There are support groups for just about everything, but TBS’s new comedy People of Earth focuses on a particularly strange one: people who have been abducted by aliens. They don’t like being called “abductees”, but rather “experiencers”. They meet in a Catholic church and call themselves Starfrost, and that’s just too interesting for journalist Ozzie Graham to pass up.
TBS debuted the pilot of their new single-camera comedy at San Diego Comic-Con Friday with cast and crew on hand to field questions and share a bit more about the unconventional show. Creator David Jenkins got the idea when he heard about an alien abductees anonymous meeting and chose to attend. He was blown away by how normal everyone seemed. “You have these people, a real estate agent or whatever, and you have a normal job and life except for this thing that happened to you,” he said.
The show is run by a comedy dream team, executive produced by Conan O’Brien and Greg Daniels. The two came on simply out of a love for the script, which is one of the stranger ones to hit network television in some time.
“I have a production company, ConanCo. It’s an evil corporation and Kissinger and Sullivan said they had an amazing script. I said I doubt that because I’m a real dick to work for,” Conan said. “I read the script, and this is my favorite script that I’ve read in memory. I love this script, I love this idea, it’s so fantastic. Often you have a great script and it’s hard to get all the stars to align and then enter Greg Daniels.”
Daniels, known for his work on the American Office and Parks and Recreation, jumped on to executive-produce and direct due to a desire to do science fiction and a love of the universe Jenkins created. “I was so impressed with the world that David created and all the possibilities,” he said. “I have a thing where if I read something and it’s like a toy that I really want to play with, that’s something I can get excited about the future of that. I was working on a sci-fi idea myself and thought it would be great to direct this and get my head in that world. We put these amazing actors in and it got more fun from there.”
The cast member that was chosen from the start was Wyatt Cenac, who portrays the down-on-his-luck journalist Graham. The writers had him in mind from the start, and he was more than happy to jump on board.
“This is a weird stalker experience,” Jenkins said. “I wrote this script for Wyatt not having met Wyatt and to actually have it happen with all these people makes you feel like you’re hallucinating.”
The show itself is a bit of a hallucination, with reptilian aliens infiltrating positions of power in human roles, grey “Roswell”-style aliens, and people with deer heads. The dialogue is quick and witty (this journalist’s favorite line? “There’s dickery afoot in Beacon.”)
The pilot is entertaining as can be, with arguments over what kinds of abductions are worse, which presidents were actually aliens (“Clinton? He played the saxophone, you figure it out.”) and how alienology and marijuana legalization go hand in hand.
The reptilian aliens have a particular catch-phrase, “don’t get weird”, but this show is definitely going to break that rule.
People of Earth debuts on TBS this fall.