Today’s cuppa: Irish breakfast tea (contemplating a switch to chai … Hmmmm)

V_GroupShot.jpgOn Tuesday night, ABC premieres “V,” its remake of the 1980s science-fiction TV classic of the same name.

As it turns out, the new version is pretty darn good (at least the pilot, which is all I’ve seen).

Below find the full text of the feature story I wrote this week. As you’ll discover when you read it, I was unable to talk to the producers (interviews were scheduled, then canceled).

The ABC publicist asked if I could go with what they said at press tour, but since that was back in early August, and a lot had changed with the show in the meantime, I just couldn’t.

After the feature story, though, you’ll find an exchange between yours truly and the producers at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, which touches on some of the most controversial aspects of “V” (and just how controversial they remain after the shutdown for “script issues,” I confess, I have no idea. But, for what it’s worth, I have a lot of respect for executive producers Scott Peters and Jeffrey Bell, so we’ll see.).

So, read, watch and, as always, make up your own mind.

First up, the story:

‘V’ pours old foes into new
skins for sci-fi remake

 

By Kate
O’Hare

©Zap2it

 

Back in
1983, NBC aired the two-part science-fiction miniseries “V,” written and
directed by Kenneth Johnson. In 1984, NBC followed with another hit miniseries,
“V: The Final Battle.”

Despite
that title, the network forged on with “V: The Series” later in 1984, with most
of the original cast (but not Johnson). It was short-lived and just plain bad.

Normally,
this sort of a history would bode better for a miniseries remake than a series,
but on the other hand, “Battlestar Galactica” was a hit pilot that turned into
a flop series in the ’70s, only to be revived in this decade as a critically
acclaimed miniseries and series.

So one
could forgive ABC and Warner Bros. Television for being a little confused over
exactly what to do with their “V” remake, premiering Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Layer on
top of that a byproduct of timing, partly caused by a strike-induced delay,
which lands the new “V” practically on top of the anniversary of last year’s
presidential election with a pilot that contains such hot buzzwords as “hope,”
“change” and “universal health care.”

As if that
wasn’t enough, stir in a production hiatus for “script issues,” followed by a
rollout schedule that calls for four initial episodes, with the rest held until
after the Winter Olympics in March.

It’s enough
to give an executive producer fits, which may explain why executive
producers/writers Scott Peters (“The 4400”) and Jeffrey Bell (“Angel,” “Alias”)
weren’t available this fall to talk about the show.

But stars
Morena Baccarin and Scott Wolf were. Starring with them in “V” are Elizabeth
V_Morena_Baccarin.jpgMitchell (“Lost”) as an FBI counterterrorism agent, Logan Huffman as her
teenage son, Joel Gretsch (“The 4400”) as a worried priest and Morris Chestnut
(“Boyz N the Hood”) as a man with a secret who faces a life-altering decision.

Baccarin
(“Firefly”) plays Anna, the enigmatic leader of aliens calling themselves the
Visitors (or “Vs” for short), who hover gigantic spaceships over every major
city in the world, scaring the pants off everybody. Anna then appears and
offers a message of peace and advanced technology, just as long as the Vs get
the slavish devotion of every human being on Earth.

Wolf plays
ambitious news anchor Chad Decker, who lands an exclusive interview with Anna,
only to discover he’s expected to play ball and make the Vs look good, or else
no chat.


Unfortunately for journalistic ethics everywhere, Decker folds like a
cheap suit.

But all may
not be lost for this Anderson Cooper wannabe.

“In that
moment,” Wolf says, “obviously he’s been put in a position where he’s got two
very difficult choices to make. One is to be a real sucker, and the other is to
potentially give up the best opportunity he’ll ever have.

V_Scott_Wolf.jpg

“What Scott
thought of Chad
in that moment was that he’s actually smart enough to believe, or to know, that
he’ll find a way to make it right, that this opportunity won’t come back again.

“He can
reclaim his integrity, but this opportunity is once in a lifetime.”

