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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Aliens in America dead?

by Jennifer Squires Biller

This is the worst news I’ve heard since the cancellation of Las Vegas. And before you read any further, let me preface this column by warning you: I’m furious. Prepare yourselves for a red-faced rant.

My favorite new sitcom of the season, Aliens in America, is apparently finished, according to E!Online.

Reportedly, Adhir Kalyan, who plays Raja, has already taken a new role on Nip/Tuck on FX, and Aliens cast member Scott Patterson is also said to be looking for a new project.

If news of the show’s cancellation is true, and at this point it looks like it is, I shouldn’t be surprised. This show was intelligent, funny, and unique, and I loved it. So, of course, it was cancelled. If it had involved a dim-witted overweight husband married to a hot woman, a gladiator who talks trash as he chases people up a wall, or a sexy bachelor making out with a different beautiful woman every 10 minutes, then I’m sure it would have been a ratings hit.

I give up.

For the past few years, I’ve tried to promote what I consider great television here at Tube Talk. (Pushing Daisies, Brothers and Sisters, Friday Night Lights, and yes, Aliens in America.) I don’t write about reality shows that mock marriage, belittle people, or crush dreams. I talk about shows that I think are highly creative, not ones that dumb down our society.

But apparently, TV viewers like dumbing down. They love The Bachelor and the gladiators and watch in massive numbers. And no matter how much I endorse a show, the masses won’t tune in for well-written and acted shows like Friday Night Lights or Aliens in America.

I partly blame the CW for the end of Aliens in America. Yes, I know it’s a new struggling network that never seems to have as high as ratings as the big four, but a show can only do as well as its promoted. And frankly, I’ve seen little promotion of Aliens in America, either through ad campaigns, cast interviews, or multimedia content.

Instead, the CW seems to be solely promoting another new show this season, Gossip Girl. I’ve seen ads in newspapers, magazines, online, and every other available outlet. In fact, rarely a day goes by when I don’t see something promoting Gossip Girl.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate that show, but it’s about a bunch of wealthy Upper East Side high school kids and their shenanigans i.e. sex, drugs, peer pressure, and stealing couture dresses. It in no way compares to the best new show the CW had going for it this year: Aliens in America.

Like Gossip Girl, Aliens in America also tackles the tough subject of fitting in at high school. But while doing so, it provides a hilarious social commentary on the xenophobia currently happening in our society, as well as a look at how Americans sometimes view those who are different, especially those who follow Islam. To me, it is brilliant and eye opening, the All in the Family for this generation.

The fact that the CW chose to throw its promotion behind a show about privileged New York teens instead of Aliens in America, a fresh political and social satire, is baffling.

If the E!Online story turns out to be incorrect, and I hope that it does, then I apologize for this scathing lecture. But only in part. TV viewers, you should make better choices. TV networks, you should stick by shows that aren’t carbon copies of what’s already been on television for decades. And TV bloggers and critics, we should do a better job in getting the word out about shows like Aliens in America, so that more people will tune in.

I hope Aliens in America doesn’t join the list of quality shows that were cancelled prematurely: Jack & Bobby, Veronica Mars, Freaks and Geeks, etc. But if it does, we have no one to blame but ourselves.


Tim said...

Wow, it's been quite some time since we've been treated to a TTG Red-Faced Rant. I enjoyed that, and I have some thoughts in response.

First, full disclosure, I've never watched 'Aliens in America'. Also, I am a big fan of 'Gossip Girl', and I'm not ashamed of that. Blake Lively is lovely. But, TTG, I think you know that I like 'smart' television, and I fear the dumbing down of our culture as much as anyone.

With all of that being said, I think you're forgetting one thing. TV is escapist. For many people, television is a way to distract themselves from the rigor of day-to-day life. People don't want to confront stereotypes or have their beliefs challenged. They want to watch pretty people live lives that they'll never know.

I appreciate what the writers of 'Aliens in America' were trying to do. We need to understand that muslims are not the enemy. But that's a tough sell in middle-America. If Joe Six Pack, confirmed xenophobe, has a choice between having his convictions challenged or watching a farmer date ten hot women, what do you think he's going to choose? He IS the farmer. That's HIS fantasy.

There is no answer, unfortunately. People like you and I will just have to go on mourning the loss of the 'Aliens in America' and 'Studio 60's of the world.

Thankfully, we have cable and satellite, because broadcast tv will never be the higher art form we long for.

carrie said...

Preach it, Tube Talk Girl!

I'm so upset this show is getting canned. You're right about all the promos for Gossip Girl. If I see one more ad for that OMFG campaign, I may scratch my eyes out.

Sadly, I agree with Tim. People are choosing escapist TV that doesn't make them tahink or "confront stereotypes." But, Jen, I, like you, don't understand why a show can't be escapism, funny and intelligent. Therein, seems to lie the problem. I refuse to watch this farmer show I heard you talking about on the radio a few weeks ago. But, it will probably be a ratings hit.

(I loved Studio 60 too.)

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? It's now painfully clear to me that the CW wants to become simply a teen network. I think Aliens may have worked on FOX better.

weevilswobble said...

Just another example of another quality show that can't find an audience. I like Gossip Girl, too, but I appreciated Aliens as a "smart" show, something GG is not.

Seth21 said...

Great column, Jennifer. And you're right, as TV viewers we constantly complain about the lack of qaulity shows, yet when it comes to watching shows like this, I'm as guilty as the next guy of not doing it. (I admit I've watched that dreadful Gladiator show.) You're right...we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Tim is right about broadcast television. It's rare to find quality shows there compared to what we're seeing on cable. And when they get one like Aliens, they can't seem to get the ratings to sustain it.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the best comedy ever, Arrested Development, was cancelled for low ratings, as well. Meanwhile, the moronic "Moment of Truth" and "5th Grader" chalk up boffo ratings. Our country has some stupid, stupid, moronic idiots vegetating in front of the box each night.

Everwood cancelled, while 7th Heaven achieves big numbers? Frankly I'm shocked that The Office found an audience, because it does require the viewer to actually watch and react, instead of simply listening to a laugh-track.

tube talk girl said...

Yes, it's been a while since I went off into a red-faced rant, but I've had enough! Tim, you're right about the escapist angle, but I REFUSE to pimp or watch shows like The Farmer Wants a Wife.

And thanks for bringing up Studio 60. Salt in the wound, my friend...salt in the wound!

Vance said...


I thought Adhir's role on Nip/Tuck was a one shot thing.. DAMNIT...

And I hear ya sista. the whole POINT of my blog is to tell everybody about how great shows like Aliens in America, Friday Night Lights, Pushing Daisies are.

I think its time for a rant of my own. I was just commenting to someone else the other day that Im truly annoyed sometimes that people complain about the lack of good tv, yet when you ask them if they watch any of the above shows, they don't even know what they are.

one of my friends has come to me in recent years to tell about GREAT NEW SHOWS! like Arrested Development! Veronica Mars! Six Feet Under! This was after they were cancelled. After I had already told him to watch them for years at that point (but just comes on deaf ears). I just roll my eyes now since I find a lot of people seem to take a LONG time to catch onto the great shows, when its already too late.

People, if you want great shows you have to watch them when they're actually ON TV. Sheesh!

Okay. enough for now. I figure you get me and agree! And don't look blankly at me when I talk about shows like AIA, PD and FNL (and know what I mean when I use those acronyms).

tube talk girl said...

Vance, you're absolutely right about people complaining that nothing decent is on, yet when something decent IS on, they don't watch. I don't know how folks can ignore such great shows and watch Deal or No Deal.

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