the season in the custody of V queen Anna (Morena Baccarin), whose scientists canâ€™t figure out how he and his human wife produced a hybrid baby.
Ryan snarls, â€œShe was born by something youâ€™ll never understand: love.â€
Anna spends much of the first three episodes of the new season struggling to understand love and other bits of humanity, particularly because her mother Diana - played by Jane Badler, who was the main villain in the â€˜80s â€œVâ€ - has been overcome with emotion after too many years wearing human skin over her reptile body. In the second episode, Diana tries to teach Anna about the concept of the human soul, and Anna replies - as straight-faced as Baccarin can make her - â€œThe soul is the single greatest threat to our species. If itâ€™s there, Iâ€™ll find it, and Iâ€™ll destroy it.â€ Â
Baccarin seems to relish those moments when Anna is at her most alien (beware the queenâ€™s tail), and some of the other actors occasionally get to remind you that they have real talent. (As fighting priest Jack Landry, Joel Gretsch has a nice subplot in the third episode.) But because the Vâ€™s goals - and their reasons for pretending to be nice rather than invading and taking over right away - are so vague, thereâ€™s surprisingly little sense of urgency to the different storylines. Everyoneâ€™s running in place, participating in unexciting missions that are part of some big picture we still canâ€™t see, trying to seem like characters and not just types.
Bret Harrison from â€œReaperâ€ comes in for a recurring role as a scientist whoâ€™s of some use to the underground. He gets some funny moments - told the true nature of the Vâ€™s, he laments, â€œAnnaâ€™s a lizard? That sucks. Sheâ€™s so hot.â€ - but doesnâ€™t seem to fit in on a show whose other humorous moments are either accidental or just entirely deadpan.
I understand why ABC wanted to remake â€œV.â€ The original, though not a great show, endures in the memories of those who grew up with it, and the networks are going to keep trying with these big sci-fi epics from time to time in hopes that the next one will somehow replicate the success of â€œLost.â€ But this oneâ€™s not working, and it doesnâ€™t matter how many fresh coats of paint or new showrunners they try to slap onto it.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