There’s a vendetta to be had against ABC’s new sci-fi drama “V.” Promos promised intrigue, mystery, subversion, an expert cast, stunning visuals and the epic tale of a stalwart few rising against the blindly devoted masses. As for keeping those promises … well, at least “V” looked pretty in the previews.


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“V” follows the visitors, a race of reptilian aliens who wear the skin of beautiful people, as they come to aid and/or destroy humanity. And from the high frequency of none-too-subtle knowing looks from visitor High Commander, Anna (Morena Baccarin, “Firefly”), destroy seems to be a good bet. Heading the anti-visitor resistance is Georgie Sutton (David Richmond-Peck, “Robson Arms”), a slightly irritating little fellow whose picture should appear next to the dictionary definition of “snarky.” Joining him in the fight are FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell, “Lost”) and Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch, “The 4400”). The show is a re-interpretation of a 1980s show with the same name and same aliens, bringing the story into the 21st century.

The cast is brimming with sci-fi and supernatural veterans from such TV staples as “Lost,” “The 4400” and “Firefly.” These actors all do a great job with what they’re given, but the writing is often so stale and predictable that no amount of acting aptitude could make their roles truly shine. That said, the veteran actors do all manage to at least counterbalance the writing, bringing their scenes to a moderately happy medium.

But then there are the other cast members. Morris Chestnut (Film’s “The Perfect Holiday”) hides his character Ryan Nichols’s inner struggle about as well as a palm tree hides an elephant, and his fake smile is so appalling — as well as legitimately terrifying in its largeness and whiteness — that it physically hurts the eyes and brain to behold. Other mediocre-at-best acting jobs are performed by Logan Huffman (“America”), who plays Erica’s son Tyler, and relative newcomer Jesse Wheeler as Tyler’s best friend Brandon. It shouldn’t be that hard for angsty teens to act like angsty teens — but apparently it is.

It’s bad enough that line delivery from some cast members sounds straight out of a first read-through, but the writers had to make the dialogue exceedingly predictable as well. It wasn’t difficult to predict the next three lines verbatim in most scenes, taking away all the impact the more profound statements were intended to have.

And this predictability was not unique to the lines themselves — it infected the pilot’s plot as well. With perhaps one exception, there were no major twists or turns. Considering “V” is a remake, there must certainly be some adherence to the framework of the original, but the updated version has no excuse to lull onward so formulaically. Many scenes feel far too drawn out specifically because it’s clear exactly where the intended suspense is heading. And when you know something potentially epic is going to happen, you want the show to hurry up and get there.

So yes, finally it must be noted that some very epic stuff does happen in “V.” Maybe only half the cast really shines, maybe the dialogue is stilted and predictable and maybe the plot follows a well-worn formula — that can all be glanced over (mostly) when one considers the show’s undeniable cool. The spaceships and other alien technologies are breathtakingly portrayed, even on a small screen. The clean, modern, peaceful-yet-evil vibe of the visitors is executed flawlessly; they are every sci-fi junkie’s fantasy. And “V” succeeds where ABC’s other new supernatural endeavor “FlashForward” has been recently failing: The epic nature of the visitors’ arrival and impact on humanity is not diminished by the show’s focus on a select few characters.

When a classic sci-fi premise meets great sci-fi actors, you ought to get a must-see sci-fi show. Instead, predictable and stale writing has brought a promising premise down from orbit and crashed it into Earth. And while the explosion may be entertaining for a while, we’ve all seen explosions before.

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