‘People Of Earth’ Turns Alien Abductions And Conspiracy Theories Into TV Comedy Magic

News & Culture Writer
10.27.16 2 Comments


For a show whose central premise involves alien abduction, People of Earth spends most of its time dealing with, well, people. Specifically, it focuses on the eight individuals who congregate at a Catholic church to take part in StarCrossed, a support group for alien abductees experiencers hosted by ex-psychiatrist Gina Morrison (Ana Gasteyer). However therapeutic these sessions may be, everyone’s individual motives and opinions often appear nonsensical to anyone on the outside. From Richard Schultz’s (Brian Huskey) alleged encounter with the nefarious Reptilians to Kelly Grady’s (Alice Wetterlund) emotional evening with a peaceable White, it’s all a bit too silly for reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) to accept. Not just because they’re all talking about shape-shifting aliens disguised as American presidents, but also because they can’t agree on what these experiences mean.

“The Reptilians are the ones you have to watch out for, Ozzie. The others are inconsequential,” says Richard, sparking a flurry of angry responses, like Yvonne Watson (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) telling him he “can’t say stuff like that,” and Margaret Flood (Nancy Lenehan) exclaiming, “Take your head out of your ass!” Meanwhile, Ozzie offers a half-assed smile and thanks the group for their time. Cue the title card and the realization that, nearly four minutes into the 23-minute premiere, none of the trailer’s promised aliens have appeared. For some impatient viewers, this may seem too much to forgive before pressing on with the remaining 19 minutes.

Then again, creator David Jenkins and executive producer/director Greg Daniels didn’t set out to craft a replica of The X-Files. Nor were they interested in reproducing the same workplace dynamic Daniels and Michael Schur encountered on The Office and perfected with Parks and Recreation. Jenkins instead wrote something wholly original with People of Earth — a single-camera comedy inspired by its predecessors but free to be its own weird creation. Or as Jenkins tells us, an attempt to grasp “that mystery tone” The X-Files fans know and love, and “pay service to the genre” advanced by Daniels and Schur. The result is something comedy and science fiction fans alike may come to adore: an odd, hybrid blend of deadpan humor, ensemble comedy, and interconnected plots about multiple alien species abducting human subjects for unknown purposes.

On paper this all seems a little weird, but as one of the pilot’s most oft-repeated lines cautions, “Don’t get weird.” Especially if you’re a fan of Daniels’s particular brand of television comedy, The X-Files, or both. If you’re familiar with the classic 1996 X-Files episode “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” penned by Darin Morgan (whose “Mulder And Scully Meet the Were-Monster” gave the recent revival with its only decent entry), you’re in for a treat. More than anything, People of Earth feels like a series-length continuation of Morgan’s sensibilities.

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