Thursday, December 4, 2008

Slow Days At The Sci-Fi Channel

Back in May I published an article arguing that the decade or so from 1993 to the early 2000s was something of a "golden age" for science fiction television, now clearly over. If anything, I'm only more convinced of this now, certainly where the Sci-Fi Channel is concerned.

Two of the channel's biggest shows are closing up shop. The second Stargate series, Atlantis, airs its final episode on January 9, while Galactica's final season has been stretched out over two years (with the second half to start airing the week after). Dr. Who is an import, and will not be back until 2010. The channel's recent dramatic originals, like Painkiller Jane and Flash Gordon, didn't make enough of a splash to rate a second season-or as far as I can tell, even produce a really faithful cult. Sanctuary met with an enthusiastic reception, but I've yet to be really impressed by it (or even persuaded that the concept has a hundred episodes in it), and while Eureka has made it into a third season, it pales in comparison with many of the shows that preceded it.

Meanwhile, like every other channel out there, they are giving us more and more hidden camera shows, game shows and "reality" shows (as well as pseudo-science documentaries like the ubiquitous Ghost Hunters, which essentially consists of idiots walking around in the dark with flashlights). In fact, Tuesday and Wednesday night are totally given over to this kind of programming (as well as, inexplicably from a thematic standpoint, but not that of mindless corporate synergy, ECW Wrestling). Cha$e and Estate of Panic have just joined the line-up, offering exactly the kind of television that helped drive me away from the networks in the first place.

Let's hope things pick up soon.


Niall said...

Well, they have given the green light to Caprica.

Nader said...

That they have, making it an interesting case. It's a spin-off, which is usually a way of playing it safe, but it doesn't appear to be a typical space opera either, so there's at least a hint of an interesting gamble about it.

Naturally, a lot will depend on the handling. If this ends up being just another nighttime soap opera (like the canceled Cane, which I didn't see, but which Polly Walker also appeared in), except that everything has a cheesy, pseudo-exotic name (like calling the alcohol "ambrosia")-viewers might very quickly find themselves asking, "What's the point?"-the whole "naturalistic science fiction" concept trumpeted by the new Galactica's creators ending up a speculative coating for standard fare.

Still, I hope it goes well.

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