There aren't many television shows whose influences include not only a novel, but a play and a short story, but that was the case with the landmark '80s miniseries and later weekly television program V.
Creator Kenneth Johnson cited Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here and the Brecht play The Private Life of the Master Race, plus a short story To Serve Man that was later adapted for a Twilight Zone episode, as key factors in his creation of a 1983 NBC mini-series called V. But while Johnson wanted to do a Nazi morality play, the network preferred a sci-fi drama, so V neatly mixed these.
The original mini-series featured an alien race that claimed to be interested only in gathering information and helping humans, but was actually determined to destroy them. The aliens or "visitors" eventually not only fooled most of the populace, they seized power and immediately started to crush their opposition. But Mike Donovan (Marc Singer), a television journalist, sneaked aboard one of their ships and got evidence of their true goals. He soon became a fugitive, running from both aliens and police, while teaming with a handful of others in a resistance movement.
V proved so popular that once the original mini-series ended, NBC revived it for a weekly series that wasn't nearly as good and only lasted for an additional year. But no good idea is ever forgotten in Hollywood, and Tuesday night the newest incarnation of V debuts on WKRN-2 at the rather late hour of 12:05 a.m. It's been assigned to that time slot because The Jeff Fisher Show rules the 7 p.m. network slot, and not even a 1-6 record prevents the Titans from having local channel supremacy.
The 2009 edition once more features photogenic, articulate types spouting the alien rhetoric of peace and understanding. But this time the person leading the charge against them will be FBI agent Erica Evans (former Lost star Elizabeth Mitchell). Her cohorts include Morris Chestnutt, Joel Gretsch and Lourdes Benedicto. Though Johnson is not involved with this production (he angrily left the television series after NBC continued tinkering with the program), the current producers say they will reference the classic program on occasion, and won't depart far from its tone and direction.
In a season where imitation (NCIS: Los Angeles) and recycling (new versions of Melrose Place?) seem the major themes, V is getting rave early reviews, both for its look and quality.
Sadly, ABC will only offer four installments in November, then take it off the air until March in another of those moves only network executives understand. ABC says they don't want the show damaged by going up against the Winter Olympics. So why not just wait until spring to debut it and run all the episodes consecutively? The only thing tougher than getting a serialized show off the ground is trying to reintroduce it to audiences after months off the air.
Still, plenty of people will be setting their DVR's to make sure they catch the opening edition of V Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.
New special sponsor
Microsoft raised a lot of eyebrows last month when they announced plans to be the primary sponsor for controversial cartoonist Seth MacFarlane's (creator of Family Guy and The Cleveland Show) variety special Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show, a blend of irreverent live and animated bits, plus musical production numbers and celebrity guests.
Evidently once they saw that some show topics included incest, deafness and The Holocaust, the folks at Microsoft reconsidered and pulled out. Now the show's being sponsored by Sherlock Holmes, the Robert Downey film that opens Christmas Day. That's quite appropriate, because the rumors about what Downey and the production company are doing to, shall we say, update Sherlock Holmes have made literary traditionalists just as nervous.
New Wanda Sykes show
Wanda Sykes becomes the latest comic to join the talk show world Saturday night where The Wanda Sykes Show comes to Fox (WZTV -17) at 10 p.m. Promising a combination of satire, talk and comic monologues, Sykes becomes Fox's latest challenge to Saturday Night Live, replacing the longtime Mad TV and shorter running Spike Fierstein programs.