Thursday, May 24, 2018

Looking Back: "The Golden Age of SF Television"

Back when I wrote "The Golden Age of Science Fiction Television: Looking Back at SFTV During the Long 1990s" for the Internet Review of Science Fiction, I didn't quite follow every science fiction and fantasy show on TV all the way through from beginning to end, but I did see a very big chunk of it, especially the more widely-seen and noted material. That was my basis for writing that article, and more generally, my attempts at broad assessments of the genre in that medium.

I certainly haven't attempted to follow science fiction television in such a comprehensive way since. This has partly been a matter of inclination. After several years of heavy reviewing and writing, I was a bit burned out, and when I got back to writing about science fiction, I simply didn't approach it the same way. I was more content to be interested in some things and not pay attention to others, with the second list constantly growing. (I've lost all patience with the Frankenstein complex cliche Hollywood relentlessly serves up, which means no Westworld--a remake of a project by Michael Crichton, groan--no Humans, no lots of things for me.)

But it has also been a matter of sheer mass. Today there are more channels in the cable package than ever, for which more original content is being produced than ever before, and it isn't just a matter of TV channels now. There are all the online services--Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and I'm sure three billion new ones between the time I started writing this post, and the time you're finally reading this.

Even just covering Marvel's superhero stuff, for instance, means signing up with multiple services over and above a premium cable package--because in addition to all their TV stuff, on ABC (Agent of SHIELD), FOX (The Gifted), FX (Legion) and Freeform (Cloak & Dagger), and the web shows like WHIH Newsfront, there is also Runaways on Hulu, and six different series' on Netflix alone (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the Defenders, The Punisher). And all this is without considering children's television (five different animated shows on Dinsey XD).

It doesn't help that TV is so much more arc-oriented than it used to be, making casual viewing or late entry, less worthwhile than before. The tone doesn't help either. While a large amount of '90s television was hokey, it was easy viewing, easy to just leave on because you were busy with something else or not really in the mood to get into anything or just unable to find anything better, in contrast with today's TV writers and directors and producers, ever desperate to show off how intense and "edgy" they can be--which is, more often than not, a matter of showing off how pseudomature they can be in that obnoxious indie movie maker way. (Remember Deadpool? Groan again.) It also doesn't help that the sheer crowding, the abundance of short seasons, the too risque-for-syndication-even-with-heavy-editing content makes many of them unlikely candidates for the kind of rerun arrangement that lets a casual viewer see a whole show from beginning to end without going out of their way to try (the way I did with The Pretender, Angel, Charmed and Smallville on TNT).

In fact, I gave up on Game of Thrones in the fourth season, and haven't gone back. I don't think I will, either.

But I will probably eventually get around to picking up The Winds of Winter.

If it ever comes out.

Which it won't be this year.

A fact which has contributed to his fans being so starved for a continuation that the trumpet the mere mention that Martin is "working on it," the slightest hint that perhaps the work has already been completed, is trumpeted as "good news" by the Express.

Book Sale
Now on Google Books . . . (Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
The Superhero Film Gets a Makeover
Just Out . . . The End of Science Fiction?
Just Out: After the New Wave: Science Fiction Today
Preview Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Wizardry

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