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ABC's V "re-imagines" NBC original -- but with flair

Women of V: terrorist hunter Erica Evans and alien Anna.

Premiering: Tuesday, Nov. 3rd at 7 p.m. (central) on ABC
Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin, Joel Gretsch, Scott Wolf, Morris Chestnut, Logan Huffman, Lourdes Benedict, Laura Vandervoort
Produced by: Scott Peters, Jeffrey Bell, Steve Pearlman, Jace Hall

You've doubtlessly seen her pale, fraudulent face, showpiece of an eye-catching ABC promotional campaign heralding the arrival of fall's last new series.

"We are of peace -- always," says Anna the alien, whose big plans for earthlings include sharing advanced technology, "complete medical services to all" and a restoration of hope during down-spiraling times.

Such is ABC's "re-imagining" of the 1983 NBC miniseries V, which morphed into a short-lived series. The new version bears the same title and premise. But a generation later, it easily could be seen by some -- Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Joe the Plumber -- as an arrival from on high of a charismatic, duplicitous candidate who has become President Barack Obama.

"The world's in bad shape, Father," a skeptical priest named Jack (Joel Gretsch) tells his church's elderly pastor. "Who wouldn't welcome a savior right now?"

One can only take these allegories so far, though. And when you get right down to it, V then as now is about a clandestine master plan by camouflaged, lizard-skinned "Visitors" to take over Earth after wiping out its inhabitants.

ABC, which already has Lost and the new FlashForward, again is asking viewers to buy into the mythology and invest in a serial drama that demands a good deal of devotion. Miss an episode or two and you might find yourself at sea. CBS takes an opposite tack with its battalion of hit "procedural" crime hours. Miss one on occasion and it doesn't matter all that much. Most of the wrongdoing doesn't carry over, allowing a fan to puzzle out a brand new crime each week.

It's too early to tell whether V will have any heavy-duty hooking power. But Tuesday's premiere is mostly mighty impressive, particularly its special effects. This is what high-definition, wide-screen TV is all about. The better to wow you with those monster space ships hovering menacingly over 29 major cities, including V's main locale of New York.

Viewers first are asked three printed questions:

"Where were you when JFK was assassinated?"

"Where were you on 9/11?"

"Where were you this morning?"

Then the tremors start, startling FBI counter-terrorist agent Erica Evans (former Dallasite and Booker T. Washington grad Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost), whose rebellious son, Tyler (Logan Huffman) is her first concern.

The vibrating escalates, toppling a big church cross and sending a plane spinning out of control. Finally comes Anna (Morena Baccarin), whose giant image towers above the awe-stricken populaces.

"We're truly anguished by the turmoil our arrival has caused," she says before introducing herself as "the leader of my people." In return for water and other essentials, Anna promises futuristic technology for the masses. Then comes the tagline: "Until then, we are of peace -- always."

V doesn't dawdle. Anna quickly visits the U.N., and settles on a malleable male mannequin news anchor (Scott Wolf as Chad Decker) as an easy conduit. His first question to her -- "Is there such a thing as an ugly Visitor?" -- convinces Anna that this guy is much more Mark Steines than Mike Wallace.

Three weeks later, Decker is told that he's the one and only choice for a worldwide exclusive interview with Anna. Questions of a "negative" nature are taboo, though. After a few seconds of surface soul-searching, their boy's on board.

Two of the premiere episode's featured characters turn out to be not as they initially seem. But ABC has asked for secrecy on this front, and of course that's only fair.

By hour's end, though, you'll clearly know the good guys from the bad ones. V now will have to keep its ball rolling without resorting to a predictable barrage of weekly shoot 'em ups between "freedom fighters" and the alien menaces among them.

ABC's current plan is to air four episodes during the ongoing November "sweeps" ratings period before putting V on hiatus until March. The network supposedly doesn't want to go against NBC's telecasts of the Winter Olympics for one. There also are reports of a "creative" revamp intended to short-circuit those Obama comparisons.

Whatever its fate and intentions, V at least is off to a flying start. Now all that's needed is for viewers to hover over it.