October 08, 2007

TV: Aliens in America (CW, Monday 8:30/7:30)

In a desperate attempt to help their awkward son fit in better at school, Gary and Franny Tolchuck (Scott Patterson and Amy Pietz) open their home to a foreign exchange student. They're expecting a Nordic god, someone whose own popularity will transfer to Justin (Dan Byrd), but instead they wind up with Raja (Adhir Kalyan), a Pakistani Muslim. Wackiness ensues.

I kinda hate coming down hard on this show; its heart is in the right place, and the cast is immensely likable. Pietz, in particular, does marvelous things with her role, ringing fascinating changes on the Midwestern housewife cliche.

But the show is painfully heavy-handed, especially in its use of Justin's voice-over narration. It's intrusive and usually unnecessary. When Franny has her big change of heart, for instance, and decides that Raja can stay, we hear Justin explaining what she's thinking. But Pietz is perfectly capable of showing us what Franny's thinking (she is, in fact, doing a lovely job of doing so); the scene would play perfectly well without the narration. Every metaphor is spelled out, including that of the title ("I was like an alien myself, but there was no spaceship coming to rescue me...").

It might be worth checking in on this one in a few weeks to see if the show's approach has softened, but in a crowded timeslot, I'll be sticking with The Big Bang Theory.

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