'People of Earth' Exec Producers Preview TBS Alien Comedy: "It's Larry David's Version of 'Black Mirror'"

The half-hour serialized comedy centers on an alien abduction support group.
TBS

Aliens, they're just like us!

That's the message of TBS' forthcoming alien abduction comedy People of Earth from executive producers Greg Daniels (The Office) and Conan O'Brien.

"In this show, the aliens are intelligent life forms who also have their own circumstances and their own problems with their friends and their coworkers," Daniels told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "I was tickled by the idea that any sentiment life form is going to run into some frustrations and have a lot of absurdities in their world."

"We kind of learn that they have a banal life, maybe a more banal life than we imagined," creator and executive producer David Jenkins added. "They wish they had romantic relationships that were working."

People of Earth centers on a skeptical journalist, Ozzie Graham (Daily Show alum Wyatt Cenac), who investigates a support group for those who have allegedly had alien encounters. The more he examines their bizarre claims, the more he realizes a sliver of truth in their stories and possibly even signs that indicate he also was abducted by aliens. Ozzie soon becomes part of the eccentric group as he struggles with the idea of knowing that life could exist beyond Earth.

Inspired by reading an article about an actual support group for those who believe they have been abducted by aliens, Jenkins wrote the pilot with the intent of also focusing closely on the people on Earth as much as it addresses the aliens and the sci-fi element of the series. "This really happens There's a bunch of them if you go on Facebook, there's Facebook groups and thread for people talking about these things. It seems like they're reasonable people; they're realtors, they loose their keys in the couch," Jenkins said. "I like the tension of that. That seemed like a good place to start a show."

In early pitch meetings, Jenkins described the show as a mix of a "Greg Daniels human comedy" with J.J. Abrams. "All he had to do was name check me," Daniels said with a laugh.

The show subsequently takes a serious approach when it comes to addressing the traumatizing incident these people they have been through and the "body issues, emotional issues" that come with that, according to Jenkins. "You write the character like you're the lawyer."

The result is something that Jenkins thinks those who have been abducted will watch and will "feel seen instead of made fun of," he said.

The actors shared Jenkins' sentiment. "You get the sense of struggle from these characters and its not just making jokes at their expense," Cynac said. "Its trying to explore who these characters are and doing it over 10 episodes."

Added star Ana Gasteyer, who plays another member of the group: "They're not written as bunch of tin foil hat radio men."

Because of the show's portrayal of aliens, it didn't take long for the executive producers to face questions about the budget and just how they'll depict the sci-fi elements of the show. "Well, I think that we're doing a lot of practical stuff and we 're trying to use people's imagination and do it well when we do it," Daniels said. "One of the big words of the show is that its not camp, it’s a very sincere effort at making a character comedy that has cool, interesting sci-fi elements to it. So far, the budget has been sufficient."

Going forward, Jenkins said the comedy will be a more serialized half-hour with more reveals about the alien life forms as the series goes along.

"It's Larry David's version of Black Mirror a little bit, but we also have cliffhangers," he said.

"I'm worried," Daniels said with a laugh. "It was Greg Daniels and J.J. Abrams five minutes ago."

People of Earth premieres Monday, Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. on TBS.

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