PEOPLE OF EARTH on TBS
“It’s a very sincere effort at making a character comedy that has cool, interesting, sci-fi elements to it.” Greg Daniels
By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 11/2/16 – TBS stepped outside the box with its new half hour Comedy/Sci-Fi series People of Earth. Premiering Halloween night in the Monday 08:30 p.m. slot, the series doesn’t wear itself out with cheap laughs. It’s focused on characters, and that’s both a blessing and a risk, as there are many characters competing for your affection and attention. This premier night we got the pilot as the series premier followed up by the first episode proper. Good strategy. The pilot episode was a bit slow gaining altitude and took a while settling into its orbit. The following episode was far more confident and on course.
The main character is Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac), a talented writer from New York who gets tagged with an assignment in Beacon NY, covering a group meeting of alien abductees called StarCrossed. He quickly dismisses them as crackpots until he begins to suffer from flashbacks that indicate he was abducted himself. He moves to Beacon NY, joins the group as a regular and gets a job writing for the local news rag. SNL alum Ana Gasteyer plays the group leader Gina who holds the group together, and she’s pitch perfect.
At times lines are blurred between comedy and legit Sci-Fi. However the fine ensemble cast keeps you engaged between laughs, and there are laughs to be found. It’s interesting that the least fascinating aspect of the series are the actual aliens, they bicker like a sit-com family with snarky putdowns and sarcastic wisecracks. That said, the premise is a refreshing change-up from your standard issue aliens from television and film, those Sci-Fi clichés with ponderous accents who always have an evolutionary leg up on the puny humanoids. On People of Earth, the aliens come off as bumbling second stringers who can’t shoot straight. By the end of the second episode, People of Earth was firing on all cylinders, and I started to care. The young Catholic priest (Oscar Nunez); who allows the group use of his church as a meeting hall, starts to show some discreet human urges. Kelly, the pretty blond millennial with a dark streak (Alice Wetterlund) suddenly grabs Ozzie’s interest as a suitable sponsor and (possibly) much more.
People of Earth is a planet sized question mark. It could dematerialize into the heavens as quickly as it came, or grab a loyal millennial viewership looking for something fresh and freaky.
It’s down to the writers on this one, the cast is rock solid. Night one trended upward. By the same time next week, we’ll know for sure.
THT, TCA and others recently had the opportunity to speak with Wyatt Cenac, Ana Gastayer, Oscar Nunez, David Jenkins, and Greg Daniels.
Greg Daniels spoke about the low-budget aspect to People of Earth.
GREG DANIELS: “Well, I think that we’re doing a lot of practical stuff, and we’re trying to use people’s imagination and do it well when we do it. And one of the bywords of the show is that it’s not camp. It’s a very sincere effort at making a character comedy that has cool, interesting, sci-fi elements to it. And so far, the budget has been sufficient.”
Creator David Jenkins talked about the genesis of the series.
DAVID JENKINS: “I read an article about an alien abduction support group, and I thought it was kind of interesting that those actually exist and thought it could be a kind of a fun group of people to focus on. And I wasn’t quite sure what the story was, and then I read it and thought about it for a bit. And I thought you could do something really sci fi and big with this, but the thing that’s the most interesting about it is that a bunch of people meet in a church basement somewhere to talk about their alien abduction. And this really happens. There’s, like there’s a bunch of them. If you go on Facebook, and there’s Facebook groups, and there’s these little threads of people talking about these things. And it seems like they’re reasonably normal people. They’re, like, realtors, and they have jobs, and they lose their keys in the couch. And I like the tension of that. That felt like a good place to start a show. So I wrote a spec of it, and I said it was a mix of a Greg Daniels’ human comedy with a J.J. Abrams magic box type show. And I wrote it with Wyatt in mind. The main character was named Wyatt, just because I really like Wyatt’s work. I hadn’t met him. And then this actually happened, which is freakish and strange.”