SciFi Weekend: The Event, Fringe, Big Bang vs. Community, and Preparing for First Contact

The Event had its premier episode this week and was widely compared to Lost. The unfavorable nature of some of the comparisons is a little unfair as Lost had two hours to set up the situation in its pilot episode.  Lost also started out more modestly, appearing to be a show about survivors of a plane crash. We gradually learned how far more complicated the show’s mythology would be.

On The Event we quickly find that things are very complicated–and the conspiracy is far more elaborate than that on AMC’s more cerebral conspiracy show, Rubicon. It appears that a group is being held in a number of prisons for knowing a secret which most of the show’s characters seem to know about but the viewer does not. A new president threatens to reveal the information to the public and set the prisoners free, leading to a possible assassination attempt. The narrative is confused by constantly jumping around in time making Lost’s use of two time periods in many episodes seem easy to follow by comparison.

The other big event of the episode involved Sean Walker going on a cruise with his girl friend, who disappeared without any sign that the two were ever passengers. (It shows that when traveling with one’s girl friend it is unsafe to go scuba diving with an even hotter girl.)  This is interspersed with scenes of Sean trying to get into the cabin of a plane being piloted by the girl friend’s father, who we are led to believe is being forced to fly the plane into a presidential compound in Florida because of having his two daughter’s kidnapped. It also appears his wife was killed, but the scene left open the possibility she survived. We also don’t know for certain that Sean’s girl friend was really taken against her will. She might even be in on the conspiracy for all we know.

All the jumping around in time was to build up to the conclusion where the plane disappeared from the sky, setting up a big mystery which will hopefully be answered this week.  Theories being discussed include alien technology and jumping to another dimension. If we are really dealing with another dimension, this even leaves open the possibility that Sean somehow was moved to an almost identical cruise ship in another dimension where he was never a passenger traveling with his girl friend.

If this is a matter of two alternative earths it would risk being too much like Fringe, which returned on Thursday. Last season ended with a great cliff-hanger as Olivia was imprisoned on the alternative earth while their Olivia had infiltrated the Fringe squad. Word had leaked over the summer that Olivia would escape during the first episode, but they had a great twist in having the alternative Olivia’s memories be implanted into Olivia.

Besides the return of Fringe, Thursday demonstrated why DVR’s are necessary. CBS decided to take on NBC’s comedy line up by putting Big Bang Theory and William Shatner’s new show, $#*! My Dad Says (based upon this Twitter feed) on Thursday. Besides this battle of two of the best comedies on television at 8:00, ABC’s drama My Generation also looks like it is worth watching.

While both shows are worth watching regularly, this week Big Bang Theory started the season with a better episode than Community. Big Bang Theory had two strong plot lines. Sheldon, played by Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons, had his first date with Amy, played by Mayim Bialic, with Penny along to drive and try to stimulate conversation. Sheldon even managed to work in an attack on community college degrees. I wonder if this was a shot meant for the new competition. Meanwhile Wolowitz brought home a robotic arm being developed for NASA and wound up using it in a way Christine O’Donnell would not approve of.

I thought the season premiere of Community was below the quality of many of last season’s episodes because of trying to do too much in one episode. Betty White was fantastic, but her use was limited by trying to resolve last season’s cliff hanger far too quickly. The responses by Jeff and Britta to the situation could easily have been spread out over a few episodes rather than trying to reset the show in the first episode.

If Jeff wasn’t going to wind up with Britta or Professor Slater, there’s that matter of the kiss with Annie at the end of the episode–along with the obvious chemistry between them earlier in the season. Jeff acts as if Annie is a child and the episode suggests their relationship isn’t going anywhere. Annie is played by Alison Brie (who also plays Trudy Campbell on Mad Men) and as can be seen in the picture of her above is clearly no child. I bet that we see more of Jeff and Annie this season.

Chang, now a student instead of Spanish teacher, looked like Golum with his thoughts of revenge against the study group. It was an amusing scene but again it felt like too much was being thrown into one episode. It would probably work better if there were only occasional episodes devoted to Chang but the manner in which network sit-coms are done means that a regular character will be used pretty much every week.

Later this season Hilary Duff will guest star in an episode which shows a Mean Girls type clique going up against the Greendale students.

Having moved on to sit-coms, I can’t help but note what we learned on How I Met Your Mother. After going out with Ted, Cindy (Rachel Bilson) has given up on men and wound up kissing the girl who we were led to believe just might turn out to be Ted’s future wife (played by Kaylee Defer).  With Cindy no longer mad at him, the chances might be better for Ted to meet her room mate, but we learn that he is fated to meet her while best man at a wedding. (Could it be Barney’s?)

If The Event does turn out to involve contact with extraterrestrials, as some theorize, readers should be relieved to know that the United Nations is prepared should such an event actually occur:

The United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before – and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN’s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

But what if the aliens demand to be taken to our leader? (Or maybe they did come and request this following the 2000 election and left in confusion).

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