When TBS announced it’d given a new show called People of Earth a full series order in January, little was known about the project. Sure it starred The Daily Show‘s Wyatt Cenac, Saturday Night Live‘s Ana Gasteyer and a host of other comic actors, and Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) and Conan O’Brien’s names were attached as executive producers. Aside from these details, however, viewers who discovered it via January’s announcement teaser knew nothing else — except for the fact that is co-starred a bunch of bickering alien characters prone to spouting mid-abduction one-liners.
“Okay, he’s looking right at me,” the shorter, bug-eyed “Grey” exclaims during the previewed scene. Behind him, a “Reptilian” frantically taps away on a control screen. When the Grey pokes fun at his green counterpart’s apparent mistake, the latter snipes right back: “Oh eat a dick!” After People of Earth‘s Halloween premiere, audiences quickly learned the Grey’s name was Jeff (Ken Hall) and his Reptilian co-worker’s was Kurt (Drew Nelson), and that the pair also operated aboard a ship with a “White” named Don (Björn Gustafsson). Together, the trio of alien characters stole their scenes — earning praise from critics and viewers alike. Even their better-known colleagues couldn’t help but sing their praises, as Gasteyer did when she told us “the guys they discovered to play the aliens are really, really wonderful.”
2016’s comedy slate was rife with fantastic newcomers and stellar returns, including The Good Place — the latest from Daniels’ former partner Michael Schur — and Veep. Despite the prestige of these leading comic ensembles, however, People of Earth‘s aliens presented the year with its best new television comedy team. As Canadian actors Hall and Nelson, and Swedish comedian Gustafsson told us in a series of interviews, much of this is due to creator David Jenkins’ original voice and Daniels’ expert direction and production. Yet much of the team’s effectiveness comes from the rapport the three actors developed both on and off the small screen, especially since they were allowed to improv more than their counterparts in the earthbound StarCrossed support group.