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April 23, 2014

Aliens in America -- An early look

by Richard Keller, posted Sep 30th 2007 11:30AM

Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan of Aliens in America

I'm trying to decide on my feelings about Aliens in America, the new comedy premiering Monday at 8:30 on the The CW. When I first reviewed the show back in June as part of a preview of The CW's new shows, I said that it actually had some potential However, after reviewing the re-shot pilot and the episode following it, I'm not too sure anymore. Oh, as a coming-of-age comedy about a boy just trying to make it through high school it has its moments. But, there are just some elements to the show that leave me uneasy. More about that uneasiness later in the review. For now, let me talk about the premise of the show, which you can see after the jump.

Dan Byrd stars as 16-year-old Justin Tolchuk, who is trying to make it through his junior year of high school in Medora, Wisconsin without feeling like a pariah. Although he's assisted in this endeavor by his well-meaning mother Franny (Amy Pietz), aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary (Scott Patterson. Yes that Scott Patterson from Gilmore Girls), and his suddenly 'very' popular sister Claire (Lindsey Shaw), things turn out the way they have in previous years: badly.

Even Franny's idea of signing up for the school's international exchange student program doesn't turn out right. Rather than housing the athletic, Nordic teen she sees on the program's pamphlet, she and her family welcome Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim. At first, the relationship between Raja and the Tolchuk's is a bit strained. But, as they get to know the young man they all come to enjoy his presence. Now, all he has to do is face life as an American high school student. Luckily, Justin is there to give him a hand. Or, so we think.

I know, you're probably thinking Perfect Strangers in high school. Well, you're wrong. Rather than being a caricature or stereotype of a foreigner Raja is played as a normal 16-year-old boy. Yes, he is a bit naive about some of the traditions and sayings that we Americans have (he gets confused when someone calls him a fudge-packer, because he really does love fudge), but for the most part he is an honest and decent young man. Sometimes too honest, as you'll see in later episodes.

Now Justin, on the other hand, really does seem like a stereotypical high school dweeb. While some viewers may think his shyness and awkward mannerisms are cute I found them a bit annoying. In addition to that he seemed to be a bit of a whiner. Sure, you'll probably say that all 16-year-old boys complain (and if they do, then I'll have my hands full when my 18-month-old son gets that age), but it gets to the point that you stop feeling sorry for his plight and kind of not want to see him on the screen.

Justin's parents . . . well, they're portrayed as people who are really trying very hard to get their son out of his shell and have a somewhat normal life as a teenager; yet, their gestures just seem to go the wrong way. Franny's gestures more so than Gary's. Speaking about Gary, I was surprised to see Scott Patterson in this role as he was not part of the original pilot (and I'm sure we reported that on TV Squad sometime over the summer). I almost didn't recognize him without his backwards baseball cap and 3-days worth of beard that he had as Luke on Gilmore Girls. It was also hard to tell it was him because of his demeanor. While his Luke was constantly cranky, Gary Tolchuk is a fairly optimistic guy.

Now, here is where my uneasiness sets in. The high school that Raja and Justin attend is filled with the most xenophobic, neolithic, sex-crazed kids I've ever seen grace a public school. It seems that every stereotypical student that has ever been categorized is part of the student body. They also apparently enjoy simulating and talking about sex. In the pilot Justin joins a conversation where one of the boys is talking about banging his younger sister (who seems to be about one or two years younger than Justin). In the next episode Justin and Raja are entertained by a pair of idiots who simulate homosexual sex for the two.

Hey, I know high school has changed significantly since I graduated shortly after the dinosaurs perished (okay, its only been 20 years, but it seems like a long time ago), but is it like that all of the time? If there's anything that turned me off during the episodes of Aliens that I watched it was the actions of not only the high-school students, but of the staff as well. I understand that the show is a comedy, and that these portrayals are for laughs, but maybe they need to tone the antics down a bit.

Aside from those concerns, I'm going to go with my original answer and say Aliens in America deserves a chance. The characters are strong, the writing is good, and there were a few solid laughs. Plus, it has a very eclectic soundtrack spanning several decades of the Rock error. So, if you have nothing to watch before Heroes give this show a look-see.

Is Aliens in America a show you are interested in seeing?
Yes, I'll give it a chance to see what it's like156 (69.0%)
No, i'm not really into those types of coming-of-age shows32 (14.2%)
Nope. I get enough of that crap during a day with my own high school aged son2 (0.9%)
What's The CW?36 (15.9%)

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13 Comments

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Jack

Bring back Anita. She was smart/funny and could be a great message to young girls. Hope to see you soon. Have her team up with the guy's to add a twist.

October 29 2007 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack

The girl that played Anita was a great add on of cast. Hope to see her team up as another Raja friend...funny,pretty and smart.Doesn't get much better.

October 27 2007 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack

who was the girl that played Anita? i enjoyed seeing her change as a smart girl and not a total mean girl. hope she is part of the future. i can really really relate to her.

October 27 2007 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cch

Aliens in America gives me a slight feeling of a 21st C Wonder Years though Wonder Years is still done better.

October 16 2007 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mimi

"Rock error"???? Should that be Rock era?

October 01 2007 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Galley

Fudgepacker? I haven't heard that term used in 20 years!

October 01 2007 at 8:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Goats

That doesn't sound like my high school at all, but maybe I'm just not talking to the right people.

September 30 2007 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Miguel

As a current junior in high school, I've seen people do both of the things you described happen in the show. Sex comes up in about 75% of high school conversations, especially with males.

September 30 2007 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
summer

I've seen the first two eps from a media mailer. Aside from the mother who seems a little over the top, and the dad who comes off as a wannabe Eugene Levy, I thought they were really good. I thought both of the boys played their characters very well and I'm going to give it a shot.

September 30 2007 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
A

Um yea and take it from some1 in nyc half the time the teachers and staff are far worse than the students...

September 30 2007 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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