Creator/star Paul Scheer wrote some of my favorite episodes of NTSF, including the ever-improving “The Real Bicycle Thief,” last season's “Comic-Con-Flict,” and the first season U.S./Mexico space race episode, “Tijuana, We’ve Got A Problem.” But “Extra Terrorist-rial” might be his weakest episode of the show. This is ostensibly a spoof of E.T., with the twist that Trent assumes outer space aliens are the same as illegal immigrants—aliens to illegal aliens to foreigners. There’s some good comedy in that premise—Trent’s rant against the Dutch is funny, but it’s also been done in Goldmember—but by far the best gag in the episode is a cutaway reference to The X-Files that unfortunately recurs one too many times.
I want to blame my disappointment on where this episode comes in the production order, since it was made before last week’s “Hawaii Die-0,” but it feels repetitive already. In a short show like this, repetition is a bad sign. Childrens Hospital has combated that possibility by building out the character back-stories and leaning on the soap opera genre, but NTSF simply throws more movie spoofs into the mix. Trent’s sister and nephew show up this week, but only to get Trent near the alien his nephew Billy has been hiding.
And then there’s Daisy, who doesn’t quite have a character yet other than torturing her little playthings around the NTSF headquarters and other people calling her weird. If Trent is so gung-ho about hating foreigners, then perhaps Daisy’s Scottish accent should raise a red flag, since that seems like a logical place to take Trent’s outsized xenophobia. Karen Gillan has essentially played the same arc in back-to-back episodes, tormenting and ignoring the still-human feelings of Ed Helms as a robot, and now imprisoning an alien voiced by Kate Micucci under the guise of keeping her only friend. Rebecca Romijn’s Jessie was more a part of the NTSF team, and right now, Daisy is too separate in her featured moments.
At some point during my childhood, someone suggested watching E.T., probably a friend’s parent wanting to occupy the kids for a few hours. I fell asleep halfway through the movie. I fell asleep again the second time I tried watching it as a teenager, and I still find it boring and difficult to sit through as an adult. I had different films to inspire childlike wonder and distrust of authority. That makes me a less-than-ideal audience for an episode that takes plot cues from E.T., and though I appreciated them—especially Martin Starr’s disappointed reaction to floating across a cul-de-sac—and though the ending twist was obvious, it came after a great dismissal of the saccharine E.T. homage.
This is the weakest episode of the new season so far, but that’s one of the great things about quarter-hour shows. They’re longer than sketches on SNL or the Internet, but they get to come right back next week with another take. Coming up this season is another visit from the Time Angels and an episode entitled “TGI Murder,” so for now this is just a slight blip.
- The E-Cigarette Smoking Man makes me want to re-watch The X-Files for the first time in a decade. That joke came out of absolutely nowhere, and yet fit into the random nature of NTSF so well.
- I liked Trent’s sister referring to the alien as ALF.