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The Skies are Falling! The Skies are Falling!

Everything I thought I knew about TV is wrong. Seriously. On Sunday, the two-hour premiere of Falling Skies aired, and an alien apocalypse descended upon the fair city of Boston; I didn't notice, but apparently 5.9 million viewers did. It's not hard for me to think of reasons why this show was so off my radar. Maybe it's because it's an original sci-fi show on TNT, maybe it's because nobody cares about TNT's other Boston-based show Rizzoli and Isles, or maybe it's because everyone else was watching the season finale of Game of Thrones.

But then I looked up Nielsen Viewer Ratings for the first time. Turns out, 5.9 million is the most viewers for a scripted cable show premiere, since Rizzoli and Isles's 7.9 last year! Is your mind not blown? Were you watching this, too, or is it (as I suspect) just the same people who actually give Jay Leno good ratings?

For those of you scrambling to catch up via DVR, here's what you need to know about our imminent, Steven Spielberg-produced demise. The show thankfully begins in media res, which is refreshing for a feature-length series premiere. Who cares about origin stories anymore? I want to see some aliens destroy some stuff. But the opening is already being lambasted as a Walking Dead knock-off, though. Here's Michael L. Moore from examiner.com: "Where The Walking Dead had strong acting and a solid sense of camaraderie among the remaining zombie apocalypse survivors, Falling Skies is sadly just the opposite." It scares me that The Walking Dead is the benchmark for good acting. Anyway, we quickly find out that the aliens have successfully invaded the Hub, there is a pretty organized militaristic resistance, and the twist is that the aliens are after our kids.

The alien invasion and ensuing fight for liberation superimposed onto the landscape of Boston is a fun idea. But just when it seems like, "Hey, finally a show set in Boston that isn't heavy-handed about it," we meet our hero, Tom Mason. Tom (Noah Wyle of ER fame) is a decently fleshed-out character. He's adapted well to his dystopian world, despite having been an American history teacher in his pre-invasion life. The problem is that Tom doesn't miss a chance to spout Revolutionary War trivia/knowledge. I guess it is a change of pace for Hollywood to portray Bostonians as having a savant-like knowledge of colonial New England, as opposed to making us all be from Southie.

The writers have tried to twist or invert common archetypes with the show's other characters, but miss the mark. Tom's oldest son/ fellow resistance fighter, Hal, finds himself in a love-triangle between his gun-toting girlfriend Karen and the very Catholic Lourdes. Usually, the charming guy leaves his ascetic girlfriend for the un-repressed, bad girl. I suppose when the writers inverted that formula, they forgot that the motivation is that usually that the new girl puts out; I doubt devout Lourdes will. There's also John Pope, the ambiguously good/ bad guy, who drinks, yet is highly literate. He's even witty to boot. What a great character you may say. I agree; it has been great since Robert Louis Stevenson thought up Long John Silver in 1883. Finally, Moon Bloodgood (O's: 6; other vowels: 0) plays a pediatrician against type; she's actually pretty good.

Overall, the debut showed us a lot of different sides to this series. The first hour had a pretty large-scale alien invasion plot, full of "skitters" and "mechs" and some decent special effects. The second half was more about the characters' emotional reactions to an unseen enemy. Maybe next week we'll tune in to see where this show decides to take itself, if we haven't already picked some other guilty pleasure to watch in the same time slot (hi there, Next Food Network Star). Otherwise we'll never know if Tom is reunited with his middle son, who was kidnapped by aliens. Oh, did I forget to mention that they hooked this harness up to the kid's spine that makes him, like, an alien-zombie slave? Oh well; made you watch. 

READ: "Will Falling Skies be the Apocalypse Bostonians have Awaited?"

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