TBS’ ‘People of Earth’ engaging, layered comedy

Entertainment Editor

Hot off the heels of last season’s absurdly brilliant critical and commercial success Angie Tribeca, the TBS mid-fall lineup may have found a worthy replacement in People of Earth. Created by David Jenkins with executive producers Conan O’Brien and acclaimed screenwriter Greg Daniels, it cultivates a cool blend of jokes and intrigue.

The series follows the journey of Ozzie Graham, played by Wyatt Cenac, a journalist who is tasked to pen a story on an alien abductee (they prefer the term “experiencers”) support group in Beacon, NY. Ozzie is initially highly skeptical of the authenticity of the delightfully quirky group members’ differing reports on their experiences. However, he soon finds himself pelted day and night with disjointed, constantly changing visions of him hitting a deer with his car on the way to Beacon that don’t quite seem to add up. Couple this with constant hallucinations of a talking deer, and he decides to join the group himself to figure out the truth about what’s been happening to him.

Group member Gerry, played by Luka Jones, takes a particular liking to Ozzie, and agrees with his sentiment that the group should shift to a more investigative approach. The group clearly has some interpersonal communication issues (the yelling matches reach obscenely hilarious territory), and Ozzie’s relatively stubborn yet constructive personality helps to  keep them grounded. Under Ozzie’s wing, the group now has a mission: to understand why and how these experiences occurred, not just mope about them once a week.

Many members of the group recount wildly different “experiences”. Some swear that they were encountered by reptilians. Others insist that they were taken aboard a ship by grey aliens. Two of the women assert that they were seduced by a man with long hair who “looked like Ryan Gosling.” The show manages to explain these varying reports by revealing that they are all in fact true, as the alien ship which they are being taken to houses a reptilian, a grey, and a long-haired man who slightly resembles Ryan Gosling. It’s a unique, Cabin in the Woods-esque way of potentially explaining the stark variations of extraterrestrial encounter reports. Soon we find that the aliens are a laughingly dysfunctional trio, and it’s certainly an interesting juxtaposition to witness their flawed interactions in contrast to the group.

Given its supernatural aura with comedic aspects peppered throughout the dialogue and situations, more than a few comparisons can be drawn to that other high-concept comedy this season, NBC’s The Good Place. Though People of Earth doesn’t hold the same level of star power as Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, it does a remarkable job of resonating a genuine sense of curiosity with the viewer whilst not taking itself too seriously.

People of Earth airs on Mondays at 9pm on TBS.


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