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‘Invasion’ is long-awaited success for Cassidy

Threshold

7 out of 10
Invasion
(ABC, Wednesdays 10/9c p.m.)
{NO SPOILERS}

Premise: After a relaxing trip to southern Florida and you see the light, you’ll never be the same.

It’s about time Shaun Cassidy had a hit show.

The man may be best known to mainstream Baby Boomers as “Joe Hardy” one of the Hardy Boys in the 1970s or as a teen pin-up. But as a writer, he has been chalking up creative triumphs in genre TV for the past decade.

Cassidy is the creator of a handful of cult TV favorites among sci fi and fantasy fans. It started in 1995 with American Gothic, then Roar in 1997, Hollyweird in 1998. Besides excellent writing and genuinely creepy good fun, each of these series shared a common thread: cancellation for lack of ratings.

And now comes Cassidy’s Invasion.

The ABC network gods must have been smiling on Mr. Cassidy. He got the luckiest of breaks when some honcho decided to schedule Invasion in the safe haven (and protective shadow) of the network’s mega-hit, Lost.

Because of this, out of the handful of new science fiction or fantasy-flavored TV series debuting this season, ABC’s Invasion has been the most commercially successful. The show consistently dominates the 10 p.m. time period and is the No. 2 most-watched show Wednesday nights, second only to Lost.

So after years of commercial failure, Cassidy has his first bona fide hit.

As a science fiction show, Invasion tackles a familiar theme among network sci fi offerings this year: Invaders (aliens) are hellbent on displacing humanity as the dominant life form on Earth.

Or so I think.

After watching three episodes of this very well written program, I can confidently tell you only two things:

  1. I like the show and highly recommend it.
  2. I have absolutely no idea what is going on (except that I won’t be swimming in the Everglades anytime soon).

The characters

The plot of the show basically surrounds the modern family – or the families of two couples in Florida:

  • Sheriff Tom Underlay (William Fichtner, Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Empire Falls) and Dr. Mariel Underlay (Kari Matchett, Wonderfalls), and;
  • Forest ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian, Third Watch; But I’m a Cheerleader) and TV reporter Larkin Groves (Lisa Sheridan, FreakyLinks).

The couples share a semi-blended family due to a previous marriage of Cibrian and Matchett’s characters. Cibrian plays the weekend dad to their two children (Evan Peters as “Jesse” and cute-as-a-button Ariel Gade as “Rose”).

I really like how Cassidy handled this aspect of the show. Neither parent on either side of the divorce is seen as the “bad guy.” Cibrian and Matchett have a definite chemistry and act like two people coping with a failed marriage and moving on with their lives. But there is a lingering feeling of what each meant to the other once. Nice.

Added into the mix are Kira Underlay (Alexis Dziena, Joan of Arcadia) as the sheriff’s mouthy teenage daughter from a previous marriage and Dave Groves (Tyler Labine, Dark Angel)
as the slacker brother of the TV reporter.

The Dave Groves character is a typical sci fi scruffy computer geek. If his mom was in the cast, Dave would be living in her basement. But he is fun, and the only one on the show with any comprehension of the big picture.

As a sign of the times, Dave, an Agent Mulder-type believer, also is a blogger. He supposedly has a devoted Internet fan base, or so he thinks.

(This provides for an interesting marketing technique for ABC. The invasion web site: http://abc.go.com/primetime/invasion is a recreation of Dave’s blog. For all intents and purposes, it appears to be a real functioning blog, too. Nifty, huh?)

The rundown

But these semi-happy family lives are interrupted when a major hurricane hits Florida. AND SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS – always a good premise for a sci fi show. And it’s good stuff, usually.

Like Lost, Invasion is all about teasing the audience with snippets of what is really going on. This is a mark of a grand story arc that unfolds in a steady – and surprising way.

ABC learned its lessons from The WB last year – “cast gorgeous and quirky people in your shows and have them deal with impossible situations.” It worked with Lost and Desperate Housewives last year. Now it looks like ABC has yet another hit on its hands with Invasion.


RATINGS
Overall: 7 out of 10
V-Chip Rating: TV-14 LV
Genre: Science Fiction
Sex: Adult situations with atractive men and women partially clothed.
Violence: Suprising, gorey and realistic.
Special Effects: Very well done.
Eye Candy: Lots. Gorgeous women and men – who can act!

CAST
Eddie Cibrian … Russel Varon
Williamm Fichtner … Sheriff Tom Underlay
Kari Matchett … Dr. Mariel Underlay
Lisa Sheridan … Larkin Groves
Tyler Labine … Dave Groves

David Speakman

David Speakman has spent more than two decades as a writer/editor, photographer, graphic designer and manager of creative teams in broadcast, print and the Internet. His education is in journalism, graphic design, organizational communication and law.
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