You know in this day and age everyone’s worst fears would be to have a Pakistani Muslim move in with them on a student visa, especially for a white-bread family from Medora, Wisc.? So probably not the worst thing, but it certainly makes for a great sitcom premise in this 9/11 world.? It’s almost strange seeing a sitcom address the anxieties produced from that day and what makes this show actually funny is that it isn’t a social satire/parody.
Instead, Aliens in America, is a sweet-natured awkward high-school comedy first and foremost, but when it hits home with jokes about those post 9/11 anxieties it becomes a show worth putting on your DVR.? It’s certainly a bonus the show doesn’t strictly rely on political satire as the crux of its humor.
Look no further than when Raja (played by Adhir Kalyan), the Pakistani exchange student, arrives at the airport to meet the Tolchuk family.? The mother, Franny Tolchuk (Amy Pietz) is aghast he isn’t some strapping Swedish athlete, and the father Gary (played by Gilmore Girls alum Scott Peterson) is equally perplexed.
High school junior Justin (Dan Byrd) says of that moment “it was the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to us… and we had a clown die in our house.”? Cut to a dead clown laying underneath a sheet, with little or no explanation.? Either you jibe to the non-sequitor or you don’t.
The heart of the show is the relationship between Raja and Justin, outcasts each, who form a likely bond even if those promoting the show claim it to be “unlikely.”? Their new friendship is about as likely to happen as it was as unlikely to happen that the family would send Raja back to Pakistan.? Afterall, the show has to exist for a reason.
Justin with his moppish red hair was voted one of the top 10 most bangable females in his high school, which is not a distinction any male would want.? As Troy Patterson, from Slate points out:?
Justin attends a Wisconsin high school where he can only be considered popular as an object of abuse?a beloved target in phys ed dodgeball matches, for instance. There’s nothing overtly freaky or geeky about him. He’s simply uncool, which makes it easy for us to project our own feelings of alienation onto him.
As good as this show was during it’s pedantic series premiere, we’re hoping that as it moves forward it will show some more teeth and not be afraid to be both laser sharp with it’s satire and as goofy with it’s non-sequitors.? It’s a formula perfect for this moment in time.
Check out this 4.5 minute clip, which is basically a cliff’s notes of the pilot.? Gotta love the classroom scene.
Aliens in America airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on The CW.
Bonus points for having a soundtrack featuring The Klaxons and Los Campesinos! and narry a peep of PB&J’s “Young Folks.”