‘People of Earth’: A Sweet Alien-Abduction Tale From a Catholic Writer

‘People of Earth’: A Sweet Alien-Abduction Tale From a Catholic Writer October 31, 2016

People-of-EarthIt’s no accident that, in “The X-Files,” the most successful TV series having to do with alien abduction, the alien true believer was atheist Fox Mulder, while the alien skeptic was Catholic Dana Scully.

Scully already had God, so she didn’t need a substitute belief system, while Mulder was still searching. As his poster said, “I want to believe.”

There is a theory that some people see aliens as a more acceptable alternative to a supernatural deity. They’re given immense powers, advanced knowledge and wisdom; and they either want to destroy or to save us. So, in those ways, they perform the traditional functions of a deity. But, aliens are part of the material universe, not pure spirit or the essence of being, so theoretically, you could put your hand on one, dissect one, put it under a microscope.

If you’d been around in Christ’s time, you may have been able to do that (at least the touching part), but it’s a bit trickier now.

But, if a new TV show is to be believed, aliens might be more like us than we realize (or might actually be some of us).

The comedy “People of Earth” (rated MA for Mature Audiences — for some profanity) premiered on Oct. 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TBS. Here’s how the network describes it:

People of Earth is a new original comedy about a support group for alien abductees. The show centers on skeptical journalist Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac), who investigates a support group to write about the members’ supposed alien encounters. The more he digs into their oddball claims, the more he realizes there is truth in their stories and possibly even signs that point to his own alien abduction. The onetime outsider now finds himself a part of this eclectic group of misfits, all the while struggling with the idea of knowing that life could exist beyond our world.

Reviews have been good. For example, here’s Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter:

It’s hard not to fall for the charms of TBS’ newest comedy, the Wyatt Cenac-led People Of Earth,about a support group for survivors of alien abduction: It manages to be sweet, smart, quirky, story-strong and funny all at the same time with what appears to be minimal effort.

That’s a real coup. Especially since it was only natural to wonder how much material could be wrung from the premise – the whole “is there really a show here?” thing that critics often ask.

Oh, there’s a show all right. And I loved it.

The group meets at the fictional Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Beacon, New York (in the show, the town is a hotbed of alien abduction), overseen by supportive but cautious Father Doug (Oscar Nunez).

This summer, when I asked series creator David Jenkins about the setting, I found out why he chose it.

I come from an Irish Catholic family, and that sounded like as dour of a Catholic church name as you could find.

He also found a way to talk about faith, with a twist.

You’re talking about two different types of belief, but there’ s a bunch of people supporting each other on belief, be it religious or aliens, or something mysterious that happened to them, and supporting each other through it — I think that is moving, as opposed to tearing each other down because of it.

There’s something really interesting about having people that believe in a conspiracy — where basically you believe in aliens, and they’ve just been kept quiet — the perpetrators of the conspiracy are just as lost and longing as the people that believe in the experience.

Seeing a bunch of people that had very different experiences come together and support each other, and create their own language about it, instead of excommunicating each other fromt he group because their beliefs aren’t the same … the fact that they were able to talk and form a community, I thought that was very moving. There is something spiritual about that.

Asked if the Catholic faith plays into the series down the line, Jenkins said:

It’s there. You don’t want to lead with it, but it’s something that if you did lead with it, it would be very easy for a network to take it out, because it’s scary. The way that it stays in, is in the setting. We’re incredibly lucky to have Oscar in the show, and I feel like, once you have these things paved into the actual DNA of the show, they can’t take it out. It’s not distracting to them in that way.

The show is helped by a kind of moodiness and questioning that I associate with the Irish Catholic faith.

Regarding Father Doug, actor Nunez said:

The priest is a priest. He is in a small community. So what do priests do? They try to help as much as they can. He has a rec center where these people meet. He is there to support them and to give them a space where they can do it. And in his experience — I don’t want to say if he’s been abducted or not — but let’s say he’s doing what a priest does, which is help the community.  So he has this rec center, and he goes in there once in a while and interacts with them, for whatever reasons.  Maybe there’s something going wrong.  Maybe some people are complaining about whatever.  So he does interact with them, and that could lead to other things that can happen.  Maybe hijinks.

“People of Earth” is a gentle, warm comedy that treats his subjects — including the priest — as human beings, not caricatures. It’s also obvious that Jenkins cares about the hearts and souls of his characters, and the brokenness within them.

It’s not a show about the Faith, but you can’t get much more truly Catholic than that.

As for the Church regarding aliens, from a 2015 article in the U.K. Daily Mail:

Father Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome, said it was also unlikely mankind may ever get to meet these alien civilisations.

He said: ‘It is probably there was life and perhaps a form of intelligent life… I don’t think we’ll ever meet a Mr Spock.

‘The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there’s another Jesus. The Incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity of the universe.’

It is not the first time Father Funes, who trained as an astronomer at the National University of Cordoba, has discussed the possibility of aliens living among the stars.

In 2008 he said belief in the existence of extraterrestial life did not contradict Catholic doctrine or the Bible.

Images: Courtesy TBS

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