The Lost phenomena might be one of the best things to happen to television. Cookie cutter cop shows (and I really like Law & Order) have dominated the airwaves for far too long. I think people got sick of stories that wrapped up too neatly at the episode’s end.
The ABC show Lost (along with Desperate Housewives) helped to reinvigorate the season-long plot-lines that made watching television shows week after week interesting and relevant. ABC tried to use the formula again with Invasion, a show about water-based extraterrestrials infiltrating Homestead, a small Florida town, told through the eyes of the one extended family, and had mixed results.
The show starts with the touchdown of Hurricane Eve onto Homestead, with images and dialogue reminiscent of any disaster flick. But there is no climax in the pilot episode because the show needs to build the tension and the most terrifying thing to happen in a thriller is for it to climax too early. So the first few episodes of the show just wade in the water, trying to establish characters, their relationships, the setting, and the context.
Tom Underlay (William Fichtner), the town sheriff, coordinates the hurricane relief efforts. He’s married to the hospital’s chief doctor, Mariel Underlay (Kari Matchett). She used to be married to a park ranger named Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian), and they share two children Jesse (Evan Peters) and Rose (Ariel Gade). Russell is currently married to Larkin Groves (Lisa Sheridan), a local television reporter. Her brother Dave (Tyler Labine) lives with them. Tom has a daughter from his previous marriage Kira (Alexis Dziena). Doesn’t this seem like one big happy family?
The family’s complicated nature parallels the complicated nature of the town in the aftermath of the hurricane. When strange things start to happen, it’s no wonder that no one tries to look for the answers. If problems exist in the home, the town’s state and well-being become less important. Everyone is preoccupied with the cleanup and relief work that no one sees the significance of the strange occurrences like the lights that accompanied the hurricane and remain near the water, the townsfolk who are found naked in the water seemingly unharmed by mother nature, and the slow town restoration process — including a town quarantine — spearheaded by the town sheriff.
Dave, with his thousands of ideas as to the invasion’s causes and effects, first entertains the idea of an alien invasion. Could the invasion be a military conspiracy? Could Homestead be the starting battlefield? What if Homestead wasn’t the first town to be invaded? Is all mankind doomed?
Invasion is also reminiscent to the science fiction film Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. But the dangers aren’t as real or immediate. As a television series, Invasion must pace itself in order to achieve a greater payoff for the devoted audience. Slowly (and I mean slowly) but surely the show reveals many tidbits of information through the investigation by Dave and Russell as to the origins of the “hybrids.” But I think this pace is a little too slow. Looking at the DVD box set, it is titled “The Complete Series.” No doubt the show reached a premature end, but given a whole 22-episode season the stories could have gone somewhere. Throughout most of the episodes, Russell is out looking for clues, and grumbling about trying to protect his family, while his wife is constantly worried sick and his children become to feel thoroughly neglected.
The emphasis on the family and how family bonds give strength is a nice foundation to work the series around. But science fiction needs more story and more suspense. The shift between the investigation and the troubles at home are too abrupt and don’t connect as smoothly as I think series creator Shaun Cassidy intended. Although, the town itself and the invasion’s ramifications on it are touched upon in the latter episodes through instances like the high school’s segregation between the hybrids and the humans. This catches Jesse and Kira into an extremely complicated situation.
The biggest problem I have with the show is that I’ve never been able to grasp its believability. The idea of ordinary folks like Russell and Dave trying to rise up to do extraordinary things like stop an alien invasion and save the planet seems sort of preposterous and pretentious to me. Maybe I’m reminded too much of the Donald Sutherland version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (which everyone should, it’s a great movie), and it depressed the hell out of me. The odds seem so stacked against the Underlays and the Varons. You want to root for them, but it all seems so hopeless. But that’s my problem.
Invasion isn’t a great show, but it is mildly intriguing. Its main problem is the pacing. I mean the show is called “invasion” for a reason. I think we all know that at some point the big thing will happen. But the main point of watching is the stuff in-between, which I think ends up being disappointing. The show needed more tension and more alien stuff, but all it had was people talking.
Invasion is presented in a 1:78:1 widescreen format. Special features include some deleted scenes that mostly amounted to nothing significant, a featurette titled “Invading the Mind of Shaun Cassidy,” and a gag reel. The gag reel has some pretty funny moments and it looks as though the cast really loves Brokeback Mountain.