Writer Face-Off: Aliens in America
Writer Face-Off: Aliens in America
In BuddyTV's 2007 Fall TV Guide, our team disagreed vehemently on the prospects of several new shows. Please read as they cheer, bash and degrade each other and the shows. Then you can decide what you think about Gossip Girl, Samantha Who?, Viva Laughlin, and Aliens in America.


BuddyTV heavyweights Jon Lachonis and John Kubicek have very different views of the CW's new comedy, Aliens in America. John believes it is the single worst new show offered up from all five major networks this season. Jon, on the other hands, thinks it deserves a chance. The show centers around a Pakistani Muslim exchange student named Raja who comes to live with an average family in a small town in Wisconsin.

While John argues that the show is uninspired and quite racist, Jon believes it is successfully attempting to make a larger point about society. Agree or disagree, the two writers debate the social and critical messages inherent to the show's premise, so read on to find out what they have to say about this new series.

Jon LachonisJon Lachonis: Ah okay. Fire away.

John Kubicek: To start, how can you possibly not find Aliens in America incredibly racist?

Jon: Oh, I do find it INCREDIBLY racist; however, I think that is intentional. The writers seem to be exaggerating everything that is even mildly troubling about the high-school experience, why not racism? I think underneath it all, there is a subtext that is saying "Look at how awful we can be."

John KubicekJohn: I'd agree that there's comedy to be found in exploiting America's ignorance, but you need to be careful when doing it

Jon: I agree. I held Jericho up to the same standards. It was too close to 9/11 still, I thought, to unleash a show about the worst case scenario. For me, AiA and Jericho had to have a sincerity to them that was not exploitive to work. Both succeed. For AiA, though, the true test is if everybody will be in on the joke. Or worse yet, if I'm wrong and the joke isn't there...

John: My biggest problem is there's no subtext or complexity to the jokes. They're flat and stale, and in order to successfully find comedy in such difficult subject matter as terrorism and America's xenophobia, you need very smart people doing it.

Jon: Yeah, I'll give you this: I did not think the jokes were done as well as they could be. But if you look at the mom, for instance, as the caricature of the white bread, superficially obsessed mother, and look at scenes like when she walks in on the kids praying together, it can be funny. Just in a comic strip sort of way. It's a style that may or may not work for this show in the big world, but I think it works better when you pull back your focus from the terrorism and xenophobia, and look at the total package.

John: A caricature is fine, but in order to succeed, I think they should understand the deeper motivations behind why she reacts the way she does. This show is so content with being one-dimensional. Other forms of media like The Daily Show, South Park or The Onion get inside the scenario and find the comedy from within. AiA is just so superficial by comparison.

Jon: One thing that helped me like it, was that I didn't go in looking for an overt message. Do you think every show that is going to do something like have a Middle Eastern exchange student come in needs to have a message? Ah, well, she reacted that way because she is shallow and ignorant.

John: I suppose that could be my bad. I did expect there to be a political or social aspect to it.

Jon: It is obligated to have a moral at some point.

John:
But when you have a Pakistani Muslim move in to a suburban midwest town, isn't that almost requiring some level of social relevance? But will the moral be: not all Muslims are bad? That's not even worth our time, since it's such an obvious message.

Jon: Well, we have Pakistani Muslims living in suburbia right now. For it to be a television show, it has to be in this nearly surreal world of stereotypes. Obvious to you and me, but not the people represented by the show. And they do exist. I doubt they'll like us laughing at them, though.

John: That could be the problem...the only people who actually need to hear this message are the same ones the show mocks and who won't pay attention.

Jon:
Okay. With any kind of luck they won't see through the cartoonish representations of themselves and the message will sneak in. If not, we'll have a low-rent, possibly racist, Malcolm in the Middle on our hands.

John: Ha, that's almost exactly what it's like.

Jon: That IS what it's like, but following the CW's typical demo, it has far less adult humor.

John: But at least that show, even though it had a black kid in a wheelchair, wasn't constantly patting itself on its back for its diversity...AiA seems too cocky and proud that it's daring to be different

Jon: Although I'm almost certain I wouldn't have liked it when I was a kid. ;) I really can't respond to that until it has had a chance to follow up past the pilot.

John: Fair enough, it is difficult to judge a show entirely on its pilot. Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip had a great pilot, then it started sucking a whole lot.

Jon: Ha. If this were last season, I have a feeling we'd be discussing that show right now.



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Read the other hilarious Writer Face-Offs: Gossip Girl Viva Laughlin and Samantha Who?.


(Image courtesy of the CW)

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