That Alien Feeling, On Falling Skies

This year’s episodes on Falling Skies — the TNT series about a hardy band of people trying to fight back after an invasion of Earth — have been interesting and somewhat, well, alien.

Last year introduced us to the skitters and their fish-faced masters who had conquered parts of the world and enslaved children through use of a devilish harness device, as well as the folks of the Second Massachusetts militia who were resisting them.  We met the men and boys of the Mason clan, the lantern-jawed, perpetually gruff Captain Weaver, the ultra-sensitive Dr. Glass, and the fabulous, rebellious, truth-telling Pope.  They tried to figure out how to battle the aliens and develop weapons that could puncture alien armor — but mostly they just tried to survive and get along.

This year the story line has taken a different turn, one that focuses more on the aliens.  It turns out that not all of the skitters are happy with their towering overlords and apparently want to join the humans in defying the conquerors.  What’s more, some of the captured children seem to like the harness and being linked closely with other humans and skitters.  The middle Mason son, who had been harnessed and still is physically and mentally affected by the experience, has strong feelings of anger at the aliens, but also has some lingering connection with them.  In the meantime, the Second Mass has learned that some form of American government has been established down south and has decided to try to find it.

The series still has the shoot ’em up scenes, the inevitable romances between characters, and the other hoary plot devices that have been part of TV shows since Uncle Miltie ruled the airwaves, but I applaud Falling Skies for trying to do something more and plow new ground with the alien-on-alien rebellion plot line.  It’s a show worth watching.

Catch Phrase Fever

What was the first TV catch phrase?  When did TV writers and stars realize that there was something different about this new entertainment medium that made viewers crave the familiar line that they had heard so many times before?  The discovery probably occurred at the very dawn of the TV era, when someone like Milton Berle was running out of new ideas and decided to re-use some old material, and realized to his astonishment that the audience loved it.

I can’t think of many catch phrases from the early TV shows.  If Lucille Ball had a catch phrase on I Love Lucy — other than crying Waaah! when one of her plans went awry — I don’t recall it.  The first catch phrase I can think of is also one that would never be used on modern TV:  Ralph Kramden’s frustrated uppercut and cry of “Pow! Right in the kisser!” when Alice had finally and conclusively squelched another of his harebrained get-rich-quick schemes on The Honeymooners.  (Of course, everyone knew that Ralph loved Alice deeply and would never, ever hurt her.)  If that was in fact the first catch phrase, later TV stars owe Jackie Gleason a huge debt.