Your first thought is that this is The Walking Dead, awful creatures killing everybody they see. Then, maybe V, with less subtle invaders, but a still-burning need to organize and fight them. How about Lost, with plucky survivors fighting an enemy with unclear motivation?
I settled, however, on Jericho as the closest ancestor. Our merry band has very much of a militia quality, and there's a strong touch of patriotism. American flags abound, and Wyle's character, a history prof at Boston University before the sky started falling, is forever talking about the Revolutionary War and how a ragtag crew of rebels defeated the Big Bad and created a new paradigm of freedom.
The outlaw leader has a different analogy: American Indians being overrun by hordes of culture-destroying foreigners.
One thing that elevates Falling Skies above the usual sci-fi shoot-'em-up is that the characters do take a little time for semi-philosophical discussions about the rights and responsibilities of being the last representatives of the human race.
There are religious themes, too, dealt with respectfully, primarily through the character of cute Seychelle Gabriel, and there's a name for the ages. Grown-ups marvel that she still has any faith. Kids make fun of her for asking God for help. But she doesn't. "I ask God to show me what I can do for him," she explains.
There's plenty of action, too.
Wyle's Tom Mason is second-in-command in this little band to hard guy Will Patton, who's had experience in this sort of thing with the feature Armageddon. Mason's oldest son, 16, is one of his squad of fighters, armed with lots of big guns, quite a change from six months ago when dad was telling him not to ride his bike at night without a light. There's a 16-year-old girl soldier and a 13-year-old boy in the group, too.
Nobody knows what the disgusting aliens are doing on Earth, enslaving teenagers like Mason's middle son with a weird device that looks very similar to the terrible Tingler in the terrible (but super-amusing) 1959 William Castle-Vincent Price movie of the same name. It was presented in Percepto, which meant theater seats were rigged with vibrators that went off every time somebody screamed onscreen.
Falling Skies generates its own excitement, very much worth the ride, like Lost and Jericho, to watch characters develop as they struggle under confusing and life-threatening circumstances.
Premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.