If you haven’t
seen the original “V,” stop reading right now, because anyone who has knows
that the Visitors are only human on the surface, with a reptilian reality
lurking within. But we’re not talking hulking crocodiles here; these lizards
can hold their own with higher primates.

“I like how
controlled and smart and calculating she is,” Baccarin says of Anna, “that
she’s able to learn from humans and manipulate them and be who she thinks they
want her to be, so she can get what she wants.

“I like the
nuances of that.”

So as the
alien leader, Anna is a consummate politician.

“Exactly,”
Baccarin says. “It’s all about getting people to trust you, so you have to
present yourself and do things that will get that, even if they’re not entirely
true.”

While she
says she didn’t base Anna on any particular political figure, Baccarin did
learn from recent history.

“Obviously,”
she says, “we were all very captivated by the presidential election, so I
watched a lot of the debates and things in general. That, I’m sure, helped me
figure out what I wanted to do a little bit.”

As for the
stops and starts of “V” so far, Wolf says, “Stay with us. I don’t want to say I
know – because none of us ever knows anything really – but I believe people are
going to tune in to see this show, and I believe they are going to be excited.

“As
unnerving as any kinds of bumps in the road can get for all of us, I know that
every decision that’s been made is in the long-term best interests of the show
and the story.

“So to me,
I’ve not veered from my excitement and belief in the show at all.”


All that having been said, here are excerpts from the
press-tour session from Aug. 8, starting with my question and Scott Peters’ answer:


KO: Some of the words in the pilot associated with the Visitor agenda are
“hope” and “change” and “universal health care.” So was that intentional, or
are you just freakishly prescient?

SCOTT PETERS: Freakishly
prescient.

ELIZABETH MITCHELL: Wow.

KO: And now that you are
here and we are in this situation and you are airing it in November, are you going
to play off that, or how are you going to work with that?

SCOTT PETERS: You know,
because of the Writers’ Guild strike, this show has been in
V_Scott_Peters.jpgdevelopment for a
long time, and I just felt, to me, it was, you know, certainly — it wasn’t sort
of — we are not looking to put any sort of agenda onto the table, but I think
that anybody — you know, I wake up in the morning and you look at the news, and
you see, you know, there’s wars, there’s new diseases being discovered, there’s
old diseases that are still — we are dealing with. There’s — the economy is in
the toilet. There are people losing their homes. Wouldn’t it be awesome if 29
ships showed up and they all said, “We’ve got this. We’ll take care of you.
Don’t worry about it”? Wouldn’t this be great?  And so, I mean, that’s really where hope and
change came from. It’s just like the world — Joel has a line in the pilot that
says, you know, “The world is in bad shape, Father. Who wouldn’t welcome a
savior?” And I think that’s a pretty interesting thesis statement. So that’s kind
of where this whole thing sort of came from. And, listen, I think that shows
are open to interpretation. People have subjective — bring subjective thoughts
to it. And if you want to ascribe, you know, those words to the Visitors or to
whatever is going on in our society, that’s sort of up to the viewer, but there’s
no particular agenda to, you know, hone in on those specific things.

Other
reporters picked up the thread a few minutes later, and here’s Jeffrey Bell’s
response to the issue:

 

JEFFREY
BELL: Look, there are always going to be people who will look for agendas in
V_Jeffrey_Bell.jpgeverything. This show was conceived during the Bush administration. It got executed
in an Obama administration. There are people on either sides of the aisle who
can find things. You can say, “Yeah, look how stupid these people are for following
blindly and believing everything the government is saying,” and you can have
people who are upset about that. And you can have other people saying, “Look at
these people who are promising everything at no cost, and look, they are
leading them to their own doom.” And so, for us, both sides have strengths and
weaknesses. And if you want to talk about a fantastic — let’s get people to show
up and watch it and talk about it.

UPDATE: Showrunner shakeup announced today, Nov. 3 (premiere day), replacing Scott Peters in that position and likely resulting in Jeff Bell’s departure. The guy coming in has good creds, but this stuff seldom turns out well. Fingers crossed.