Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Aliens
“Invasion” on ABC
By Devin D. O'Leary
In this season's troika of “aliens and oceans” TV shows, ABC's “Invasion” seems to be pulling ahead of CBS' “Threshold” and NBC's “Surface.” “Threshold” has pushed past its “finding a UFO at the bottom of the ocean” pilot, but hasn't gotten any better for it. “Surface,” meanwhile, remains mired in its E.T.-as-Jaws premise. “Invasion,” on the other hand, has succeeded, thanks to some atmospheric writing and some solid casting.
“Invasion” was guaranteed some measure of success, of course, based on its plum placement after ABC's smash hit “Lost.” Still, the show has faced stiff competition in the 9 p.m. slot against juggernauts like “CSI: NY” and “Law & Order.” Last week, for example, “Lost” pulled in a 12.6 rating (that's the percentage of all households in America). “Invasion” held tight with a 7.7 rating--not enough to win the time slot, but slightly better than “Law & Order” and only a couple points behind “CSI: NY.”
“Invasion” is the brainchild of Shaun Cassidy. Yes, that Shaun Cassidy. The feather-haired, pretty boy singer from “The Hardy Boys” whose poster you (or your older sister) had on the bedroom wall back in 1977. Cassidy is best known in the post-Hardy universe as the creator/writer/producer of the short-lived but much-admired horror series “American Gothic.” That Southern-sheriff-as-Satan series only made it 22 episodes, but it became a cult item and was recently released on DVD.
Cassidy's newest show is an ambitious “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” story reimagined for the post 9/11 world. The show is set in a small Florida town in the wake of a devastating hurricane--which seems like rather unfortunate timing, but actually makes the show feel all the more timely. As the local sheriff (Crash's William Fichtner) tries to restore order in the chaotic aftermath, his wife's park ranger ex-husband (“Third Watch”'s Eddie Cibrian) starts to unravel some odd doings in the swamp. Seems some mysterious lights stirred up by the hurricane are starting to “possess” certain locals--including the sheriff.
Who or what is responsible for this titular invasion isn't quite clear just yet. Is it your basic aliens from space, a government conspiracy, weird terrestrial life-forms?
The show is heavy with “Creation” symbolism--from assorted watery wombs to the catalytic Hurricane Eve. “Invasion” doesn't offer up quite as many mysterious metaphors as “Lost,” but it's got enough to intrigue those who pay attention. It also makes clever use of today's paranoid, security-conscious world--spinning our worst natural disaster/terrorism/viral infection fears into a single sci-fi story line.
The dramatic, humorous but never campy writing creates a believable cast of characters, most of whom belong to the extended family stretched between sheriff and park ranger (and perhaps hero and villain?).
Whether its conspiracy-minded mystery ends up being worth all the effort still remains to be seen. So far, though, “Invasion” is an increasingly attention-grabbing successor to “Lost.”
“Invasion” airs every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on KOAT-7.
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