A bit like using every part of the chicken, cash-strapped cable networks have become much more aggressive about picking up international productions to augment their original programming lineups. Enter little-seen children’s network The Hub and “Wizards vs. Aliens,” an utterly nostalgic step into the cheesy kids way-back machine, produced under the loving eyes of “Dr. Who’s” Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford. Simple but fun, this half-hour adventure isn’t much more complicated than its title, but it’s the kind of thing that should amuse an eight year old, and make adults of a certain age feel eight all over again.
Taking a page from the “Harry Potter” treasure trove, the show features a teenage wizard, Tom (Scott Haran), who with his non-believing buddy Benny (Percelle Ascott) must try to save the world from aliens known as the Nekross, who have come to drain Earth of its magic. The invaders have a couple of extra eyes perched on what look like antenna, and one of them is played by Gwendoline Christie, currently making an impression on U.S. audiences in “Game of Thrones.”
As with many early U.S. stabs at live-action children’s fare, the slipshod nature of some special effects (aside from the made-up bipeds, one key alien resembles a giant Muppet) actually work to the show’s advantage. So does the half-hour format, which (in the two-part premiere) doesn’t leave much time for anything but lurching from one crisis to the next, while the alien leader (voiced by Brian Blessed) bellows things like, “The Nekross shall feast!”
Actually, “Wizards vs. Aliens” is more of a nibble than a full meal, but taken on its own terms, it’s charming in an old-fashioned the-whole-family-can-watch way; kids can easily follow the plot, and adults can reminisce about the Sleestak on the original “Land of the Lost,” recalling how much worse they looked when we grew up.
It’s also further evidence that in an increasingly global entertainment landscape, the U.S. has no monopoly on magic, even if this minor bit of hocus-pocus can barely afford to do much more than pull a slimy four-eyed rabbit out of a hat.