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Resident Alien

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What it’s about:

An alien crashes into the frozen woods outside the tiny town of Patience, Colorado. When the local doctor is killed, “Harry” is forced to take over his practice, and solve the murder. In the meantime, Harry searches for his downed spaceship and the device that will complete  his mission on earth—human annihilation.

Names you might know:

Starring Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Levi Fiehler. Produced and written by Chris Sheridan, based on the Dark Horse Comics series by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse.

Why it’s worth your time:

It’s an old story—alien finds himself trapped on our planet and learns what it is to be human. There’s no pretense of good intentions here. Five minutes into the first episode he’s killed a man and doppleganger-ed his body. That choice leads to another set of problems, because the man he’s now impersonating, Harry Vanderspeigle, is a pathologist who owns a cabin in Patience.  So, in order to not arouse suspicion, “Harry” agrees to investigate the death of Sam Hodges (Jan Boss), who was the town doctor. And then, in order to not arouse suspicion some more, Harry takes over Sam’s practice. And, hangs out with the locals, including Dr. Sam’s nurse Asta, played by Sara Tomko (Once Upon A Time), and her friends, getting caught up in their daily drama.  And on, and on. Will Harry be able to hold on to his objectivity and complete his deadly mission?

We’ve all seen this before, but as always, it’s the journey that matters, and this one is an original and hilarious take. Casting Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One) as Harry is inspired, because he looks like an alien trying to pass as human, doesn’t he? Harry (so far we haven’t been given his real name) has been watching Law and Order in Vanderspeigle’s cabin to learn how to be human. But, like anyone learning a foreign language in a foreign land, he doesn’t always get the social-norm beats right. He takes the wrong stuff literally. He laughs inappropriately and a little too loud, etc.

Harry is convinced that his advanced scientific skills backed up with internet research, will see him through his new job as the town doctor, but his bedside manner could use some work. He tells a grumpy patient that he’s got until Christmas to live, so make the most of it. He assures a woman that coming in after she found a lump in her breast was the right thing to do, “Now let’s get a look at that tit!” But, everyone gets a lollipop at the end of their appointment! Most of the townspeople dismiss him as offbeat and weird, but only one—the mayor’s 10-year-old son Max—sees Harry for what he is, a big ole, Alien Autopsy-looking creature. Played by Judah Prehn, Max is appropriately terrified and desperately tries to alert the adults to the situation, to no avail. Harry’s reaction is simple: Max must die. 

This sets up an hysterically funny Tom and Jerry dynamic between the two of them. “I’m not going to hurt you,” Harry tells Max after climbing into his bedroom window with a knife, “I’m just going to kill you.” After that attempt is thwarted by Max’s parents, Harry decides the best approach is to make Max’s death seem like an accident. Harry  fantasizes about blowing up his house or dropping a piano on him (ha!), but settles for cutting the brakes on the kid’s bike. That backfires when Max’s father, played by Levi Fiehler, brings him in for stitches after the bike crashes. Harry tries bribery, “Good little boys get novocaine for stitches. Are you a good little boy?” Max basically tells him to stuff it, and takes the stitches novacaine-free like a champ. He and Harry troll each the whole time, snapping back and forth like a couple of, well, children. Once again, Max escapes and wins the day. Here’s hoping his luck lasts. 

Chris Sheridan was the head writer and producer of Family Guy for 17 years, and he brings that same off-center darkly comedic sensibility to Resident Alien, which I very much appreciated in Harry’s outsider view of the human condition. Sara Tomko is perfect as Harry’s straight (wo)man, too entangled in her own issues to fully grasp exactly how odd her new boss is, even when he interrupts Sam’s funeral to open up the casket and smell the body.

Corey Reynolds (The Closer) puts in a solid comedic  performance as another one of Harry’s foils, Patience’s sheriff, Mike Thompson. He clearly has a big chip on his shoulder and believes that the best defense is a good offense. “Everyone calls me ‘Big Black,’” the African-American man tells Harry. “Because of your truck,” Harry responds, nodding at the vehicle behind him. Mike assumes he’s being sarcastic, but Harry just stares at him blankly. And, simply put, Judah Prehn is fantastic as Max. Harry’s going to face a lot more trouble with that one. 

The takeaway:

Resident Alien is a fun twist on an old trope, and good for at least three three laugh out loud moments per episode. I still lose it every time I think of the piano dropping on Max’s head in Harry’s fantasy, or his voiceover claiming that even though people believe the leading cause of death is heart disease, it’s actually almond milk. If you’re laughing now, too, this show is for you.

Watch it with:

Fellow sci-fi fans in need of a good laugh. It’s rated TV-14, so if you’ve got a comics-loving teenager, they’re good to go.

Worth noting:

Pay attention to the opening credits of each episode, they’re plotline forecasts.

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