TV Review: FALLING SKIES, Season Premiere 1 & 2

rating: 3

Falling Skies Season 1 will be premiering in the United Kingdom on FX UK, on Tuesday, July 5th The bastard children of Brundlefly and Crabs have invaded the Earth and reduced humanity to a rump in this new post-apocalarama from Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, it seems, approaches television like ordinary people think about having children. There€™s an element of narcissism in his choices, a need to pass his memes to the next generation. In Band of Brothers, the miniseries he co-produced with Tom Hanks, the aim was to see Saving Private Ryan live on, via the drool box. Falling Skies, created by Ryan scribe Robert Rodat, takes Spielberg€™s 2005 War of the Worlds and gives it a televisual afterlife. The importation of movie talent to the small screen was once a tantalizing prospect but that was before Television got its act together and started making mincemeat of comparable genres in movie theatres. You think of 24, for example, and it€™s hard to think of a movie thriller in the last ten years that matched a season for sheer exhilaration and suspense. Where€™s the sci-fi drama to match the noughties€™ Battlestar Galactica? Falling Skies first two episodes are penned by Rodat and Speed€™s Graham Yost, both of whom made an impact in the nineties, so perhaps it€™s appropriate that the series premiere feels old hat; this looks and plays like a holdover from the dying days of the last century. An effective prologue, narrated by the son of chief protagonist, history Professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), and illustrated by childhood drawings of death and destruction, neatly gets all the exposition out of the way; aliens landed, wiped out the civilian population, wiped out the military and forced the survivors to band together to fight a rearguard action, dividing their time between looking for food and hoarding weapons. The wisdom of the second amendment, contrary to all that liberal propaganda, is once again self-evident. Indeed, Wyle sets out the group€™s objective, and the structure of the series to come, in a single sentence €“ €œRetreat, regroup, return €“ revenge.€ Ten years after 9/11, Rodat€™s finally tapped into the zeitgeist. The opening episodes find Wyle€™s rag tag division retreating to safe ground in war torn Massachusetts. To tease out some dramatic tension the group is that old standby, the uneasy alliance; the military man (a snarling Will Patton), men (and boys) of fighting age co-opted to serve as officers and the remnants of civil society, who must be protected and fed €“ teachers, doctors, families and, distressingly, given the shortage of food, a golden retriever. Hope that the series will transcend the regimented, episodic structure of old, in which aspects of the premise are explored in turn, soon fades. Episode one, penned by Rodat, efficiently but unspectacularly introduces us to the main characters and the notion that certain humans have been enslaved by the visitors, using a biological parasite. One such human is Wyle€™s missing son, Ben. Retrieving him, in a nod to Rodat€™s previous, will be part of the action later in the season. Yost€™s second episode keeps the aliens in the background and concentrates on human infighting. Wyle, whose job is to underline the allegorical nature of the series by citing historical parallels a few times an episode and acting as humanity€™s conscience, notes that having civilians in tow is €œa liability and hindrance but it€™s also our best motivation to fight.€ Strong words, but it looks suspiciously like Wyle and company haven€™t fought so hard to protect the ugly people, the disabled and the elderly; they€™re nowhere to be seen. In their place there€™s a telegenic retinue of multi-ethnic humans who€™ve scrubbed up nicely, given the shortage of basics like food, water and electricity. Female reviewers will be relieved to know that the alien €œSkitters€, despite their commitment to a human holocaust, have left cosmetics untouched. Moon Goodblood€™s Doctor Glass looks immaculate, and the men scrub up pretty well too. Sure, Wyle has a bit of a beard, but he€™s more rugged than tramp like. Maintaining our personal grooming, you feel, will get us through those dark days. It may be formulaic, using the iconography of every alien invasion saga of the past thirty years, from giant ships dwarfing cities to humans huddled around burning bins in makeshift communes, but the first two episodes do, at least, seed some potentially interesting developments. The question of why the alien €œMechs€, robot sentries with predator style weapons, are bipedal whereas their masters have six legs, will no doubt be answered later in the season. The introduction of Colin Cunningham as the leader of an outlaw gang in episode two, gives the human contingent a much needed wild card, and his lack of commitment to the cause suggests many story possibilities. In short there€™s enough action and plot seeding to keep you awake during this two hour premiere. If the show€™s going to take off, however, no pun intended, then it€™s going to have to borrow less and dig-deeper in exploring its own mythology. Wyle€™s a likable lead and you€™re prepared to give him a chance, but Falling Skies will need to take more risks and find a surprise or two if it€™s to grip viewers already jaded by the sense of familiarity. €œIt€™s going to get better€ Wyle tells his youngest in one scene. Let€™s hope he€™s right. Episode 1 -

rating: 2.5

Episode 2 -

rating: 3

Season premiere overall €“

rating: 3


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