X-Files revisited

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 1997, 12:00am

The truth, as they say, is out there and the cast of TVB's new sci-fi series, Dark Skies (Pearl, 9.30pm), is going to search for it - whatever the cost.

If that all sounds singularly like The X-Files, that's because it is.

The show (tonight's episode is a feature-length pilot) may be a little more sophisticated and set in the 1960s, but beyond that you could be watching the same show.

What it does do (rather cleverly, I think) is throw into the plot real-life conspiracies such as the assassination of JFK, Roswell and the shooting down by the Russians in 1960 of the plane flown by Gary Powers (he was, apparently, in pursuit of a flying saucer).

It also blatantly plunders from TV and films; most obviously in the Alien-like foetal parasite which implants itself in a human only to emerge after their death, twitching and looking for another host body.

Remaining true to the tried-and-trusted formula, there is a handsome lead, John Loengard (Eric Close, who looks remarkably like a young Robert Redford) and a feminine sidekick, his girlfriend Kimberly Sayers (Megan Ward, who could well shape up to be a Gillian Anderson).

The story begins with the idealistic and starry-eyed political hopefuls arriving in Washington at the outset of President Kennedy's reign: he gets a job as an aide to a congressman; she lands a position in the First Lady's office.

But things start to go wrong when he is asked to investigate a UFO sighting and ends up discovering and being drawn into Project Majestic, a super-secret quasi-governmental operation designed to conceal the truth about the UFO crash at Roswell in 1947.

In common with its simulated aliens, Dark Skies is part-brain, part-slush.

The cerebral bit is a cheeky counter-history of post-war America, in which all of the events (including political assassinations) occur in relation to the secret invasion, which sits well with America's fascination with its recent history.

The slush involves the aliens, which, like all Hollywood aliens, produce the most gloopy acid-like saliva imaginable, but fail to have a voice.

I am often taken by surprise at the particular sitcoms the British are able to mass-export to the US.

There are exceptions (Absolutely Fabulous being one) but in the main Americans seem to go for the UK's least funny, least sophisticated comedians. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given that the average American sitcom is as funny as whoopi cushions.

Which could explain why the likes of Benny Hill and Are You Being Served? (Star World, 10.30pm, 3.30am) have been lapped up by the Americans.

Hill was as crass as he was crude and got his laugh (and it was only one) from squeezing women's bums and pulling dirty-old-man faces.

Are You Being Served? is a 70s show set in an old-fashioned department store, where the pompous Captain Peacock has his work cut out keeping the peace between the various characters who man the counters, from acid-tongued Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), her assistant Miss Brahms (Wendy Richards), the womanising Mr Lucas (Trevor Bannister) and mincing Mr Humphries (John Inman).

Allo Allo (Star World, 10pm, 3am) is a considerably better series that became cult-watching in the UK.

In a small cafe in occupied France, the harassed proprietor, Rene, is fighting his own war.

Women want his body, the Resistance want his brain and the Nazis want his sausage.

With the German army in residence in the bar, Rene risks his neck to aid the Resistance by hiding two British airmen and a radio transmitter upstairs.

He has also got involved with hiding a priceless painting in a garlic sausage.

Farce, but fun.