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Falling Skies: Stronger than expected?

Steven Spielberg's new sci-fi series may have been overshadowed by buzzier projects, but that doesn't mean it's not worth watching

Falling Skies, TNT's "alien invasion thriller" executive produced by Steven Spielberg, was never expected to be bad — Spielberg's name is attached, after all. Most critics simply anticipated silly, action-packed summer fun from the series, which opens with a history professor (ER's Noah Wyle) combatting the aliens after they killed his wife and abducted his son in the initial invasion. One of two sci-fi series that Spielberg has been "shepherding" to TV over the past year, Falling Skies has been overshadowed by the other more expensive, hype-stealing Fox show Terra Nova. But now that reviews for Falling Skies are in, is the series exceeding expectations? (Watch a trailer for the show.)

Watch out, Terra Nova. Falling Skies sets the bar: "It's really good," says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. Picking up six months after the invasion, Falling Skies is "smartly set" at an "unfamiliar juncture" in its characters' arcs, which distinguishes it from other science fiction series. Noah Wyle plays "exactly the right tone," and the action and suspense are "paced just right." In fact, Falling Skies is so entertaining that now "the pressure is squarely on Terra Nova not to become a high-priced disappointment."
"Falling Skies"

Not that there aren't a few flaws: It's hard to strike the balance between appealing to both "hard-core" sci-fi fans and the general public, says Curt Wagner at The Chicago Tribune. Falling Skies pulls off the "high-wire act," but "not without some bobbles." The show is smart to intersperse scenes in which Wyle "gets his action-hero groove on" with quieter moments focused on family drama. But there are "far too many" of those intimate moments. Though "competently" directed and acted — and brimming with thrills — the "cute and corny" family subplots could prove to be too distracting.
"Review: Too much cute in TNT's Falling Skies"

Actually, the middling expectations were spot on: Sure, Falling Skies "has its moments action-wise," and Noah Wyle's "can-do American spirit" shines, but the show's "soapier elements mostly fall flat," says Brian Lowry at Variety. With its broad characters, lack of subtlety, and superficial heroism, the show is "almost painfully old-fashioned." Still, tense battle scenes and "simple charms" should be enough to entice viewers to stick with the series. 
"Falling Skies"

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