Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SF in The New TV Season

In my article "The Golden Age of Science Fiction television," which I first published in The Internet Review of Science Fiction last June, I predicted that the mini-boom we'd seen in genre-related programming on the major networks wouldn't last. This new article surveying the field on Sci Fi Wire would seem to bear out that guess.

As the article points out, 10 million is the minimum number of viewers generally needed to keep a network show alive, and given the size of the core genre audience (I figured it to be 10 million in the U.S., 15 million max in the article), barring fairly sizable cross-over appeal, pretty much every fan has to be a devoted viewer to keep anything alive for long, which is unrealistic. And thus, the short runs we've all come to expect.

Now, as to the (major network) shows that seem likely to make it all the way through season one according to the article (Sanctuary doesn't count for the purposes of this discussion, being a Sci-Fi Channel show with more modest requirements): I've only actually caught whole episodes of Knight Rider and Fringe.

Reviving Knight Rider seemed an almost laughably bad idea to me, as it did to just about everyone I knew. I suspect the "ad wizards who came up with this one" figured that since they'd struck gold (sort of) by reviving another Gary Larson show (Battlestar Galactica, never mind that it never performed the way they hoped, as its failure to find a home on NBC demonstrates), they could do it "again."

I'm not sure anyone in the world thinks that's what actually happened, even the ad wizards themselves. In the episodes I've seen, most of the characters just plain got on my nerves, and the writing seemed very generic, all while tiresomely insisting on its own coolness. Beyond that, it's okay, I guess, very slick, with enough (TV-quality) CGI and other eye candy to hold the attention of the members of the target demographic when they're not in a demanding frame of mind.

As for Fringe: to be honest, I'm tired of hearing about what a "genius" J.J. Abrams is. He's done some decent work, but I have yet to see something that truly blows me away. And I won't give this latest effort on his part any points for originality. (Indeed, there's a hefty dose of cliche here.) Still, I have to admit it has grown on me somewhat since I first saw it, mainly because of a good cast, and in particular John Noble's Walter Bishop. And I like the cuts to commercial break, which tell you exactly how long they're going to go on, and tend to be mercifully brief. Unfortunately, I don't think that particular gimmick is likely to be copied by others anytime soon.

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