1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 0 (USA)
1 x 120 minute episode
21 x 60 minute episodes
Set in Los Angeles in 1995, this Kenneth Johnson series featured Matthew Sikes (Gary Graham) and George Francisco (Eric Pierpoint) – Two LAPD detectives doing the usual tough job on Chandler-esque streets.
What made the duo unusual was that Francisco was a ‘Newcomer’ – one of 250,000 aliens from the planet Tencton whose slave transporter spaceship had crashed in the Mojave Desert a few years earlier while in transit to another planet.
Humanoid in appearance, except for their enlarged, mottled craniums and vestigial ears (an inexpensive but effective make-up job), the Tenctonese were physically and intellectually superior to Earthlings, qualities which failed to endear them to the more reactionary Angelinos, who referred to them derisively as “slags”.
Although spun-off from the 1989 movie of the same title (starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin), the TV series was notably different in style and concerns.
In particular, the TV version gave considerable time to the Tenctonese rituals, home life and their problems of racial integration, all of which were seen through the eyes of George Francisco’s family, wife Susan (Michelle Scarabelli, formerly Connie Hall in Dallas), daughter Emily (Lauren Woodland) and son with attitude, Buck (Sean Six).
George’s salary as the first and only Tenctonese detective in the LAPD meant that the family moved out of the Newcomer ghetto to an all-human neighbourhood.
One of the most moving episodes related Emily’s first day at the local school where she was greeted by an anti-alien protest.
Other Newcomers in the cast were Cathy Frankel (Terri Treas) – to whom Matt was attracted, despite his confusion over what to do about it – and Albert Einstein (Jeff Marcus), a maintenance man at the police station where Matt and George worked.
As a commentary on racism, the series was cleverly done; to the point without being soap-boxy.
The alien culture developed by Johnson was fascinating and even included an invented language, subtitled on screen. The aliens’ method of reproduction was novel too.
Susan Francisco was first ‘serviced’ by a ‘Binnaum’ (a sort of religious proxy husband) and only carried the foetus for the initial stage of the pregnancy, thereafter it was carried by George who actually gave birth to the baby, later ceremonially named Vesta.
The cop element of the show, however, was orthodox stuff. George was introspective, intellectual and pacifistic while Sikes was impulsive, streetwise, unkempt and divorced. They might have been chalk and cheese but, of course, they male-bonded like glue.
Det. Matthew Sikes
Det. George Francisco
Captain Bryon Grazer
Det. Beatrice Zapeda