Who’d have thought that one of the funniest, most consistently well-written shows on TV would be a comedy series about a support group for alien abductees? Well, People of Earth is just that. Created by David Jenkins, People of Earth follows journalist Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) as he is assigned to investigate a local support group for alien abductees, Starstruck. The deeper his investigation goes, the more seduced by the idea he becomes until he slowly discovers that he, himself, was abducted by aliens as a child. Everything Ozzie ever knew was a lie as his life unravels before his eyes and everything becomes a lot weirder than he’d ever imagined they could be. Meanwhile, on a ship orbiting the Earth, a group of aliens, Jeff, Don, and Kurt, continue making preparations for the upcoming invasion of Earth by their respective races. Little do they know that their plans may be about to be revealed to Ozzie by a traitor from their own ranks… (Mild spoilers ahead).
Much of this review is gonna be somewhat vague. I really don’t wanna spoil too much of this show, because it’s really a show that ought to be watched. The plot’s not suuuuuper important, but it’s still a lot more fun if you don’t know what’s coming. Much of the plot related information I’ll mention will be from early in the first season (and the first episode or two of season two since it would be a crime not to mention how good Nasim Pedrad is in the second season). People of Earth is really about the relationships between the characters, both humans and aliens. The show revolves around a support group for alien abductees and as a result of that, we’re really able to focus on the dynamics and character histories of these characters. It gives us a unique chance to see them and appreciate them. That’s where the true joy in this show is.
It makes sense that one of the executive producers for People of Earth, Greg Daniels, was also an executive producer on The Office and Parks and Recreation. The humor in People of Earth is very similar to the humor in both of those shows. And the fact that the focus of People of Earth is really on the interactions between the characters is perfectly in line with his style of shows. It doesn’t really matter what the aliens’ ultimate plans are. It matters how they go about getting them. It doesn’t matter, ultimately, what Starcrossed, the support group for alien abductees finds out, it matters how they find it out and how it impacts them. This is a show about people and how they handle these extremely strange and traumatic events that have happened to them. It’s a show about an outsider (Ozzie) coming into an established group of people and being accepted and made to feel welcomed. It’s a show about friendship. It’s a show about teamwork and perseverance. It’s a show that will make you feel good.
I really can’t express how much I love this show. It’s funny and moving and entertaining and genuinely gripping. The idea of a support group for alien abductees is a genius one. The idea of revolving a show that’s genuinely about aliens around a support group for alien abductees is an even bigger genius idea. Showing us how the aliens operate as they plan their upcoming invasion is a genius idea. So much of this show is just genius ideas. And all of those ideas are executed ingeniously by the writers, directors, and actors. It can’t be an easy feat to make a show about a bunch of alien abductees feel genuinely relatable to those of us who haven’t been abducted by aliens, yet this show really does feel relatable. There’s a character for literally everyone.
Add to that the superb acting by the extremely talented ensemble cast. From the trailers and the summaries, you’d think that Ozzie would be the main character and he’d overshadow everyone else. And, at first, you wouldn’t be wrong. But that doesn’t last very long. Ozzie is really the audience’s conduit into this world. Once some of the dynamics of the group have been set up, it quickly becomes a true ensemble show. Sure, some actors are more famous than others (looking at you, Ana Gasteyer), but none of them really outshine each other. They all have an important role to play and they’re all given a lot of time to shine and a lot of time to develop and grow as people and as friends with each other.
Like I said at the beginning, who’d have thought that this show would end up being so consistently good? I think the biggest factor in this show’s success is that the joke isn’t that these characters believe in aliens. It seems that in shows like this, usually, the joke is that the characters believe in the paranormal. In People of Earth, the joke seems to be that Ozzie is so reluctant to believe in aliens even as he’s presented with ever-growing evidence suggesting they exist. And that’s just funny. It’s even funnier since the audience knows there are aliens as we get to see exactly what the aliens are up to. It’s a classic case of dramatic irony, and it’s executed so expertly that it really makes what could be a frustrating scenario remain runny.
The other really key thing to this show’s success is how genuine the characters are. Recently on Twitter, author Sam Sykes posted a thread talking about why shows/books/films like Stranger Things and It are so popular right now. His hypothesis is that it’s because the characters in those properties are genuine. Too often, our comedy and genre media is dished out in such an ironic fashion. The characters constantly offer quips that hide their emotions and they don’t seem to feel any real genuine emotions. It’s like pop culture is scared to tell stories about characters who genuinely feel things and aren’t afraid to show that they feel things. People of Earth is not one of those shows. Every single character in the show feels genuine. They’re not afraid to express how they’re feeling, regardless of how dumb it is or how someone else might react to it. It’s a refreshing thing to see in a comedy like this, and I feel like it’s a large reason why this show succeeds as well as it does.
People of Earth is an enjoyable science fiction comedy. It’s a heartwarming story about a group of people who are brought together by a shared, strange experience. It’s hilarious. It’s well-written. It’s mysterious. It’s addictive. It’s entertaining. The acting is strong. The writing is sharp. The characters are well written and well defined. Everything about this show is enjoyable. It’s surprisingly diverse, it’s genuine and nonironic, it’s heartfelt, it’s silly, it’s dramatic. It’s just entertaining as hell and if you aren’t watching it, you’re seriously missing out.
(5 out of 5 wands)