Premiere Date: Monday, October 31. TBS, 9/8C
Wyatt Cenac was a journeyman writer and correspondent in the latter years of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show tenure. His laid back delivery and often very subtle irony never quite catapulted him to the histrionic, hilarious heights of a Stephen Colbert or a Samantha Bee, but his bits were always solid and if not immediately laugh out loud, certainly worth pondering for a while. Thoughtful, funny and intriguing is how I would have summed him up, should anyone ever have asked. (Weirdly, no one ever did.)
Thoughtful, funny and intriguing is also how I will now describe Cenac’s new starring vehicle, People of Earth–at last, a chance to use the pithy assessment I literally just came up with now!
In People of Earth, Cenac plays the cynical but genial Ozzie, a journalist tasked with writing a puff piece about an alien abductee support group that meets in the small town of Beacon, New York. At first disdainful of the “attention seekers and paranoid delusionals” who make up the eclectic band of “Experiencers” (the term gives them “more agency,” you know), Ozzie’s skepticism rapidly turns to recognition, and even kinship as he begins to recover memories of his own experience with an alien trio almost perfectly designed for a joke: “A Reptilian, a Grey and a White walk into a bar…”
His fellow travelers range from the prissy and defensive Chelsea (Tracee Chimo) to the outright insane Gerry (Luka Jones) — who actually hasn’t had his own experience, but wants one SO BAD — to the inexplicably single Kelly (Alice Wetterkund), who is definitely our love interest. Leading their support group is Gina (the perfectly-cast Ana Gasteyer), the biggest pain in everyone’s ass is the self-important Richard (Brian Huskey; you’ll know him when you see him), and elsewhere we have H. Jon Benjamin (voice of Archer!) as the shifty town police officer and the very handsome Michael Cassidy (Jimmy Olsen from Batman v Superman) as online publisher wunderkind and probable alien, Jonathan.
That’s one of the funnest parts about People of Earth. The truth really is out there, and we know it from the very first episode.
Other comedies have given us aliens among us — from ALF to 3rd Rock from the Sun to The Neighbors — and others have even given us support groups — I still miss Go On, and can’t believe it only got one season while Matthew Perry’s less-worthy The Odd Couple is about to start its third — but here we have a true alien conspiracy up there with that of V or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except that the aliens clearly hate each other and are pretty Kang and Kodos about the whole taking over Earth thing. There are alien conspiracies — fuckery, as Gerry would have it — afoot in Beacon, and the harried Ozzie is in the middle of it all, for what reason we aren’t really sure.
Much like Cenac’s comedy (I should stress, he shares no writing credits here, this is simple synergy), People of Earth is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it is immensely clever, amusing and insightful.
Let’s just hope the people of our Earth can properly appreciate it.
SEASON PASS: Yep.
People of Earth airs Mondays onTBS, 9/8C