By Paula Hendrickson
Thanks to hit shows like The Closer, Men of a Certain Age and Rizzoli & Isles, TNT’s tag line “We Know Drama” already blurs the lines a bit by including a bit of comedy along with the drama. Now, TNT is adding a dash of sci-fi to the mix, courtesy of Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, no less.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, odds are good that you’ll enjoy Falling Skies:
1. Are you tired of sci-fi shows that ask lots of questions but make you wait all season, or longer, for what are usually unsatisfying answers?
2. Do you like rooting for the underdogs?
3. Are you into military history and/or tactics?
4. Did you like AMC’s surprise hit, The Walking Dead?
5. Are you an ER fan who really misses Noah Wyle?
As someone who wanted (and tried) to like Flash Forward, V and The Event, but eventually gave up on all three series, I’ve got to say that Robert Rodat, who wrote the first two hours of Falling Skies (and also wrote a little movie called Saving Private Ryan a few years back) made a wise decision by jumping into the story after the main characters have adapted to their new, post-apocalyptic lives. Loved ones are dead or missing, homes and jobs are things of the past, and aliens have invaded Earth.
Don’t worry. That’s not a spoiler. The aliens got there long before we, the viewers, arrive on the scene. This show doesn’t even tease the audience about what the aliens look like. You’ll see your first “skitter” mere moments into the first (two-hour!) episode.
There’s no big, drawn-out expository explanation of what’s already transpired, the information is doled out as we need it. More than anything, the characters—led by Wyle as Tom Mason, a former history professor turned resistance fighter—will draw you into this strange new world. Most of the main characters are ordinary people trying to adapt to existing in extremely unusual circumstances.
I don’t want to give anything away. The special effects are amazing—especially for a cable TV series—but with Spielberg executive producing, that’s to be expected. A lot happens in the first two hours (which air consecutively Sunday, June 19, starting at 8 p.m.), and things keep getting better in the third hour, which airs a week later in the show’s regular timeslot, Sunday nights at 9 p.m.
Judging by the first three hours of Falling Skies, this looks like a sci-fi series that won’t disappoint viewers. It reminds me of The Walking Dead in that a diverse group of people have survived the unimaginable and find themselves doing whatever it takes to survive, but Falling Skies is about more than just surviving. It’s about fighting back.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 15-21, 2011 issue