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Syfy's Resident Alien feels odd as a dramedy, despite Alan Tudyk's comic charms

  • "At the conclusion of the first episode of Resident Alien, the new Syfy dramedy starring Alan Tudyk, viewers could be forgiven for thinking they’re essentially watching an extremely high-concept version of Monk," says Alex McLevy of the series based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. "There’s a murder mystery, an extremely awkward lead character asked to help solve the crime, and a parade of supporting townsfolk there to interact in humorously strange ways. But the show quickly reveals itself to be nothing of the sort, simultaneously far odder and more pedestrian than Tony Shalhoub’s police procedural; for one, there’s an intergalactic alien running around trying to find missing pieces of his ship, all while disguised as a small-town doctor. But whenever those alien shenanigans get put on hold, Resident Alien quickly pivots into a lukewarm primetime soap, like Everwood without the heartwarming twists on stock character types. And while there’s promise in both concepts, the early going is an unwieldy fusion of the two. The success of this quirky little series rests almost wholly on Tudyk’s capable comic-actor shoulders." He adds: "The intrusion of a more grounded drama into the large-than-life comic premise that drives the series doesn’t really succeed over the course of the season; the show has some work to do to balance its competing impulses."


    • Resident Alien works thanks to Alan Tudyk: "This show is a lot of things," says Jessica Mason. "It’s a crime show, it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy, it’s hard Syfy, all sprinkled in with small-town quirks. All of these things might not work together, especially with a slightly rude and murderous lead character, but it does and that’s in huge part thanks to a fantastic cast lead by Tudyk. Harry is so weird and funny and so very not human, it’s amazing to watch, and Tudyk, long a genre fan favorite, is so funny. I honestly haven’t laughed out loud at a pilot this much in a long time, as a specific scene with Harry looking up some unfamiliar terms on a cell-phone was a highlight for the pilot. But Tudyk can also be terrifying and he walks the lines between scary, endearing, and amusing so well that it’s just a masterclass."
    • Resident Alien makes a seemingly easy premise complicated: "The new Syfy dramedy Resident Alien seems like it ought to be a very simple show. Perhaps in a good way," says Daniel Fienberg. "The title is, of course, a play on legal terminology referring to lawfully registered immigrants residing in the country. Make that alien a literal extraterrestrial and you have a really clean premise for a show, one that isn't exactly revolutionary. From Roswell to V to Alien Nation to ALF to The Neighbors, the alien-as-immigrant allegory is familiar and resilient stuff. Why, then, does Resident Alien make it look so darned complicated? Even with Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse's Dark Horse comic as source material, the TV incarnation of Resident Alien struggles to find a consistent tone, layers in more artificial storytelling obstacles than the premise requires and only occasionally figures out how to use its appealing cast. Through seven episodes sent to critics, there were at least two or three points where I scribbled in my notes, 'Wait, THAT'S the show' and found myself sucked into Resident Alien only to have the series lurch off in a different direction."
    • This is a spry half-hour comedy trapped inside the body of an hourlong series too expansive too early for its own good
    • Resident Alien succeeds as an amusing trip to Spielberg country
    • Alan Tudyk says Resident Alien made him even more of a believer in the existence of aliens
    • How Resident Alien differs from the comic book: "The biggest thing I did differently was I made Harry a little less benign than he is in the graphic novels," says showrunner Chris Sheridan. "He comes in a little darker. And I wanted to do that so he'd have an arc over the course of the series. As he's slowly observing human nature and learning what it's like to be human, we can watch his journey toward that as well. Mostly I wanted to entertain people, and I was hoping it could be a mix of a bunch of different genres with the sci-fi and the drama. Hopefully with the drama it can also be funny and emotional. It's what I like watching and it happens a lot more in movies these days than in TV. There's not a lot of shows out there that are doing a bunch of tones at once, but I wanted to try it. I hoped that it could work, but it seems we got lucky with the cast, everyone is incredible, and it seems to have fallen together."

    TOPICS: Resident Alien, Syfy, Alan Tudyk, Chris Sheridan