Sunday, October 30, 2005

TV: Surface vs. Threshold vs. Invasion

The newness is beginning to wear off the TV season, and I'm still tuning in for three of the six creepfests/mysteries I've given a shot this year (so long, Supernatural, Reunion and Night Stalker. I didn't even try The Ghost Whisperer. I mean, c'mon. It's Jennifer Love Hewitt.). I've been surprised to get drawn into NBC's sea creature series, Surface (Monday, 7 p.m. Central), which is the only one of these shows (not counting The Ghost Whisperer) that isn't aiming for full-on darkness and paranoia, although it has elements of both, such as the shadowy government figures attempting to discredit our oceanographer heroine, Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell, formerly of Boston Legal). In teenager Miles (Carter Jenkins) adopting one of the baby creatures as a pet, the series has found a lighthearted angle that isn't too goofy or insulting. Who didn't get a little misty eyed when, after Nim (that's what he named the lizard-like pet) takes a ride to the grocery store in back of Mom's SUV, gets lost, and Miles gets in a heap of trouble, the cute little lizard monster shows up at Miles' window that night and crawls into bed next to his buddy? And for humor, nothing in the other shows rivals the moment in Surface when Nim, temporarily housed in an above-ground swimming pool, snacks on a mean girl's poodle just after she has come on to Miles as a cruel joke. Verdict: &&&

Threshold (CBS, Friday, 8 p.m.), on the other hand, mines a few laughs from the idiosyncrasies of its cast -- the sensitive tech geek, for example, who doesn't want to carry a gun and needs help choosing wedding invitations -- but it's mostly doom and gloom, a never-ending apocalyptic crisis. This series needs to find a way to do something other than chasing down the zombie infectee of the week. And what happened to that piece of alien object they made such a big deal of digging up? Is it simply forgotten? Threshold has a strong cast, and it would do well to delve more into how being cooped up at the Threshold complex is wrecking their bowling nights and love lives while throwing in more cool alien stuff. Verdict: &&&

Invasion (ABC, Wednesday, 9 p.m.), meanwhile, seems the most likely of these three to see a sophomore season and possibly beyond, although it isn't holding on to the big numbers of its cushy lead-in, Lost. The leisurely pace of this drama made for a tepid premiere but has proved to be an asset, creating a compelling slow burn as new layers of weirdness are unveiled each week. The creepiness of Mariel's (Kari Matchett) water fixation is trumped only by the mysterious behavior of her husband, Sheriff Tom Underlay (William Fichtner), whose allegiances appear shifty at best. This show has the strongest characters and cast of the new TV creepfests, and the creature aspect of the show at times has taken a back seat to its unfolding human dramas, which are complicated by divorce. But that's alright: It's a long TV season with plenty of time left to reveal the face of the alien and, perhaps, a glimpse at the true face of Sheriff Underlay. Verdict: &&&1/2

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