When you hang around with an outer-space alien, you can expect some changes in your life.
Now Asta Twelvetrees has experienced huge ones. In the next “Resident Alien” episode (10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17), she even feels joy.
“I was a little shocked with the ‘Happy Asta’ segment,” said Sara Tomko (shown here with Alan Tudyk), who plays her. “I had to talk to Chris (Sheridan, the showrunner), like, ‘What does Asta look like when she’s happy?’”
Don’t worry; that phase won’t last long. Nothing does in the Harry Vanderspiegle world.
Actually, this isn’t even the real Harry. He was killed by the alien, who assumed his body and thought he had a simple task: Set off a device that destroys all humans, then return to his home planet.
But part of the device was lost in the crash-landing. Also, the real (and dead) Harry was a doctor, needed in town; the fake one has had to inhale knowledge about medicine … and about humans.
By now, a few people know “Harry” is an alien – Asta (his assistant) … her adoptive father (a Native American who owns the diner) … and two kids, one who sees the alien’s visage beyond the facade.
Asta also knows the destroy-all-humans plan. In is often a very funny show – a favorite with many TV critics — but she’s dead-serious. “I don’t get to do the comedy,” Tomko told the Television Critics Association. “I’m over there, preparing for doom.”
Much of the comedy comes from Tudyk, who has been doing odd characters forever, from “Wash” Washburne on “Firefly” to endless voice roles. “Resident Alien” gives him a full spectrum.
“It allows me to do everything I like doing in one,” he said. “It’s theatrical at times; it’s very funny …. There can be physical comedy, which you rarely get to do in television.”
When “Harry” is asked to recite his real other-planet name, for instance, Tudyk simply improvises a lot of odd sounds and clicks. At the recent Comic-Con, however, he was chastised for not memorizing the name and saying it the same each time. “I promise to do that before my next Con.”
He’s surrounded by others with comedy touches, especially Alice Wetterland (a comedian who plays Asta’s friend D’Arcy) and Corey Reynolds and Elizabeth Bowen (playing the sheriff and his deputy).
“I did feel a little bit alienated,” Tomko said, “(as) the straight man amongst a bunch of comedians.”
Then Sheridan came up with a plan, when he was splitting the season into two eight-episode chunks:
The first part ended with multiple crises: An alien baby was bounding around, causing trouble. Also, a gunman wounded Harry; he would have done worse, but was shot and killed by Asta.
That set up the next couple episodes, when the show returned from a five-month break. (The first one aired Aug. 10 and is now on Peacock.) Questions swirled around Asta.
“Does it change who she is as a person?” Sheridan asked rhetorically. “Did she do the right thing? And Harry is, for the first time, really looking at his own mortality, now that he has emotions.”
His solution – a typical Harry one – was to ignore the emotions. He erased Asta’s memory of the day.
So now we get “Happy Asta,” which is fun … and temporary. Harry made her forget other things, including her daughter’s birthday.
Then there are more problems, including that nasty alien baby … and, oddly, a flashback to a mining disaster. Life gets weird when touched by Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, resident space alien.