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Will 'V' find victory in prime time?

Dale Roe

It's gotten to the point where an engaging, thought-provoking conference panel that really gives everyone in the room new knowledge has, sadly, become the exception and not the rule.

Will this be the "V" remake that gets it right?

The much-anticipated series arrives Tuesday night at 7 on ABC. It's a great pilot episode, much more agile than the good - but plodding and maddeningly repetitive - "Flash Forward," ABC's earlier fall science fiction offering. A "re-imagining" of the original 1983 NBC miniseries (later attempted as a regular series by that network in 1984), "V" centers on the arrival of an extraterrestrial race - the titular V, or Visitors - who appear in 29 giant spaceships hovering over Earth's major cities.

The attractive and soft-spoken aliens arrive with a message of peace. They quickly win over the populace by sharing technology, notably in the medical arena, opening centers where they cure all manner of human ills. They offer tours and rides on their spacecraft and recruit young humans into an ambassador program. But does their benevolence mask a more sinister agenda? Of course it does.

The hour moves briskly, reaching much further into the plot line than I would have anticipated, and the first five minutes, nearly wordless by broadcast television standards, offer some of the best camera angles and most cinematic visuals of the new season. "V's" special effects are top-notch and the cast, especially Elizabeth Mitchell ("Lost's" Juliet) as a counterterrorism agent and Morris Chestnut as a resistance fighter, bring their A-game. "Party of Five's" Scott Wolf plays a conflicted television anchor who is tempted by Anna, the leader of the Visitors, to stage a softball interview in exchange for the success the exclusive will bring him.

Just four episodes will air initially, with further installments returning after the 2010 Winter Olympics. The show is expensive to produce; future episodes will have to maintain the pilot's quality and garner big ratings if the Visitors' visit is going to last more than one season. I think it has a shot. Like "V's" Earthlings looking to the skies, I am quite possibly deluded, but hopeful.