Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We are the Changelings we've been waiting for

This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have little; who've been told that they cannot have what they dream; that they cannot be what they imagine.

Yes they can.

We are the hope of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake with doubts that tell him he cannot give his children the same opportunities that someone gave him.

Yes he can.

We are the hope of the woman who hears that her city will not be rebuilt; that she cannot reclaim the life that was swept away in a terrible storm.

Yes she can.

We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be.

Because we know what we have seen and what we believe - that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest - Yes. We. Can.

Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.

The news media swoons in admiration -- one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: "Why don't you show some respect?!" The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader's origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: "Embracing change is never easy."

So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait -- did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who's come here to eat us?

Welcome to ABC's "V," the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it's also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president's supporters and delight his detractors.

"We're all so quick to jump on the bandwagon," observes one character. "A ride on the bandwagon, it sounds like fun. But before we get on, let us at least make sure it is sturdy."

The bandwagon in this case is conspicuously saucer-shaped. "V" starts with the arrival of a couple of dozen ships from outer space, piloted by creatures who look like humans except a lot prettier. "Don't be frightened," says their luminously beautiful leader Anna (Morena Baccarin, "Serenity"). "We mean no harm."

The aliens -- who become known as V's, for visitors -- quickly enthrall their wide-eyed human hosts.

A handful of dissidents hold out against the rapturous reception given the V's. Some are simply uneasy, such as the youthful priest Father Jack (Joel Gretsch, "The 4400"), who sharply criticizes the Vatican's embrace of the V's as divine creations: "Rattlesnakes are God's creatures too.",0,7062976.story

Almost as if Lou Dobbs had taken over the network, ABC plans to debut a series in the fall about aliens who come to Earth promising "hope," "change" and universal health care, but who actually want to infiltrate our government and our businesses and, to that end, have rallied the country's youth behind their nefarious campaign.

Morena Baccarin plays the good-looking, seductively charismatic leader of the so-called Visitors, one remarkably knowledgeable about human culture and media manipulation.

The series is called "V" and it's a re-envisioning of an old miniseries of same name.

Baccarin acknowledged she had modeled her alien character after politicians, saying: "I am trying my best [in the role] to be as trustworthy as I can be and to embody what everybody of every nationality and need wants to see. At the same time, you have your own agenda."

Oh, and "V" is debuting on Nov. 3 -- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a.k.a. the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama being elected the 44th president of the United States, which will be front and center on all the cable news networks, the broadcast TV networks' newscasts, the front pages of newspapers, magazine covers and pretty much otherwise on everybody's mind.

This was not lost on some of the TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2009, especially those who knew the original "V" was seen as a political allegory. In that case, it was widely perceived as a thinly veiled portrait of fascism.

"Some of the words in the pilot associated with the Visitors' agenda are 'hope' and 'change' and 'universal health care,' " one critic noted. "So, was that intentional, or are you just freakishly prescient?"

"Freakishly prescient," replied executive producer Scott Peters, though not blithely -- not with any real zippiness. Many in the room did not seem to buy it, except maybe "V" heroine Elizabeth Mitchell, who responded, "Wow!" as if it was the first she was hearing about this.

The critic wanted more.

"We are not looking to put any sort of agenda onto the table but," Peters said, spinning madly, "you know, I wake up in the morning and you look at the news and you see there's wars; there's new diseases being discovered; there's old diseases that we are still dealing with. 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'?

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