January 12, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Colony”


COLONY:  Thursday 10PM on USA (pilot available via on-demand and streaming) – If Nothing Else Is On…

USA’s new COLONY falls into the category of alien-invasion science fiction, but its pilot has more in common with World War II films like The Last Metro or the recent alt-history chronicle The Man In the High Castle (until that show exploded its own premise) than with other examples of the subgenre like Falling Skies or V.  There are no creatures from another world to be seen in the show’s first hour, just some watchful drones, and the story is concerned with human life under occupation rather than large scale special effects.

Our focal point is the Bowman family, dad Will (Josh Holloway), mom Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), and teens Bram (Alex Neustaedter) and Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp).  They’re presented as an ordinary group trying to make things work in a time of privation, as all the members deal in the black market, and Katie struggles to find insulin, since the occupiers have launched a program of eugenics that’s deemed diabetes to be one of the diseases not worth treating.  The Bowmans labor under the eyes of not only the drones, but human collaborators, who include soldiers known as Redhats and government officials called the Proxies, the latter led in the show’s occupied Los Angeles by Governor Snyder (Peter Jacobson).  There is inevitably a rising resistance movement, from which much of the show’s drama will presumably emerge.

Colony might have benefited from a 2-hour series premiere.  The first hour, written by series creator Ryan Condal from a story by Condal and series honcho Carlton Cuse (who gets co-creator credit), and directed by Juan Jose Campanella, doesn’t go much beyond explaining the basics and setting the stage for what’s to come.  Will, it turns out, isn’t the ordinary mechanic he seems to be, and he’s recruited by Snyder to use his talents to help the Proxies crack down on the resistance.  His family’s safety is at stake, so he reluctantly agrees.  The only backstory drama to be introduced involves the fate of Will and Katie’s other son, who went missing outside the Los Angeles walls in Santa Monica when the aliens arrived.

Colony‘s pilot is tightly paced, and it has two proven TV stars in Holloway and Callies, although in the early going they’re called on to provide more substance to their characters than the script gives them.  The depiction of a totalitarian US is convincing enough, if not as imaginative or detailed as the Axis-occupied America in High Castle.  What remains to be seen is whether anything that follows will be more than a series of old war movie plots set in the present day.

It would have been unrealistic to expect USA to follow up Mr. Robot with anything as striking and original, and Colony isn’t.  On the other hand, it’s also not the typical USA procedural, so the network is continuing to explore other forms of storytelling.  This is Condal’s first series, but Cuse is a veteran spinner of TV tales, so Colony should be solidly put together at least, and it’s certainly more notable than the staid network dramas it faces in the Thursday 10PM slot, Elementary and Shades of Blue.  Its potential beyond that will become clear soon enough.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."