‘V’ invades with promising debut

David Hohwald

The aliens are here. They are sneaky and they come bringing social commentary. Such was the case with the original series in the early ’80s, and little has changed in ABC’s remake of the cult classic “V.”

Unlike ABC’s other science-fiction heavy-hitters (“Lost” and “Flashforward”), this show is attempting to rejuvenate an already existing television property.

“V” is two episodes in, and the series has the type of mixed results traditionally seen in a very ambitious project. Anyone with an eye for sci-fi or sweeping drama ought to get on the ride, though, because the potential for the show to become huge is very high.

“V” tells its story through the narrative of multiple characters whose lives interweave, which means that strong acting is pretty integral to the overall effort. It is a mixed bag, combining some experienced and talented performers with a host of blank faces.

The principal characters thus far appear to be FBI agent Erica Evans and Father Jack Landry, portrayed by Elizabeth Mitchell and Joel Gretsch, respectively.

Many will recognize Mitchell as Juliet from “Lost.” Mitchell is visibly the most talented performer on the show, and acts Gretsch under the table in their scenes together. Gretsch, up to this point, has been quite bland, and would be tough to watch if he did not have one of the more interesting story arcs.

The other existing arcs cover Erica’s son, Tyler, who somehow manages to ride a motorcycle at 17 and still fails at being cool. Logan Huffman’s performance is grating, making it tough to care about his adventures and misadventures. Still, he manages to play na’ve well, which hints at some underlying talent.

Morris Chestnut plays Ryan Nichols, a sleeper agent of a different sort, and flashes only a bit more character than Gretsch. In the future, his ability to portray conflicting emotion will determine whether or not he will be able to succeed in his role.

Scott Wolf is a real wild card in his portrayal of a major television news host. His smarm is solid so far, but two episodes of the stuff is far from proof of sustainable villainy.

“V” also hints at holding some other talented actors in reserve for use later on, particularly Alan Tudyk of “Firefly” and Rekha Sharma of “Battlestar Galactica.”

As far as production values go, they are quite high. “V” boasts some impressive special effects for a television show, which bodes well for the future. The alien technology is integrated well, and the CGI is used only when necessary so far. This is a byproduct of generally good writing.

The first episode is fast-paced and frantic, managing to inform the viewer without going into too much expository background information. The second episode only drags occasionally. The writers appear to know how long to focus on individual character arcs without getting too far from the overall story. Hopefully this skilled handling carries over. They also keep enough information in reserve to be tantalizing.

It is difficult to know through two episodes just how good a show will be, but one can gauge if the potential to be good is there. “V” has enough investment on the technical end and a skilled enough writing team to offer the chance of a sweeping science-fiction adventure. The talent of the cast is up in the air at this point, but in spite of these question marks the show is worth a look.

“V’s” huge ratings are founded: this alien intrigue has the potential to get interesting.