Falling Skies

There's a lot of catching up to do as the third season of TNT's alien-invasion sci-fi action series Falling Skies gets underway Sunday, with a two-hour opener (9/8c) understandably if regrettably heavy on exposition in between the elaborate battle scenes. As reported in TV Guide Magazine's current Sci-Fi Preview issue, and emphasized for what seems at least a dozen times during the premiere, seven months have passed since last season's surprise ending, when a new alien force introduced itself to the human rebels.

These are the Volm, the good aliens, represented by an upstanding talking lizard known as Cochise (what, Tonto was taken?), who advises the soldiers of the 2nd Mass — now based in Charleston — on battle tactics, though not everyone is as trusting as now-President Tom Mason (Noah Wyle, stolid and Lincoln-esque). The bad aliens from the first invasion are now identified as the Esphemi, who've developed a Mega version of their robotic Mechs, but are losing ground lately to the humans with their Volm-supplied future-tech weaponry. Please take all of this seriously. Everyone else seems to.

TNT helpfully supplied a glossary about all of this with the new-season screeners, as well as a chart of the various cardboard characters who populate this war-torn world. Falling Skies isn't a terrible show, unlike the recently wrapped first season of NBC's Stephen King-lite Revolution. But it can be terribly ordinary, especially when there's a pause in the combat. It probably won't surprise you to learn that there's suspicion of a mole within the military ranks. But even so, you may be dismayed to witness a scene out of a third-rank CBS procedural from maybe 20 years ago, when a major peripheral character looks up as an intruder enters, and says, "So it's you?" before being killed. And the maudlin family drama involving President Mason's sons hits a new low when little Matt plays hooky from his schooling to experiment with explosives, and after being disciplined by his dad's new baby mama, yells at her, "You're not my mother!" He later apologizes, but there's no forgiving a B-story from a bad sitcom slowing down the pace like this. You may start wishing for another invasion by those creepy "skitters" — or maybe a bag of Skittles, because even that would be less sickeningly sweet.

On the plus side, House's Robert Sean Leonard does terrific character work in the second hour as a disheveled, twitchy scientific genius who lives underground to help keep the lights on. "I never go topside," he insists. "Nothing good happens up there." (At least we know someone is reading the scripts.) And because every society needs new blood, let's hope for great things from Tom and Anne's new Mason baby, Alexis, who's barely out of the womb before she's crawling around and saying "Momma." Now that's freaky in the best way.

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SATURDAY NIGHT SYFY:
Don't get too attached to the new fantasy imports debuting on Syfy this weekend. Neither was renewed in their respective countries past the first season. (As with Merlin, which at least got a five-season run before the producers decided to end the story, don't blame Syfy when the shows disappear. Not the network's call. It's just the buyer.)

The not-half-bad British Sinbad (Saturday, 9/8c) is good family fun, a visually appealing romp filmed in Malta, starring Elliot Knight as the roguish Middle Eastern scamp who hits the high seas for adventure to escape the wrath of a vengeful royal (Lost's Naveen Andrews). A watery sea creature that wreaks havoc during a perilous storm is a step up from the monsters we tend to associate with Syfy's Saturday night cheesefest movies. So are the CGI dinosaurs invading Canada in Primeval: New World (Saturday, 10/9c), an otherwise drab reboot of the British series that earned acclaim during its intermittent run on BBC America. Niall Matter, an enjoyable scene-stealer as bad boy Zane on the much-missed Eureka, seems neutered as dull Evan Cross, a scientist with his own company who spends his time and resources seeking out temporal anomalies from which prehistoric creatures regularly emerge. Andrew-Lee Potts, the gung-ho Connor from the original Primeval, appears in the pilot to warn Cross to leave well enough alone. But does he listen? Wouldn't be a show if he did.

No discussion of the weekend's fantasy TV would be complete without a nod to HBO's Game of Thrones, which concludes its thrilling third season Sunday (9/8c) in the wake of last week's astounding "Red Wedding" massacre. Even those of us who read the books years ago and were dreading it couldn't help but reel at the savagery. (In case you haven't quite recovered, check out this brilliant mock Facebook summary of the episode. It's a guaranteed grin.) The finale promises to stir up new conflict among the wicked Lannisters while glorious Daenerys continues wrangling her slave army across the sea. And to think, this season only comprises half of the action from the third book, A Storm of Swords. So much more to come next year.

SING OUT, BROADWAY: I'm not sure Neil Patrick Harris will ever top his 2011 performance as host of the Tony Awards, when he opened and immediately stopped the show with the hilarious "Broadway's Not Just for Gays Anymore" production number. And yet it's always fun to watch him try. The affably witty, versatile stage and TV favorite — who has been tapped to host the Emmys as well this year — tackles the Tonys for the fourth time on CBS, which recently renewed its contract to broadcast the yearly celebration of Broadway through 2018. This year's ceremony (Sunday, 8/7c) pits British import Matilda against the kicky Kinky Boots in the race for Best Musical, with performances from those and other nominated shows, including the spectacular circus-themed revival of Pippin. (If you're marking ballots, the one sure thing is SCTV veteran Andrea Martin for featured musical actress as Pippin's limber good-time granny.)

THE WEEKEND GUIDE: A new season of Syfy's Continuum (moving to Fridays at 10/9c) opens with time-tripping cop Kiera sorting out the aftermath of an assassination while trying to reconnect with boy genius Alec, who's still unnerved by receiving a message from himself in Rachel's future timeline. Got that? ... Allison Janney, who's making a welcome return to prime time in the fall in CBS' promising sitcom Mom, guests on HBO's Veep (Sunday, 10:10/9:10c) as a journalist whose "gotcha" questions rattle Selina, who was expecting more of a puff piece. ... Susan Sarandon opens up on OWN's Oprah's Master Class (Sunday, 10/9c) about her political activism, relationships and aging in Hollywood, which she has done more gracefully than most. ... David Bromstad, the original HGTV Star, returns to host a new season of one of TV's more creative competitions (Sunday, 8/7c), with 10 new contestants vying to get their own show.

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