7 p.m. Tuesday on WLS-Channel 7
One thing you can say about sci-fi fans: They're not stupid. Each TV show comes with its own history, mythology, rules, science and literary allusions - sometimes it even has its own language. How do you say "My brain hurts" in Klingon?
When sci-fi fans like a show, they really commit. They memorize minutiae, look for hidden themes, link to each other's websites, write fan fiction, and when necessary, dress like the characters.
Now "V" is arriving on ABC, and it comes with plenty of baggage.
Let the obsessing begin.
Quite a bit is established in the pilot episode: Aliens visit the Earth. They are startlingly attractive. They say they want to cure our diseases with complete medical services for all. They say that they're all about peace.
The world's reaction? "Yay!"
We meet the head alien as, in fact, a giant head, projected across the sky - not unlike the way Galaxhaar appeared in "Monsters Vs. Aliens," come to think of it. Her name is Anna, and it turns out that she is plenty media-savvy: She invites a broadcast journalist (the perfectly cast Scott Wolf) to interview her live, just as long as he doesn't ask anything that could make the aliens look bad.
Elizabeth Mitchell ("Lost's" beloved Juliet) is an FBI agent who has an inkling that the aliens might not be all that cuddly. She gets involved in the underground resistance effort, while her dishy teenage son heads in the opposite direction. Infatuated by the alien babes, he is recruited into a program that's not far off from the Hitler youth.
Judging by the first episode, "V" seems like a solid adaptation. But it doesn't have the mysterious spark it needs to make it compulsory viewing, the way "Lost" lured us in. The problem with a remake is that we already know what lurks beneath the aliens' faux flesh.
What it does have, though, is the potential to start quite a few debates. A few of "V's" hottest topics:
*Is the new "V" as good as the first "V"?
It would be difficult to top the horrific moment in the 1983 original miniseries, when the beautiful alien queen suddenly breaks character to pop an unfortunate guinea pig in her mouth. Don't even get me started on the lizard babies.
But yes, the improved CG effects alone make the new "V" worth watching. And the casting is promising. I loved seeing Alan Tudyk ("Dollhouse," "Firefly") in the pilot, and producers have teased that they will find roles for actors from the '83 "V." Dare we hope for Robert Englund?
*How do aliens fit in with our spiritual beliefs?
The short answer: Uncomfortably. Joel Gretsch ("The 4400") plays a priest who is surprised when the Vatican officially deems the aliens to be "God's creatures." There's not a whole lot of scripture on the subject, after all. But his formerly empty church is now packed with people contemplating their place in the universe. "Who wouldn't welcome a savior right now?" wonders the priest, but he's speaking of the visitors, not Jesus.
Is "V" anti-Obama?
We were relentlessly hit over the head in the original "V" with Nazi references. And now there's considerable buzz that this could be the religious right's new favorite show. For instance, the aliens preach about "hope" and "change," inspiring a devoted following. Obama? "We're all so quick to jump on the bandwagon," notes one character. Obama? We know very little about the aliens' background, and can't be sure of their real motives. Obama?
Personally, I wasn't picking up on any political agendas until the end of the pilot, when - SPOILER! - it's suggested that the visitors are responsible for all the world's unnecessary wars, its extremist movements, and the lousy economy.
It's a genius idea, really, and could be the key to the world getting back on its feet. We'll just outsource the blame. To the cosmos, if necessary.