Falling Skies (Sundays at 10:00 on TNT)
It's six months after the world has been invaded by aliens, and a group of ragtag fighters are trying to merely survive in the face of their murderous attackers. Falling Skies focuses on one group in particular, called 2nd Massachusetts, which is led partially by an ex-military commander, Weaver (Will Patton), and also by an ex-history professor, Tom (Noah Wyle). Tom's wife was killed in the invasion and his youngest son taken captive; apparently the aliens, known as Skitters, implant a harness on these kidnapped children which makes them like zombie slaves. In search of food, Tom's oldest son Hal (Drew Roy) comes face to face with the missing boy.
A lot of little things happen over the next two hours of this two-part premiere, but the plot really seems secondary to the action. Same with the acting. Will Patton is basically playing a cartoon character, while Noah Wyle plays yet another archetypal everyman hero. It's nothing to write home about, which is fine considering most of us are tuning in for the special effects. Speaking of which, they are pretty impressive for a television show, if a bit overused. The aliens are oddly conceived; some are bipedal robots ("Mechs," the ones who mostly do the killing), and others are squishy looking squid-bug things ("Skitters," the ones who mostly do the controlling). The Mechs recall both the alien pod-ships in War of the Worlds and the killing machines of the later Terminator installments (coincidentally, Terminator Salvation costar Moon Bloodgood is a series regular here). The basic survivalist story and the overall post-apocalyptic look of the show reminded me of AMC's The Walking Dead; and the banding together of these ragtag fighters under the questionable military leadership of Weaver recalled memories of Red Dawn. So while all of these are fine starting reference points for an alien invasion series, it begs the question: where is the originality? Why watch something we've seen before? Sure, the pilot was mostly a good time in the way many summer action popcorn blockbusters are. But why should I commit so much of my time to a series that's been done before in film?
I'll try to explain why I'm intrigued enough to come back next week. At one point, a character preaches... ahem, teaches a life lesson about being grateful to the surviving children from a podium draped in an American flag. Moments like this give the series a feeling of political idealism (starting over the ground up, and doing it right this time!) that provides some intellecutal interest to the show. Later in this same scene, Tom discusses what the Skitters thought process may be, how long they've been studying Earth before the takeover; this is quickly intercut by two teenage girls discussing their renewed faith in God. It's all a little deep and a little random coming in between scenes of zombie-like alien-controlled kids and extraterrestrial shootouts. But it does give me hope for what may become a stimulating series that can hopefully reach beyond its mediocre opening.