Ozzie Graham is seeing things.
Well, one thing, really. A deer — just like the one he smacked with his car outside of teensy Beacon, N.Y. Only the buck didn’t stop there. He randomly reappears. And sometimes multiplies. And sometimes talks.
The situation leaves crack reporter Ozzie (played with delicious deadpan by The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac) relegated to writing click-bait one-offs while he gets over his … weirdness … from the crash. And, thus, lands him back in Beacon to check out the members of Starcrossed, a support group for folks who believe they’ve had alien encounters. But — as their leader, Gina (Ana Gasteyer), explains — they’d prefer to be called “experiencers,” not “abductees.” Offers “a little more agency.”
Seated in a circle in a Catholic church(!), Ozzie learns there are three kinds of aliens: Reptilians (psychopathic shape-shifters, explains one Starcrosser. “Almost every U.S. president in history was a Reptilian.”), Grays (big heads; little bodies; massive, wet, soulless eyes) and Whites (your basic 9-foot-tall albino who looks like Ryan Gosling. Or maybe a young Paul Newman). Ozzie also learns, much to his dismay, that his accident may have been no accident at all, and reluctantly joins Team Starcrossed to find out the truth.
Welcome to People of Earth, people of Earth. And if you’ve had your own Gray, White or Reptilian experience, fear not. The TBS laugher, co-executive produced by comedy geniuses Greg Daniels (The Simpsons, The Office, Parks and Recreation) and Conan O’Brien, is on your side.
Says Gasteyer of fellow SNL alumni O’Brien and Daniels, “We talked about the book Communion by Whitley Strieber that was this huge phenomenon in the ’90s. They took the topic very seriously. It wasn’t like, ‘Ha, ha! Look at these weirdos who think that aliens are real,’ as much as, ‘Let’s talk about why people would think this is real, and what’s interesting about it.’ That’s a fun premise — not starting from a patronizing or jokey place.”
Cenac found his own inspiration at 40,000 feet — watching the FX series Fargo on flights to and from Toronto. “They do such a great job of creating these believable characters that when funny things happened, they just play that much more funny. When you really feel for the characters, and then something silly happens, it just plays even sillier because it is, ‘Oh, man! I really believed that guy!’”
Cenac and Gasteyer also says being surrounded by other funny folks — including their own fearless leaders — amped up the quirk factor, too.
“Greg Daniels is the master of ensemble comedy and bringing all voices to light,” says Gasteyer. “He was very emphatic that — much more than inother comedies I’ve done — we spend a lot of time together as a group and that we improvise. There was a camaraderie that evolved out of that. Frankly, all those scenes are shot in a big circle, so that’s a lot of hours just staring at each other. Eventually, you just have to start doing bits.”
People of Earth airs Mondays at 9/8CT beginning Oct. 31 on TBS.