John Kenneth Muir has posted a great retrospective on the 1983 CBS miniseries V, which turns forty(!) years old today:
Forty years ago today, writer-director Kenneth Johnson imagined V as a science-fiction variation on Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (1935), the story of a fascist regime rising to power in the United States during a time of crisis, the Great Depression.
The NBC mini-series also expands meaningfully on some genre concepts seen in the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” particularly the idea of aliens arriving on Earth proclaiming peace, but actually coveting the human race as food.
Today, the original V mini-series remains an enormously entertaining production of feature film quality, and it compares favorably with many genre films released theatrically in the early 1980s. The astonishing visual effects and literate, emotionally-affecting script help this original production escape the gravitational pull of its TV origin and the mini-series format allows for a depth in terms of characterization and storytelling that is immensely rewarding, especially on repeat viewings.
When it originally aired, V was all any of the kids in my class were talking about. My parents wouldn’t let me watch it, but I was able to catch bits and pieces of it by sneaking upstairs and watching it clandestinely on the black and white TV, volume turned way down and my hand on the know to switch it off at the first sound of my mom or dad coming up the steps.
Luckily, it was re-run pretty frequently—those were, after all, the days of three broadcast channels and a couple of local stations—and I was able to watch the entire miniseries only a year or two later, and I have seen it a few times in subsequent years. While it does suffer the limitations of 1980s network television, but it holds up surprisingly well.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of either the CBS TV series that followed in 1984 or of the remake from 2009, both of which were dreadful.