TBS beams down ‘People of Earth’ sitcom

October 30, 2016

Anyone who has ever found themselves complaining about the lack of original story ideas on scripted TV these days may find relief in a comedy airing this week on TBS.

“People of Earth,” a half-hour sitcom from Emmy-winning producers Conan O’Brien (“Conan”), Greg Daniels (“The Office”) and Jeff Ross (“Eagleheart”) that premieres tomorrow at 9 p.m., centers on a support group for alien abductees in a small upstate New York town and the big city reporter assigned to investigate the incidents.

At first, Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”) is skeptical and less than thrilled at the assignment. But the more he looks into the oddball claims of the abduc­tees, the more he finds they may not be so off the wall. In fact, he learns he may be one of them.

Among the people this brings him into contact with are Gina (Ana Gasteyer, “Saturday Night Live”), a part-time therapist who runs the group; Kelly (Alice Wetterlund, “The Interview”), a pretty but clueless goofball; Gerry (Luka Jones, “The Campaign”), a tollbooth operator and social dropout; Richard (Brian Huskey, “Neighbors”), a tech employee convinced his wife is an abductee; and Margaret (Nancy Lenehan, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”), an amorous retirement home resident.

Father Doug (Oscar Nunez, “The Office”) runs the local church where this ragtag group of “experiencers” — the PC term for alien abductees — meets.

“You don’t want to say ‘abductee,’ ” cautioned Gasteyer with a laugh, “because you want to have some authorship over your own experience. It gives you more agency. It gives you less of a sense of having been violated.”

And Gina, Gasteyer’s character, has apparently been, well, violated.

“She’s a survivor herself and an experiencer herself,” the actress said. “Definitely has had her soul rattled and shaken by that experience and has enough training where she feels qualified to try to shepherd some of these people through their challenging time, though not as qualified as she would like to be. But that’s sort of the goal.”

Into this group comes Ozzie, who has an episode that leads him to believe he’s had alien contact.

“Ozzie goes in very skeptical of all of this,” Cenac said, “and then has a bit of an awakening when he thinks he’s maybe gone through a similar experience and I think questions not only the veracity of that, but if that’s true, then what does that make him? And so I think there’s a lot of sort of crisis of conscience personally as he struggles with that but also on a larger sense, ‘Oh yeah, this thing could have actually happened to me.’ ”

“People of Earth” was shot outside Toronto but the choice of the setting of Beacon, a historic Hudson Valley burg about 60 miles north of New York City, was not haphazard.

“Beacon actually has a huge number of experiencers,” Gasteyer said. “What do they call it? A cluster.”