by Meredith O’Brien
Get the feeling that people are a little on edge these days? No, I’m not talking about the epidemic of swine flu, the lousy economy, the fate of the mega-health insurance reform bill, horrific  shooting incidents , or whether more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan. It’s that on TV and in the movies these days, danger seems to be lurking everywhere as well as families appear to be in mortal danger, the world in peril.
On the new ABC TV series V  people living in and around the world’s major cities have huge alien ships hovering over them, occasionally beaming peace-filled video messages from their human-looking alien leader sporting a pixie cut named Anna. Half the people think that the aliens, who’ve been dubbed “the Visitors,” are a godsend (they have special healing powers apparently) and a source of hope. Other folks think that there are sinister motives lurking beneath the Visitors’ flawless skin and glossy hair.
One of the skeptics who’s smack dab in the middle of all of this and believes that the Visitors are planning to exterminate all the human and have had alien terrorist sleeper cells planted around the globe for years, is a divorced mom FBI agent Erica Evans (played by Elizabeth Mitchell, Juliet from Lost). She wants to spearhead an underground uprising against the Visitors. But, in the meantime, she’s trying to protect her 17-year-old son from her FBI partner (a closeted evil alien) while that rebellious son has secretly become a good will ambassador on behalf of the aliens. Protecting her son and the world from the murderous aliens, no small task.
While FBI agents are fending off aliens on V, on another ABC TV drama FlashForward  they’re contending with a disturbing incident where almost everyone on the planet blacked out for two minutes and 17 seconds. Those who blacked out saw flash-forwards six months into their own futures, unless, of course, they’re likely to be dead by then, in which case they saw nothing.
Smack dab in the middle of all of this blacking out and flashing forward is a family with a young child, the Benfords, where the dad is an FBI Agent named Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes, who played Will Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love) who’s crucial to the federal government’s investigation of the blackout. In Mark’s flash-forward, the former alcoholic was back to drinking and was in his FBI office when he was attacked by armed, masked gunmen because of what he’d learned in the blackout investigation. His wife, a trauma surgeon Olivia Benford’s (Sonya Walger from Lost), saw in her flash-forward that she and their daughter Charlie were living in their same house, not with Mark, but with another man and his son. Olivia thought she could dismiss her flash-forward until the man she saw sitting on her sofa in the vision walked into her hospital and she was assigned to his son’s case.
As the story has unfolded over the past few weeks, it has been implied that the mass blackout and flash-forwards that wound up killing millions were caused by some giant science experiment gone awry. Menacing characters, including a conspiring colleague of the man in Olivia’s flash-forward, have appeared, as have suicide societies for those people who didn’t have flash-forwards.
The threat of aliens exterminating humankind and science experiments causing global panic are topped only by the new apocalyptic film 2012  where, following explosions on the sun, the earth gets all funky feeling and destabilized. Its crust starts spontaneously cracking open and volcanoes erupt. And, smack dab in the middle of the world ending, is . . . you guessed it, a family. This time, there’s a divorced dad (played by John Cusack) who’s a novelist-turned-limo-driver who has to help his two young kids and his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) find a spot on board some kind of rescue vehicle, something a reviewer called an “ark.”
So I guess compared to aliens – aided and abetted by sleeper alien terrorist cells, mass blackouts and flash-forwards, and the actual end of the world as the earth’s surface breaks open like a cracked taco shell, stuff like a cruddy economy and the swine flu don’t seem so bad after all.