Greg Daniels has given us comedies set in a paper company, in a small town government, and even in animation. But his next series is going out of this world to tackle alien abductions and how people go on with life after coming in contact with actual extraterrestrials.
TBS‘ dark comedy People of Earth, starring Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show), Ana Gasteyer (Saturday Night Live) and Oscar Nuñez (The Office), from executive producers Daniels and David Jenkins, follows a skeptical journalist who investigates a support group for people who have experienced alien encounters. The more he digs into their oddball claims, however, the more he realizes there’s a semblance of truth to their stories and possibly even signs that point to his own alien abduction.
“One of the things that I like about where this show takes this concept [that believing in aliens is comparable to believing in God and religion] is that the ethic of character comedy is learning about these different people and seeing the world from their perspective,” Daniels told the room of reporters at the 2016 Summer TCA press tour. “And then finding what’s humorous about how they approach their lives and the lies that they tell themselves and the political struggles that they have and in this show, the aliens are intelligent life forms who also have their own circumstances and their own problems with their friends and coworkers. I was tickled by the idea that any sentient life form in the universe is going to run into some frustrations in their world. I like that thought, maybe as a way to curry favor with the aliens that I do believe are coming eventually and get them to not see us as food.”
Jenkins revealed that along with exploring the odd characters that make up the ensemble of the cast (both human and alien), they are also going to focus on the extraterrestrial mystery looming over the first season.
“The idea is to make it a serialized show that actually has spoilers through the season,” Jenkins said. “Even as we’re showing the aliens, we learn that they maybe have a more banal life that we imagined and they’re stuck in their jobs in some ways and wish they had romantic relationships that were working out. We’re trying to do Larry David’s version of Black Mirror a little bit, but also have episodes with cliffhangers.”
In addition to that analogy, Jenkins also described it as a “Greg Daniels comedy with J. J. Abrams sci-fi twist,” which is apt since it does come from the mind of Daniels.
And Daniels confessed that while they don’t exactly have a big budget for the special effects when it comes to showing aliens in outer space, they’re not going to shy away from showing those scenes.
“We’re doing a lot of practical stuff,” Daniels said. “And we’re trying to use people’s imagination and do it well when we do it. One of the bywords of the show is that it is not camp. It’s a very sincere effort at making a character comedy that has cool sci-fi elements to it.”
But in looking at the characters that make up the alien abduction support group, Daniels and Jenkins didn’t want to mock the real people and the real support group that the show is based on.
“It’s not just making jokes at their expense,” Cenac said. “It’s trying to explore who these characters are.”
Gasteyer agreed, adding, “They’re not just tinfoil-hats. They’re real people. And they’re right. There is extraterrestrial life and they are coming.”
“There’s a lot of them,” Nuñez deadpanned. “And they’re all voting for Trump.”
People of Earth will premiere on Halloween night, Monday, Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. on TBS.