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Opinion

Preview: Let ‘V’ Into Your Home … Trust Us

Michael Hinman takes a spoiler-free look at the new ABC series


It’s been a terribly long time since I have been excited about a reimagination. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been excited for something at this level since the former SciFi Channel premiered “Battlestar Galactica.”

But ABC decided it was time to take a risk. Unlike NBC’s efforts in the past to first revive “Bionic Woman,” and then take a different path with “Knight Rider,” ABC wanted to go to the one programming event (and later television series) that almost single-handedly defined the 1980s. Yeah, we’re talking about “V.”

However, ABC faced a huge dilemma in bringing “V” back. The idea of having space ships hanging it the sky, floating over major world landmarks, has been done to death in the years that followed Kenneth Johnson’s original epic. When we think about invading ships in that sense, our first thoughts go to films like “Independence Day” or even “District 9.”

How do you stay true to the original concept of “V” without looking stale and tired? Scott Peters figured it out pretty quickly: Give us a compelling story with amazing characters, and mix in some terrific writing. Then crack a joke about “Independence Day” to let the viewers know that yes, this whole ships in the sky thing looks mightily familiar.

But in the end, “V” did it first.

The series stars “Lost” alum Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans, Joel Gretsch of “The 4400” as Father Jack Landry, Scott Wolf as Chad Decker, Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols, and the beautiful Morena Baccarin as the leader of the Visitors, Anna.

Yes, they arrive in a group of motherships over every major city in the world. But these aren’t just ordinary ships. They are entire worlds in of themselves, and can turn into the biggest television screens in the world. Talk about finding ways to communicate.

In any event, the “V” opens asking the audience if they remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot. When the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred. When the Visitors arrive. From there, we jump right into the arrival (why drag it out? This isn’t “Independence Day” for heaven’s sake), and the world changed completely.

The original “V” was an allegory on the Nazi regime. But this new tale takes a different approach. It’s not about rule by fear or worship. It’s all about devotion. Complete devotion. Which, for some, means that it’s just too good to be true.

And as you already know from the classic series … it is.

I almost thought that seeing “V” come back to the small screen was too good to be true. But it’s not. The pilot was great, and there’s nothing to have me doubting the rest of the season might be even better.

What Worked

I hate to draw comparisons to “Independence Day,” but seriously, it’s hard not to think about that movie when thinking about “V.” But what took 30 minutes to do in ID4 took just moments in “V” as we waste no time getting right into the story.

And really, that’s the way it should be. Why spend valuable screen time on a buildup that’s not really needed, and already been witnessed by this generation more than once.

But it’s not just the quick-moving story, but also the real characters. Erica Evans is an FBI agent, but outside of her stunning looks, she doesn’t feel like she’s stepped off a Hollywood sound stage. She is a single mom trying to raise her son Tyler (Logan Huffman), a job that gets even more difficult once the Visitors arrive.

Who are the Visitors? Why are they here? Do they have an agenda? Typically, those are questions people ask, but the arrival of the V and what they bring are so inspiring, people really don’t care to question any of it. And I can completely see why.

The standout character here is Father Jack Landry. Too often, Hollywood wants to portray priests as stodgy old men, or young idealists. Landry, however, is someone who is just trying to do God’s work, and doesn’t necessarily agree that the Visitors should be embraced with open arms. Sure, the Vatican might think they are God’s creatures as well, but Landry senses there’s more to it.

And if the smashing crucifix wasn’t enough of a sign, then there’s nothing.

What Didn’t Work

While it was great to see Laura Vandervoort back where she belongs (on our television screens), the whole idea of bringing in human “ambassadors” gives too much of a 1980s feel. I’m not sure why I keep thinking that, but a teenager following his penis into trouble is something that pretty much dominated all the movies of a couple decades back. Do we really need more of that?

At the same time, it shows how devotion can be seductive. And it sets up some great drama that I just can’t wait to see as the episodes roll on for “V.”

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

The pilot episode of “V” was written by Scott Peters based on his story as well as the original concept created by Kenneth Johnson. It was directed by Yves Simoneau.

“V” stars Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Morena Baccarin and Scott Wolf.

It airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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