At this point “Falling Skies” qualifies as a well-oiled machine, down to TNT’s strategy of bringing the series back each year capitalizing on all that male tune-in during the NBA playoffs. Overtly appealing to those guys, the third season opens with a major let’s-blow-some-stuff-up action sequence, before getting down to the always-quarrelsome, rather soapy business of managing the ragtag group of humans fighting a guerrilla war against alien invaders. After a rocky start, this Steven Spielberg-produced drama has blossomed into one of the acclaimed filmmaker’s more enduring recent TV exercises, bolstering its own forces with welcome cast additions and heightened production values.
Without giving too much away, several months have passed since the events that closed season two, with the two-hour premiere introducing shifting alliances, new responsibilities and fresh intrigue. The last of those includes concerns about a mole within the ranks, creating a mystery that carries the through the handful of episodes previewed.
Noah Wyle remains the show’s steadfast anchor as family man/reluctant hero Tom — whose inherent goodness keeps leading to responsibility being heaped upon his shoulders — but there’s considerable support, with newcomers including fellow “ER” alum Gloria Reuben and “House’s” Robert Sean Leonard, the latter almost unrecognizable as an eccentric genius under a frazzled mad-scientist wig.
As light and undemanding as “Falling Skies” is — borrowing from a vast assortment of sci-fi, including parts of Spielberg’s oeuvre — the show also carries lessons for other series (NBC’s “Revolution” comes to mind) in terms of dealing with the issues created by a post-apocalyptic world. And while the alien threat provides glue to hold the human society together, there’s an interesting component devoted to the hunger associated with bringing normalcy to lives even in the most chaotic of times, which is why the producers often appear to be unabashedly channeling a Norman Rockwell painting, flaunting old-fashioned patriotism.
The show’s durability also highlights how elusive TV hits have been even for Spielberg of late, coming shortly after the demise of the high-profile musical “Smash.”
Credit the series, too, with steadily improving its look and special effects (in the early going the robot invaders too often looked like “RoboCop”-lite), including a touch of “Starship Troopers” in the early going.
“Skies” leads an eclectic summer push for TNT that includes a couple reality shows and its ampersand-heavy lineup of procedurals. And while this sci-fi lark is essentially just another cog in TV’s annual invasion of mindless summer escapism, as we’ve seen time and again, capturing that tone and feel isn’t nearly as easy as it looks – one reason it’s nice to see Wyle and company soldiering on.