“People of Earth” Defies Expectations

Every year there are a few things we can expect with the end of summer and the start of Fall. The air becomes cooler, the leaves turn, the words “pumpkin spice latte” will be everywhere you look and Fall television comes back in full swing. This means more episodes of old fan favorites like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “American Horror Story” as well as a new crop of shows for viewers to devour. It seemed to be a fairly lackluster fall in the way of new television shows, until TBS premiered “People of Earth,” the network’s best show to date and perhaps the best new show of the season.

“People of Earth” invites us to follow journalist Ozzie Graham, as he gets to know a support group for self-proclaimed alien abductees while he comes to terms with the idea that he too may have been probed. Ozzie is at first skeptical, naturally more of a Scully than a Mulder, but the closer he gets to the support group of “crazies,” the more he has to believe. When not focused on Ozzie and the other experiencers, the show brings us glimpses of the hilarious alien overlords who have been abducting these citizens, forcing the audience to see the situation from both sides.

Now listen to this premise: an outsider disrupts the way of life in a seemingly ordinary small town, uncovering the evil secrets that lie beneath the facade of normalcy. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the show is written in the tradition of classic sci-fi/fantasy “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Twin Peaks” and “Stranger Things.” However, “People of Earth” is in no way a dramatic coming-of-age tale. Produced by Greg Daniels, the brilliant executive who gave us “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” the show’s humor is darkly amusing, never taking itself too seriously.

While the “small town with big secrets” trope may seem overused, “People of Earth” brings a fresh, bizarre flair to the traditional formula. Wyatt Cenac’s performance as reluctant believer Ozzie is earnest and witty, setting him apart from the rest of the onscreen oddballs, who haven’t quite made an impression on me just yet. However, “The Office” fans will get a kick out of seeing Oscar Nunez, best known as pretentious Dunder Mifflin accountant Oscar Martinez, portray a Catholic priest who gets tangled up with the abductees. The show is not totally perfect, but it has gotten off to an incredible, strong start. “People of Earth” is fun, timely and filled with potential to become one of the most out-of-this-world comedies on television today.

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