Guest Author - Amy Ralston Young
It’s hard for any mother to watch their oldest child, and only son, struggle through the social hell of high school. What’s even harder is watching said son land the No. 8 spot on the “Ten Most Bangable Girls” list. What’s a mom to do?
Well, if you’re Franny Tolchuck (Amy Pietz), the controlling and once-popular mother on the CW’s new sitcom “Aliens in America”, you order your son an instant friend – a foreign exchange student. With visions of hunky Scandinavian athletes dancing in her head, Franny signs the family up, feeling confident that hanging with an athletic Swede will boost her son’s popularity.
One big problem, the Tolchuck’s new foreign exchange student isn’t Hans Johnsson, the varsity crew captain, it’s Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a Pakistani Muslim, built like the oar of a crew team. Needless to say this doesn’t sit well with the all-too-perfect Franny.
Her son Justin (Dan Byrd), on the other hand, has finally found an ally. A junior at a Wisconsin high school, Justin is simply uncool. He’s not the president of the chess club, he doesn’t require nasal spray on a fifteen minute basis, and he doesn’t even wear glasses and a pocket protector. He’s just not popular. This makes him a great character, because the audience can all relate to feeling left out or picked on in some way or another.
In the pilot, Franny tries to send Raja back, but she is persuaded otherwise by her family. Justin’s words seemed to strike a chord: "I always felt like an outsider and a weirdo, and then here comes this kid from a village in Pakistan, and I'm not an outsider anymore. Just a weirdo."
Justin and Raja still find themselves the targets in PE dodge ball, but at least they have each other to share the pain with. The show pulls a lot of humor from the cultural differences, but plenty jokes are derived from the pains of adolescence.
The biggest cultural divide isn’t between Justin and Raja, but Justin and his own sister, Claire (Lindsey Shaw). Claire is everything Justin isn’t – she’s pretty, smart, and popular. She also knows how to avoid him.
The main cast is rounded out by Scott Patterson, who plays dad Gary Tolchuck. The character of Gary is still pretty shallow and lacks any real development. He’s more of a background character who delights in the extra bacon he gets as Raja doesn’t eat any part of a pig. In the third episode, he gets a little more screen time as he steps in to help Claire’s recently dumped ex, Jeffrey.
The show is definitely funny – although at times a little crass. It has a lot of potential and a great cast. At first glance, the title seems to point to Raja, a Pakistani Muslim, as the alien in America, but as you watch the show you see that the real “Aliens” are all the teenagers trying to fit in the high school world.
The show airs Monday nights on the CW at 8:30 EST. It stars Dan Byrd, Amy Pietz, Scott Patterson, Lindsey Shaw, and Adhir Kalyan.