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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)
The network's description: "For centuries man has searched the skies for signs of intelligent life� but to no avail. What if the explanation lay in the fact that aliens were already here... already among us? And what if all of the natural disasters we�ve been experiencing of late were smokescreens designed to mask something far more ominous? When yet another devastating hurricane threatens Florida, temporarily cutting off a small town at the edge of the Everglades, U.S. Park Ranger Russell Poole takes heroic measures to keep both the town�s citizens and his family safe. In the middle of the violent storm, his young daughter is the only one to see small lights floating towards the water, seemingly unaffected by the vicious winds. At the time he thinks nothing of her claim, but begins to suspect that something may indeed be amiss when his missing ex-wife is found naked, with no memory of what happened during the storm. As the tiny town struggles to recover while his nemesis, the Sheriff, quarantines the entire area, Poole begins to investigate the strange goings on, unwittingly beginning a fight for the survival of the human race. Veteran writer/producer Shaun Cassidy and celebrated director Thomas Schlamme (�The West Wing�) bring you the suspenseful tale of a blended family that finds itself at the center of a conspiracy to mask an alien takeover that is happening one neighbor at a time."
What did they leave out: It's essentially "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if the aliens took their sweet time in taking over.
The plot in a nutshell: A hurricane is about to hit a small town near the Everglades and we track its inhabitants as they prepare for the impact. There's Russell (Eddie Cibrian), a U.S. Park Ranger; his new wife Larkin (Lisa Sheridan), an investigative TV journalist; Russell's ex-wife Mariel (Kari Matchett), a doctor; and her new husband Tom (William Fichtner), the town's sheriff. (Still with us?) Also thrown into the mix are Russell and Mariel's kids from their marriage - Jesse (Evan Peters) and Rose (Ariel Gade) - Tom's daughter from his previous marriage, Kira (Alexis Dziena) and Larkin's layabout, conspiracy theory spouting brother Dave (Tyler Labine). If this all sounds especially convoluted here, it is onscreen as well. Anyway, just as the storm is about to hit Rose (that's Russell's daughter from his first marriage to Mariel for those keeping score) spots mysterious lights in the distance and Mariel herself goes missing. They eventually find her unharmed but is she really the same?
What works: The show plays up William Fichtner's inherent creepiness to great effect here. Is he the leader of an invading alien force or just Fichtner being Fichtner? Also the idea of aliens using typical phenomenon like hurricanes as cover for an invasion is rather neat, but (as you'll see below) not when almost nothing happens as a result.
What doesn't: Anyone who thinks "Lost" moves too slow is going to be astonished by the glacier-like pace "Inavsion" moves at. The description above actually gives away far more than what actually transpires on screen. We're only given vague allusions to the fact that this is some kind of alien invasion and those that are made (weird lights in the sky, a deformed corpse found in the swamp, conspiracy theories spouted by Dave, etc.) come off as worn-out "X-Files" leftovers. It wouldn't be so bad if the show felt like it was going somewhere, but beyond more vague teasers at the end one can't help but walk away completely underwhelmed. Equally as disappointing is that the characters (except maybe Fichtner's) leave little to latch on to - everyone just feels very non-descript and unmemorable.
The challenges ahead: Will "Lost" fans stick around for such a patience-testing show? And if they do, how long before the inevitable "why don't they answer any questions" complaints kick in? More importantly, is William Fichtner an alien in real life? We'll learn soon enough this fall on ABC.