Review by C.J. Bunce
We knew Steve Martin was funny from his stand-up comedy, comedy LPs, and Saturday Night Live before his long career as comedic actor. But he stands apart for that unique physical comedy that made films like The Jerk, Roxanne, and Housesitter comedy hits. Why bring up Steve Martin? Because nobody has done that kind of humor as well until Alan Tudyk found his role of a lifetime as the title character in Resident Alien. Tudyk may have acquired his sci-fi street cred by co-starring in fan favorite mega-hits like Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but Resident Alien is really his first starring role, and his first chance to truly shine.
But it’s not just Tudyk that makes Resident Alien a series that’s here to stay.
Tudyk honed his funny business since co-starring in A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger and Paul Bettany, with dozens of voice roles in animation from Family Guy to Ice Age, Moana to Batman, Robot Chicken, and Raya and the Last Dragon, not to mention his more dramatic turns in 3:10 to Yuma, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, and 42–part of his talent he’s needed to tap as he plays the human his alien takes over. But most of the drama in Resident Alien is shared by co-star Sara Tomko’s Asta Twelvetrees and supporting actress Alice Wetterlund’s town legend turned bartender D’Arcy.
Tomko’s Asta is the alien’s handler. She’s also trying to get past a bad boyfriend and get to know a daughter she gave away years ago. The juxtaposition of the drama and laughs makes Resident Alien a unique series for the sci-fi genre–it doesn’t fit into a normal box. D’Arcy was on track to have the good life but got sidetracked. At the end of season 2 she may be back on the right path again.
Adapted from the comic book of the same name, Resident Alien is sci-fi’s answer to Northern Exposure, but it’s much better than that. Name any recurring cast of quirky townspeople, like Mayberry’s denizens in The Andy Griffith Show, the famous writer, sheriff and regulars of Cabot Cove solving mysteries in Murder, She Wrote, and the handyman and three oddball brothers practically living at the inn in Newhart. Resident Alien′s town of Patience has a full slate of oddities that make the town feel real, like one of those places you stop for gas in Wyoming on your way out west.
Corey Reynolds brought his cop skills from years on Major Crimes to create his sheriff, a fellow who became more interesting this season as we learned of his fallen partner and the reason he moved to this small town with his father. Elizabeth Bowen’s deputy is now a fully formed character at the end of season 2, following lots of growth. As a believer in UFOs and a strong force willing to stand up to the sheriff, she’s something more than the abuse target of the first season. Jenna Lamia’s Judy Cooper is another welcome whirlwind of hilarity–you never can tell how far she will take her character into dangerous territory.
While the kids, who had a bigger role in season 1, took a backseat this year, the mayor and his wife revealed a whole funnier side. You wouldn’t have known the bland mayor from season one, played by Levi Fiehler, could have pulled off so many funny scenes with the multiple sides of Meredith Garretson’s Kate, his wife. And last but not least, the gravity of the show comes from Gary Farmer as Asta’s dad, Alvin Sanders as the sheriff’s dad, and Deborah Finkel as Abigail Hodges. The show could exist fine without its big stunt-casting win, Linda Hamilton’s recurring role as the UFO hunting general.
From Tudyk’s dialogue pulled from Lennie Brisco lines from Law & Order to his “I stop for pizza” attitude, the comedy bits are all carefully, artfully crafted, frequently resulting in explosions of laughs.
The mid-season finale, “Alien Dinner Party,” stands strong as another big episode for the series, written by show creator Chris Sheridan. From Star Trek Voyager fame but since then an outstanding director in his own right, Robert Duncan McNeill directed the first two episodes this season, and Back to the Future star Lea Thompson directed two others, including the heartwarming appearance of a daughter for the alien in “Family Day.” Claudia Yarmy and first season director Shannon Kohli rounded out the directing slate for the first half of this season.
The rest of the season returns this summer. Until then, catch up on season 1 and the first eight episodes of season 2 of Resident Alien, a mix of the best of 2022’s science fiction and comedy, streaming at Syfy and Peacock. And you, too, can experience why Harry Vanderspiegel keeps saying, “This is some bullshit.”