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Slick sci-fi series ‘V’ should soar, but lacks soul

‘V’ ★★1/2

8 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays on WLS-Channel 7

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The worst thing I can say about “V” is this: I just can’t get into it.

It looks like a great sci-fi show. As season two opens on Tuesday, the Visitors’ leader, Anna, has turned the sky red. The special effects are sensational, as we’re teased with gross-out glimpses of the juicy reptiles lurking underneath human skin.

It acts like a great sci-fi show. “Lost” favorite Elizabeth Mitchell leads the Fifth Column resistance movement, with solid backup from Visitors turncoat Morris Chestnut. There’s no complaining about the cast additions, either: Bret Harrison (“Reaper”) helps the good guys as a boy-band-cute evolutionary biologist. And fans of the 1983 miniseries are being rewarded with the intro­duction of Anna’s divalicious mother — played by Jane Badler, who starred as the guinea-pig-devouring Diana in the original. She looks terrific, especially considering she’s been imprisoned by her daughter in a dungeon for 15 years.

So, why isn’t “V” a great sci-fi show? It has the same intangible problem as the Visi­tors: It lacks a soul. “FlashForward” had a tantalizing mystery that kept me coming back. “The Walking Dead” seduced me with blood and guts. But it’s hard to muster up a sense of urgency about “V.” Mainly, I admire all the pretty people as I wait for the stunning bursts of violence.

Maybe “V” takes itself too seriously. It’s just a few bad lines away from being a camp classic. It tackles the deep questions: What is it that makes us human? What is our place in the universe? But the writing is so heavy-handed that the answers feel ultimately shallow. It doesn’t help that the characters stop every few minutes to explain exactly what they’re doing, how they feel about it, and how it fits into their life philosophy.

There does seem to be more action than last season in this year’s first three episodes. We learn more about the finale’s human-Visitor hybrid baby. The earthlings who have elected to be “live-aboards” on the motherships seem to have made the wrong choice. Humans are on the verge of rioting, because making the sky bleed is the kind of thing that alarms the global community. Chad (Scott Wolf), the TV reporter who helped Anna spread her propaganda with Larry King-style interviews, finally has figured out that he’s on the wrong side and wants to redeem himself. The media must pay!

The show certainly seems to have connected with a segment of the population that sees Anna as a blatant stand-in for President Obama. I didn’t get that. I do enjoy the placidly porcelain Morena Baccarin as Anna — she’s sort of the Audrey Hepburn of lizard aliens, complete with an impeccable Ann Taylor office wardrobe. But would the leader of an entire insidious species really bother with wearing high heels every day? Based on that alone, it’s hard for me to believe that the Visitors have any superior intelligence.

It’s not like I don’t know who to cheer for — go humans! — but I don’t really care whether or not they’ve been injected with massive doses of phosphorus. ABC seems to feel ambivalent, too. The network renewed the series last spring but reduced its 13-episode order to 10.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Maybe I’m subconsciously detaching myself from the series because I still feel too keenly the cancellation of “FlashForward” and the anticlimax of the let’s-all-hold-hands “Lost” finale. Go ahead, call me an inferior human, weakened by emotion.

But I doubt I’m the only one. It’s hard for an audience to commit to a big-budget show when the constant threat of cancellation is scarier than the alien invasion.

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