Saturday, November 5, 2016

Get Spacey with PEOPLE OF EARTH

Space creatures gave me lots of laughs on Halloween night.  PEOPLE OF EARTH premiered on TBS.  The first two episodes aired Halloween night.  I wish there had been one more episode.  Call me crazy.  But I guess I'm just a sucker for extraterrestrials who bicker like members of a garage band who've worked together for years but have never hit the big time.
One of the most fulfilling and frightening experiences of my career was the time I had the privilege to work with a PEOPLE OF EARTH actor.  I made my comic acting debut as a recurring character for THE ONION.  I played a clueless TV news pundit named Prof. Robert Haige.  He was a panelist on one of those Sunday morning MEET THE PRESS-type shows.  I was nervous about working with Brian Huskey because he's an improv comedy veteran who books a lot of work.  He's had parts in Will Ferrell comedies.  I learned so much every single day I worked with and watched Brian.  When we had scenes together -- and this is no exaggeration -- I often had to bite the inside of my cheeks hard to keep from laughing and ruining a take when he ad libbed.

He made me less nervous and he gave me confidence.  That was exactly the kind of assignment I'd long for -- to be a supporting comic player in an ensemble.  It's the kind of work I'd still love to get.  When I saw that Brian was in the promo commercials for PEOPLE OF EARTH, I made a point to watch.  I'm so glad I did.
He plays Richard, the balding and bearded member of an alien abductee support group that meets in a church basement.  The group is called StarCrossed.  A young experienced journalist whose life at his age is not where he thought it would be goes to cover the group.  He expects they'll all be loonies.  However, while driving at night, he suddenly sees a deer in his car and the deer says, "Don't get weird."  When Ozzie goes to his business office to meet with his boss, he has visions of people with deer heads instead of human heads.  Soon, the journalist feels he needs to join the alien abductee support group because of the freaky flashbacks he's having.

We then see the three extraterrestrials who give him the flashbacks.  One of them botched up an assignment and another has to don human appearance, go down to earth and try to fix it.  One alien has no desire to visit Earth America because there's no gun control.  "It's like the wild west down there," he says.  The folks in StarCrossed aren't hallucinating. There has been alien contact. But why?

Those three space creatures broke me the heck up.  Ozzie the journalist -- THAT'S the kind of role I'd love to do.  With his appropriately sad sack face and slim frame, Wyatt Cenac nails that part.  He's the perfect Ozzie.  Brian Huskey plays Richard, the guy who irritates the two women in the group who claim to have had a sexual encounter with the same alien.  Brian is terrific yet again.  Oscar Nuñez (formerly of NBC's THE OFFICE) plays the Catholic priest who loved the movie AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and the blunt, formidable leader of the support group is played by ANA GASTEYER.
For such an unusual sitcom plot, you do feel as though you know these characters.  Or you've been these characters.  Each group member truly is alienated in some way in life.  I saw so much of my occupational self in Ozzie.  And this isn't one of those shows that mostly just one liners and no character development.  You begin to see how each character relates in this small town and within the StarCrossed group.  I really enjoyed the smart writing.
So, there's a new show for you to keep in mind if you dig loopy, intelligent humor.  PEOPLE OF EARTH on TBS.  Another moment that broke me up:  the very Southern Californian-looking alien having first time sex with an earth woman.  He looks like the alien most likely to download 1970s hits by Seals & Croft when he's on Earth.
PEOPLE OF EARTH airs Monday nights at 9:00 on TBS.
Great work, Brian Huskey.  May PEOPLE OF EARTH quickly get orders for more episodes.

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