V RebootIt has almost been a week since ABC broadcast the reboot pilot for V (for those not in the know, that is an uppercase letter V not the roman numeral 5). This has given me time to digest the pilot episode and give a fair review. Before I get there, let me give some very brief background on the various V series. I do not intend to write plot summaries, except a brief one for the first mini-series, in order to set the stage.

The Original Mini-Series

In 1983, NBC release a two night mini-series, V (for simplicity, I will call this V:The Original for the remainder of this post). V:The Original was the brainchild of writer, producer and director Kenneth Johnson. It is about an alien race, which call themselves “The Visitors,” who come to Earth pretending to be our friends and who need our help to revive their ailing homeworld, but who ultimately want to enslave humanity and take over the planet. Humans are mostly a food source for The Visitors. A news journalist camera man, Mike Donovan (who is played by none other than The Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer) discovers The Visitor’s secret and with others, tries to warn the world. In the meantime, The Visitors turn the world into a Nazi Germany type place, turing family against family and using the children to start a Nazi like Visitor Youth squad.

Were the special effects cheese? Yes (by our current standards, anyway). Was it more like a Soap Opera? Yes. Was it wonderful? Hell yes!

The Final Battle

V:The Original was very popular. According to Joe Flint and the Los Angeles Times, V:The Original posted a 25.4 Nielsen Rating. Although that does not crack the top 100 ratings of all time, it is still a very good rating. To put that into perspective, TV’s current #1 Show, NCIS, generally gets a 10-12 Nielsen rating each week. Due to this popularity, Kenneth Johnson produced V:The Final Battle in 1984. It was set a few months after V:The Original and had all the main stars back in their roles for the three night event. After searching hi and low, I could not find information on ratings for this, but I remember it to have not been awesome but also not embarrassing. In my memory it was decent and most folks thought the same.

The TV Series

Due to the popularity of V:The Original and V:The Final Battle, NBC decided to make a TV series in 1984-1985. Although I personally enjoyed the series, I will admit it was ill-concieved and was ultimately cancelled. Kenneth Johnson was not involved with the weekly series and it was a shock to the producers that the show was cancelled. Instead of trying to wrap-up the show quickly for the fan’s sake, the season ended in a cliff hanger, which was never resolved.

On a side note, in 2008 Kenneth Johnson released the novel V:The Second Generation. Set 20 years after V:The Original, it disregards both V:The Final Battle and the original V:The Series.

ABC’s Reboot

Although some reboots have been successful, the new Battlestar Galactica and J.J. Abrhams’ Star Trek come to mind as recent examples. Far more remakes and reboots have been awful, The Bionic Woman and Knight Rider jump out as present-day failures. I won’t get started on the parade of horrific movies made from old TV series.

So, what about ABC’s offering (which I will call V:The Reboot)? Let me start with a couple of quotes from friends of mine. Chris Shannon says, “I’m not sure how I’m going to scrub the stink off my TV. Sooooo bad. If you missed it, don’t worry, just watch last week’s commercial and I think you got everything of importance, except the bad pacing.” While Brian Olsen adds, “It was rapid-fire plot point to plot point, with no depth. It felt like an hour-long ‘Last week on V…'” My own feelings echo theirs. Watching V:The Reboot made my television bleed Velveeta!

I think both Chris and Brian nailed it. The entire episode was running from plot point to plot point with no story in between. It was like they were told that they had to get to a certain point by the end of the pilot, plot be damned! The cinematography was bad and I do not like the casting choices that they made. I don’t mind them rewriting the story a bit and making the main character a woman FBI agent instead of a male TV cameraman (among other changes). I just don’t think that Elizabeth Mitchel (from ABC’s Lost) can pull of that character. Joel Gretsch (USA’s The 4400) could not sell the role of Father Jack Landry, a Catholic Priest who does not believe in The Visitor’s motives. For some reason I just can’t take Scott Wolf (ABC’s Party of Five) seriously as a TV news anchor. As Anna, leader of The Visitors, Morena Baccarin (Firefly, but who I remember more as Adria from Stargate: SG-1), lacks the charm crossed sinister with an added dash of sultry that Jane Badler had as the original Diana, leader of The Visitors.

A friend asked me if I was just trying to compare the new series with my childhood memory of the original. Although that may be true to some extent, I was open to liking this new telling. As I stated above, I really WANTED to like the new version. As a corollary, I really WANTED to hate the new Battlestar Galactica, but I couldn’t. It was blow-you-away awesome from the get-go. So it wasn’t that V:The Reboot could not compare to the old. It just isn’t well done. The writing, acting and visuals were very sub-par. The new V pilot was just not good. At one point I thought that they may have hired the ABC After-School Special writers!

Is there hope?

There were a few spots that made me think there *could* be hope. A former student of mine pointed out that a great many times the pilot is much worse than the rest of the series. Thinking about it, there have been many times I cringe when watching the pilot, but the series turned out okay. Also, some series just need time to develop. Star Trek:The Next Generation is an excellent example. Most of season 1 is trash. Regurgitated TOS plots (Star Trek:The Original Series, for those not in the know), poor writing, embarrassing sets and more. Oh, I’ll get hate mail for saying that, but you know that I am right! I am a HUGE Star Trek fan. Some of the TNG episodes are examples of Science Fiction at its best, so I don’t dump on the first season lightly. Although, I never questioned the casting in TNG, like I do for V:The Reboot.

Final Rating

I will keep watching, because I have hope that things will gel and a better product will emerge. The ratings for the pilot were decent, but there was also a lot of buzz around the reboot. I am predicting a huge drop-off this week. Unless they find their groove and raise the bar for quality, it won’t finish the season. So for now, I can only give V:The Reboot 1.5 sets of wings out of 5.

1.5 sets of wings out of 5— Bill


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