Sunday, November 8, 2009

The New "V"

V for Victory was a popular U.S. catchphrase during World War II. When it comes to the new remake of the highly popular 1980s sci-fi mini-series, V is for Vacuous.

Many reviews of the pilot episode of "V" have been positive. Not so in this instance.

Me, I was laughing (sometimes derisively) at the cliched inanities spouted by the cast gratuitously and generously throughout the script. Genuine grown-up people do not, as a rule, emit junior-high-school-level dialogue as exemplified by the dimwitted and exceedingly shallow characters in this opus.

Now, if you're 11 years old, this is fine fare. The special effects look particularly nice in hi def. You also need not concern yourself with annoyances such as a basic grounding in reality, character development, and actual ... you know ... adult-like behavior by adult-like people.

Look, I don't expect most television fare to be particularly sharp and pointed. After all, when people tune in to a weekly program, they're primarily seeking to be entertained. I have no problem with that in the least. But, in my opinion, the current version of "V" doesn't even attempt to reach people who have achieved a level of education beyond the 7th grade. I'm not suggesting the show has to speak to graduate students and above. All I ask is that the producers of a program refrain from treating me, as a participating member in the audience, as an idiot. Do that, and I'll be glad to meet you halfway.

My point is this: the story was flimsily constructed from the git-go, trotted out as it was in a frantic rush to "get to the good stuff." By the end, I didn't give a damn about anyone I met. That's a huge mistake. If the story you're telling is supposed to be compelling, then you need to give your audience a reason to become emotionally and intellectually involved. Of course, it's impossible to tell us everything about everyone in a 45-minute episode; but "V" skirted the issue entirely. As far as I was concerned, that aspect was a miserable failure, at least in the first episode.

The humans, the ones we're supposed to care about only because they keep showing up, are mired in a phony TV world where each of them is pigeonholed and labeled. We have the heroic and sexy FBI woman/single Mom. Naturally, she is eternally capable of handling any situation with certainty and bravery, both at home and on the job. (This, as opposed to her male FBI partner who is ineffectual and in need of constant direction. Because we all know that in law enforcement, everybody works in a 2-person team comprised of one hard-ass with a heart of gold and one fumbling but usually likable sidekick). The woman's kid is very smart, kind of a wise-ass but basically a good boy, attractive (of course), and just as daring as can be. These false movie-and-TV constructs have no depth beyond the surface and the obvious.

Were the Earth to experience an actual "space invasion," even a seemingly friendly and benign one, the impact would be ... well ... earthshaking. We're meant to believe that 19 cities around the world are semi-occupied by aliens from another world. Yet, after a mere day or two, everybody relaxes and accepts the strangers readily (except for a few dyspeptic skeptics who manage to form a semi-organized underground in about a week's time).

It also comes as little surprise that while the arrival of the spaceships was indeed a worldwide phenomenon, the entire story is seen from an American perspective. Apparently, learning how the event is seen elsewhere by people of different cultures and conflicting world views is unimportant. No, that kinda stuff is way too complicated. And because none of this is addressed or even implied, we are left to assume that the rest of the planet sits meekly by and waits for the U.S. (and one plucky kid) to handle the matter.

Nope. I ain't buying it. Be it science fiction or fantasy, the basic premise still needs to exist in a world most of the intended audience would recognize. This one, even with all the handsome images (who wants to make a bet with me that's where the majority of the budget went), came across as a live action cartoon without any of the intelligence or wit.

Just one man's opinion, izzall.