Tonight, on the teevee, ABC will relaunch the V franchise, because it sure beats having a new idea! The series's first incarnation -- which debuted on NBC as a mini-series back in 1983, spinning into a regular series that ran until 1985 -- told the story of alien visitors, who arrived on our planet talking a good game about goodwill and peace, but were actually hamster-devouring creatures bent on stealing the Earth's water, eating people, and reminding people of Nazis. By a stroke of luck, the Visitors came to Earth in uniforms with precisely the sort of epaulets and hairstyles that they needed to earn our early-1980s trust.
Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.
The news media swoons in admiration -- one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: "Why don't you show some respect?!" The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader's origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: "Embracing change is never easy."
So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait -- did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who's come here to eat us?
Welcome to ABC's "V," the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season.
Lefty types are apparently seriously concerned that this new V series could totally sow anti-Obama sentiment, in the same way that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA led to everyone asking serious moral questions about the War On Terror and how a generation weaned on the anti-authority themes of THE X-FILES rose up as one to oppose the Bush administration's plans to wiretap everybody's phones and suspend habeas corpus!
As with all issues related to the nexus between politics and science fiction, I spoke to Air America's Ana Marie Cox about this critical new piece of televised Tea Party propaganda... SET TO LAUNCH ON ELECTION DAY! COINCIDENCE?
Jason Linkins: So, I wanted to get your reaction to the news that there is mounting concern among liberals that V is going to be a hotbed of anti-Obama propaganda?
Ana Marie Cox: Wow is that the meme? For reals?
Jason Linkins: Yes. Take a look at David Sirota's post: "'V' - The Right's New Favorite TV Show, Or Inadvertent Proof of The Ubiquity of The Right's Fables?
Ana Marie Cox: Oh! See, for a moment there, I thought by "V" you meant "Virginia", and it made more sense.
Jason Linkins: Ha! No. I am not referring to a real concern. I'm talking about a fictional concern: the television show V. You see, you've instilled in me an appreciation of the fact that the Venn Diagram between political wonks and sci-fi fans are basically strongly overlapping circles. So, I expect that once the show debuts tonight, we'll have a crap-ton of pop-cultural warblogging going on between Matt Yglesias and all the bloggers at The Corner. Because why not?
Ana Marie Cox: I recently decided this is something I'd like to have Jonah Goldberg spend all kinds of time on. On the other hand: Yglesias, please, more policy analysis. But if Goldberg wants to rumble with Sirota? AWESOME. That is some talent appropriately spent.
Jason Linkins: What are the possibilities, though, that the same network that brought us PATH TO 9/11 IN SANDY BERGER'S SOCKS have gone out and taken the V franchise and kitted it out as a Valentine to the Teabaggers?
Ana Marie Cox: I think slim. Seriously. Unless the same people are involved. The 9/11 socks guy had an explicit agenda, which turned out to make pretty horrible television. Did they give him the V franchise to work with? The show is a potential GOLD MINE. Do they want to clutter it up with ideas that appeal to a whopping 20% of Americans?
Jason Linkins: Won't they all be watching FOX, tonight, anyway? As for the people in charge, there's a lot of science fiction cred. The executive producer is Scott Peters, who created The 4400. And Jeff Bell, who is also a producer, worked on that hotbed of rightist authoritarianism, The X-Files.
Ana Marie Cox: See, that sounds like people interested in good television, not in frenetic code-mangling. For that, I could watch Glenn Beck EVERYDAY. But then again, Glenn Beck is not science fiction with a political agenda, he is simply science fiction.
Jason Linkins: Ha ha. But look, liberals are concerned with the fact that the Visitors promise "hope" and "one-world government" and "universal health care" and, in this version of the series, have established "sleeper cells" in advance of their coming...and you know what that means: TERRORISM. OH WAIT, SORRY, I forgot that the right is no longer concerned with terrorists. I should have said, THE ACORN.
Ana Marie Cox: THE ACORN also just doesn't sound as scary as it should. MAYBE THAT IS PART OF THE PLAN!
Jason Linkins: Of course! I'm trying to imagine sly invaders coming to earth, and seducing the world with promises like: "We will help you make incremental policy changes that do nothing to undermine the systems you already have going on!" PEOPLE OF EARTH: We come with small-bore ideas that may help you "bend your cost curves." Maybe.
Ana Marie Cox: That is exactly what smart aliens would do, by the way. Then they would wind up serving in Congress forever and ever. Like Robert Byrd. Hey, wait a minute...
Jason Linkins: Balloon Boy's dad warned us that they were all reptile creatures! But, hey. Let's entertain the notion, for like forty-five seconds, that this is intended as pro-Tea Party propaganda. Isn't turnabout fair play? When Bush was in the White House, the left got to go home and watch The West Wing, where their awesome pretend President Jeb Bartlet, ruled the nation of our dreams.
Ana Marie Cox: And that is EXACTLY how Kerry won in 2004! I hope V works out just as well for the Tea Partiers!