Sly-Fi

Three shows, “Invasion,” “Threshold,” and “Surface” all made a big splash with their hyped-up summer ad campaigns. I bit. Before the first episode aired, I had moved them to my Tivo’s “Season Pass” list, meaning each episode would be recorded, non-fail, each week. After eight or so episodes, here’s the prognosis.

“Invasion” is about extra-terrestrials who drop from the sky into the Florida everglades during a hurricane and hang out in swamps and backwaters where they know they won’t run into any Baby Boomers. About once per episode we see a green glowing glob slithering in the water, but for the most part, the show is a soap opera about the humans who live in the area. Some may be remanufactured humans with hidden alien tendencies and the ability to hold their breath underwater for a really, really long time, but they still have boyfriend-girlfriend issues, which I find reassuring.

Batting for the humans on “Invasion” is a crazy guy who sees conspiracies everywhere he looks. His sister is married to a park ranger and they all live in one happy shack that gets trashed in the first episode. Ranger Rick manages to avert his eyes to any and every possible clue of the alien invasion while nuts-in-law and his sister do their best to find more evidence for him to ignore. That’s pretty much the home team. What storyline there is, moves at a maddeningly slow pace. The series started out interesting, but now I’m just wishing FEMA would show up to hand out $2,000 debit cards to the cast and send them home.

“Surface” is a lot like “Invasion,” except the crazy guy is paired with a female this time. The aliens are big lizards from the depths of the ocean where they lived amongst molten lava at the earth’s core, making them not at all adverse to foods prepared with copious quantities of habanera peppers. The conspirators are government types who think they’ll be able to create weapons from the lizards. I thought Geico had already done that? An annoying teenage boy and his friend offer a weekly respite from the do-nothing plot as they try to raise a mini-monster hatched from one of Godzilla’s eggs. On last night’s episode, they released Tyrannosaurus Pest into the ocean, and it swam off, glowing green, heading for the set of “Invasion,” no doubt, to work as an extra. If I told you the highlight of the season thus far was the little lizard eating a French poodle, you’ll know to what depths “Surface” has already sank.

“Threshold” is perhaps the best of the lot, as it features Carla Gugino, star of the short lived “Karen Sisco” series and Brent Spiner who played Lt. Commander Data in “Star Trek,” although his acting indicates he’s still coming to terms with being a robot. In “Threshold,” an alien ship hovers over earth playing sounds that turn anyone within range either into an alien or a human deformity. I’ve heard Yoko Ono sing before, so I figured I was immune. Of course, having gone through the trouble of flying 90 zillion light years to earth, they manage to launch their new hit single over a small merchant vessel off the coast instead of over New York City, creating only six infected human beings in the process instead of six million. Someone’s ethemperal gonans are going to be in the ringer over this goof I tell you when they get back to Grognor! In the saving grace department, the show has no crazy guy, unless you count me for watching.

Sci-Fi for TV is a treasured art. Okay, so it’s not really an art, but hey, it shouldn’t leave fish holding their noses! Left it in the hands of writers who couldn’t get a job on one of the CSI shows, I suppose we can’t expect the best scripts.

“Oooh, look! The alien is over here.”
” No, look, now he’s over there!”
“ What alien? You’re crazy!”

I like the fact that we’re seeing more Sci-Fi on mainstream stations, especially in hi-def, and I applaud the networks for giving it a go. But the results are pretty bland. Of course there’s worse TV out there. Now, fellow writers, go back to your rooms with DVDs of “Roswell,” “X-Files,” “Farscape” and “Firefly,” and don’t come out until you have better scripts.

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