Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review of the new V

As a kid there was only one show that came close to Star Wars in my love. That show was V. I had every hour of both mini-series and even the horrible weekly show all on Beta-max. I had a V pulse rifle that I could take apart, a visitor punching bag. I even had a mothership technical manual that I sent away for after I saw a classified ad in the back of Starlog. I was a V Geek.

Sure I loved the story, the gun battles, and the spirit of resistance even as a kid. I actually consider V a huge part of how I developed such a radical spirit. Over the years I returned to the Mini-Series in the nineties and found a totally different film. Suddenly I understood on a deeper level what Director Kenneth Johnson was trying to say about Nazi Germany.

Don’t look down on the Germans because it could have just as easily been us. This hit home even harder when I happened to watch it with friends in October 2001. Our country had lost it’s damn mind. Members of my very liberal family were calling for muslam blood and Indiana was awash with flags everywhere. GW was just starting to mold his bullshit Iraq agenda. V was more powerful than ever.

To this day I can always watch V. I always find something new. It’s like a song I love to sing along to because I know every word, every beat. So as much as I love the final battle (the official TV sequel) I have to admit it's cheezy-ness with half lizard human star children and corny red dust balloons doesn't hold up as well. They went on to 13 or so episodes of a TV show that about as corny as the season of Dukes of Hazard season where the cousins with same hair color showed to drive the general lee around for no good reason.

In 1999 My friend Ryan Downey won an E-bay auction on Visitor punching bag and we had a long discussion about V on a Drive back from Syracuse to Indiana. I told him how badly I would love to re-make V as modern TV show. Shows were just starting to do season long arcs telling stories over epic novels. Star Trek Deep Space Nine had successfully rolled out a story over it's seven years and at the time it was my favorite show.

“Just think about V done that patiently,” I told Ryan. You could spend a season exploring how Fascism weaves itself into mainstream acceptance. We talked about how cool it would be to let the resistance grow not in two hours but over 20 hours in the first season. How you could watch characters grow from living their daily lives to full blown resistance members. Eventually they would sacrifice maybe even become suicide bombers, would that be challenging for an American audience?

In 2007 I introduced my buddy Randall to V something he was too young to have seen as a kid. He loved it. And we talked my many ideas for a V remake. I often told him that if I could have a dream job in the universe it would be to be the show runner or a staff writer on a V remake. I never honestly thought anyone would do it.

So Obviously ABC has done it, I didn't get that job. Here is my long winded verdict. I am am 50/50 on the pilot episode. I will watch it. It's OK, more entertaining than most TV these days but I have serious problems with the show.


What I didn't like: My first reaction is slow down. In 1985 when they first attempted to do V TV shows were supposed to have a clear ending each week. Shows like Lost and 24 have shown you can tell an on-going story. So It would have been nice have the first episode of the new V be about the day they arrive. I understand that is a premiere and you want to hook viewers with an exciting opening. But how silly was it to have 29 massive alien space craft show up and after the first commercial break skip ahead three weeks. So really nothing important to the story happened in that first three weeks?

To me this is lazy writing. A whole hour could have been made exciting out of the arrival. Certainly it would a terrifying event and is ripe with potential drama. Honestly ABC should have given the pilot TV shows.

They did an serviceable job with the characters, introducing them and giving them some humanity. However to introduce all the characters, have aliens show up on earth and launch a resistance in 45 minutes. Too much.

What I hated: Calling the visitors V's. The name V wasn't about them. It was about the resistance. It was about the spirit of the people fighting back. The idea that V would be spray painted by the so called peace ambassadors, which is the modern shows take on the visitor youth was silly. Outright stupid. At the end of the Visitor speech when all the new yorkers cheered. Give me a break.

What I liked: setting the show in New York was a smart move. It makes more sense than the LA setting of the original show. What of the finest pieces of V fiction was the early V novel East coast crisis ( AC Crispin and Howard Weinsten) which followed the same time line as the original mini-series in New York. A must read for serious V fans. Good luck finding it, and I wont sell you mine.

The Firefly lady as the alien leader. She was creepy.

The visitor infiltration storyline is brilliant. While it could easily be compared to the cylons clone storyline in Battlestar it is a smart way to update the show and add tension. People you have loved and trusted might have been visitors all along. Too bad the writers and network weren't patient enough to roll that mystery out over a season. That is what makes Lost and BSG so good. It also makes sense that the visitors would create chaos, war and disease so they could offer us salvation. Why don't we just hand you our planet.

While it is smart they completely fucked it up. I think the producers, writers and network screwed this up putting all of their cards on the table. Bury the lead people. It's like doing a synopsis as the first chapter of a novel. What if in the first episode of Lost, they had introduced the others, their camp, the hatch, etc., etc., The show is good because they started with a mystery and let it unfold. BSG worked because even if you have seen the original there was a new mystery(Who are the cylons among us?). The new V has a perfect idea for a mystery but blows it open completely with the first 45 minutes.

Make the characters compelling, show me a hint of genius and I'll go along for the ride. Lost as a show is structured like a novel. Each episode is like a chapter. V needs to slow down and take that approach.

There is good news. In the last week, the writer of the Pilot Scott Peters( The 4400) was fired from the show. They stopped production after four episodes. To most shows that is a bad sign, but considering how awful the first episode's writing is. I am ok with that dude getting the can. I like the casting and the look of the show, lets get a better writer. It appears ABC has hired Chuck Rosenbaum who wrote for NBC's Chuck(which I have never seen) to run the show. Hope that helps. they should have hired Ronald D. Moore or JJ Abrams as consultants. I'm cheaper though. ;)

I'll keep watching but so far I think the 1983 mini-series kicks the crap out of this new one.


shaun said...

Hey man you blew me away with this review. The job of new V screenwriter should most definitely go to you, David. Reading this review really helped me adjust to the new V episode, which I watched last night, and enjoyed. It didn't blow me away and you've explained why, beautifully. I was annoyed that they went to the Resistance so quickly, and uncovered some of the Visitor flesh disguises--that could've waited until a few episodes ahead. So I agree, they unfolded things way too quickly. Oh well--maybe it will improve with further shows. Thanks for writing such an informative review.

Dave Shishkoff said...

Hmm...i think you might be jumping the gun a wee bit.

They certainly stuffed a lot into that hour (well, 40mins), but they know they have a season (13 episodes?) to work with. I'm assuming there will be flashbacks, and we'll see more on the 'day of'.

They absolutely HAD to show us that they're reptilian, an 'attack' of some kind makes sense..i guess it could have been them on the ship too..there'll be lots of marshmallows with tails being eaten in the near future i'm sure tho. ;)

Agree on calling them V's tho. Wasn't the V for Victory in the original series..? (Haven't seen it since i was a kid.)

David Agranoff said...

Thank you Shaun. Dave I think the only gun being jumped was on the writing staff at V. and I am still watching I agree maybe it will get better.