Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I've Been Invaded....

I watched the INVASION
mega-broadcast on Chiller TV last week and am officially a crazed fan of this series, canceled after only one season. It originally aired in 2005, but ran into unfortunate real-life conflict with Hurricane Katrina and its plot line; scheduling mayhem by ABC also interrupted its momentum. I remember watching and loving it, but lost track of the show mid-season, only to come back at the end.

The story takes place in Homestead, Florida, in the Everglades, as a hurricane hits. Homestead looks to be a small town, and the action centers on a “blended” family – a former couple, their new spouses, a brother between jobs who’s staying with one of the couples, and children from their combined families. It’s a great idea to show American families this way, and it’s also a metaphor for what is to come in the drama.

The hurricane brings wind, rain and devastation, and strange orange lights that both emerge from and drop into the water – these lights represent creatures that become a menace to the people living there. The proximity of the water to homes and civilization plays a crucial role in the drama.

I’m not sure how much I want to spoil here – when people go into the water after the hurricane passes through, they come out “different”. Think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” meets “The X-Files”. I love these kinds of shows, and this one is just so well done.

I’ve lived in Florida, and this series captures so well the sense of never-ending dampness, humidity, heat and nature underfoot. People are constantly sweaty, bugs are everywhere, aging due to weather conditions is wonderfully present in the settings and all of the women run around in tank tops, so you know it’s hot. I wouldn’t be able to function in that climate so I am in awe of all of the running around and action accomplished in that heat.

The show is very well written, acted, photographed, scored and designed, and looks as if it cost a bundle in special effects and CGI (though some of the CGI is quite obviously CGI). There was an outcry when it was cancelled, as the ending was a Very Big Cliffhanger that cries out for resolution. I hope that one day there will be a movie or continuation, but it’s unlikely now, 4 years later.

William Fichtner (who I am crushing on madly) plays the town sheriff, Tom Underlay. He’s married to Mariel, played by Kari Matchett, doctor and chief of staff at the local hospital. She was once married to Russell Varon, a Park Ranger, played by Eddie Cibrian, and they have two children, a teenage boy, Jesse, and grade-school daughter, Rose. Russell is remarried to Larkin Groves, a TV news reporter, played by Lisa Sheridan, who is expecting their first child. Russel and Mariel share their children, who live at both of their homes equally, though I think their main residence is with Tom and Mariel, who are much better off financially and have a sleek and modern-looking fortress of a house; Russell’s is quite rustic and ramshackle, it doesn’t look as if there is air-conditioning (!) and seems to always need repair. Tom has a teenage daughter from his first marriage (he’s a widower), Kira, who lives with him and Mariel. Larkin’s brother, Dave Groves, well played by Tyler Labine, is between jobs, and is staying with her at their house, in a barn next door.

These two families single-handedly attempt to fight what is happening in the town since the hurricane’s impact.

The series is 22 episodes long, and it takes its time telling its story, which is full of conspiracy theories, secret government ops, a crazed mastermind, family drama, science fiction, medical drama, action and adventure. It was created by Shaun Cassidy, son of the late Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, and half-brother of my pre-teen crush, David Cassidy.

I think that the cast are all excellent, but I have to single out William Fichtner, Kari Matchett and Tyler Labine as my favorites, along with Ivar Brogger and Elisabeth Moss in small but vivid roles. I was also happy to see one of my favorites, Veronica Cartwright, in the cast as Larkin's boss at the local TV station. I was a bit surprised to recognize James Frain in the cast, who I know from countless British dramas, usually as a villain – he appears to be living and working in the US these days.

William Fichtner, who I have seen in other dramas over the years, has the role of a lifetime as Tom Underlay, the sheriff that appears to have everything under control...but there is an undercurrent of something disturbing about his manner that keeps you undecided about him. Is he a villain or a hero? It’s a demanding role, and he’s really marvelous. Tom is always on guard, there’s always a crisis at work, at home, and he can never get the emotional support and comfort that he needs but he keeps on going. He is obsessively in love with his wife Mariel; I have never seen such looks of longing nor heard “I love you” as often from a husband to a wife in a TV show as I have here. And who can blame him? Kari Matchett is gorgeous, a cool blonde who can go from creepy to warm and empathic in a second. They are both very beautiful people with perfect bodies, photogenic faces and expressive eyes, and I found them fascinating and accomplished (TV) actors with great chemistry that I hope to see again in such meaty roles. Tyler Labine is wonderfully warm as Larkin’s conspiracy-theory obsessed brother, a believer in extra-terrestrials life. He’s overweight, drinks a lot of beer, is a bit of a slob and drifter, but is smart man who rises to the occasion at the most important time of his life, is devoted to his sister and her family as the loving uncle always ready to look after the kids, build a tree house or run over to the hospital or school. I lost count of the emergencies that these adults are interrupting their lives for, usually on a child’s account…a child who wanders off after a cat in a hurricane, is unaccounted for all of a sudden, falls in with the wrong crowd, gets into a fight at school…not to mention all of the accompanying adult crises. It’s nice to see a bunch of men so involved with their families, being such good fathers.

In case you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil the story for you. I bought a used copy on Amazon very inexpensively, and if you’re a fan of this genre, I recommend it.

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