The state of science fiction on TV

As it is with every year, a whole bunch of science fiction-y shows were canceled at the end of the season, but I have to give it to the networks for trying a bunch of new ones next year.

It was so hard to keep track of the comings and goings during the upfronts, but SciFi Wire thankfully charted it all in a very understandable fashion.

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The clear winner, IMHO, is Fox.

Sure, Fox canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, better known as TSCC because it’s a lot freakin’ shorter. But it did keep Dollhouse around for at least another 13 episodes. (Side note: This comic is probably a bit too close to reality for comfort when it comes to how the decision was made.) I’m thinking that Fox didn’t feel like incurring the wrath of the Whedonverse again, whereas TSCC ended at a spot that could full well be the series’ end. (Not that I wouldn’t have loved to see where it would have picked up in the fall.)

Fox also kept Fringe, which is one of my favorite shows. So the net gets brownie points for that. It’s also picked up Human Target and Past Life, each for 13 episodes and for midseason.

Human Target is based on a D.C. comic book and focuses on a guy who goes undercover, basically, as his clients whose lives have been threatened. It was written by Jonathan Steinberg, who was the co-creator of the late Jericho.

I’m not sure I completely understand the premise of Past Life, and the description on Zap2It didn’t help much, but from what I can tell, it’s about a bunch of investigators who solve crimes by dredging up their clients’ long-lost memories. Whether that means memories of dead clients or memories of past lives for solving cold cases or just stuff people have forgotten, I’m not quite clear on. I’m guessing it’s one of the first two, otherwise the whole “science fiction” aspect of it is lost on me.

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NBC is second in the science fiction Olympics, though it canceled more sci-fi-ish shows from this season than it has old and new ones put together. Off the schedule: Knight Rider, My Own Worst Enemy, Kings (I still haven’t forgiven them for that decision) and Medium (which CBS decided to pick up).

But it decided to renew Chuck (midseason) and Heroes (really? Talk about a show past its prime, despite it having been around for only 3 seasons) and has three new shows, though two of them are summer series: Day One, The Listener and Merlin.

Day One sounds the most promising to me, what with its post-apocalyptic Melrose Place-ian-ish-ness. Of course, that means it stands an excellent chance of not succeeding.

The Listener is about a paramedic who can read minds, it seems. And Merlin – well, if you can’t guess what it’s about, you need to go back and read King Arthur.

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ABC lost more than it’s gained, but it has one of the best sci-fi shows ever: Lost. This is the show’s last season, though, so hopefully one of the new shows will pick up the mantle. Canceled were Cupid, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies and Life on Mars (which is the only one of the four I cared about; I tried to like Pushing Daisies, but it was just too precious for me).

But it has V, a remake of one of my favorite miniseries ever. I’m sorry the guy originally responsible for it isn’t involved, and I’d sure like to see Michael Ironside in it, but what is he now, 65, 70? I have great hopes for it, especially if they redo the hybrid alien baby and don’t use a really lame puppet.

ABC also is trying out Eastwick and Flash Forward.

Now, Eastwick is based on the John Updike novel The Witches of Eastwick, which was quite memorably adapted into a movie starring Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Jack Nicholson. I tried reading the book at one point but it was a bit too dated and I just couldn’t hack my way through it. I’m willing to give the show a shot, though.

Flash Forward has a lot of promise, though, with a premise in which the entire world blacks out and glimpses 2 minutes and 17 seconds of an undetermined time in each person’s own future. It’s based on a book, whose author is even writing one of the episodes. It’s being written as if it will be five seasons of 22 episodes apiece and could become a worthy successor to Lost, if it catches on.

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CBS gave up on two shows: Eleventh Hour and The Ex-List, but kept Ghost Whisperer and snagged NBC’s cast-off Medium. That’s all.

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The CW kept Smallville and Supernatural. Though this season is likely to be the final season of SPN, that’s great news they decided to keep it on. But it killed Valentine and Reaper, the latter of which I mourn deeply. I still have three or four episodes on my DVR, so I still have more Reaper to see.

It’s airing the new show Vampire Diaries, though, which I’d imagine might be a good pair with SPN. It’s based on a pre-Twilight series of books, The CW would like you to know, thankyouverymuch. It’s about a girl who can’t decide between two vampire brothers – one good, one evil, of course. They’re battling for her and the souls of all the people in her small town.

So that’s it. Of course, there will be some shows on SyFy, USA, FX, AMC and a whole other slew of acronyms, but these are the big five, so to speak.

Which shows are you looking forward to, and which ones will you miss the most?

4 comments
AmyV
AmyV

@ReaperDMV - that's great news; I'd love to see it continue. I still have the last four eps on my DVR, though. @Erika - Love Eureka! Got a little weird in the middle of the second season, but I thought it got back to its quirky wonderfulness by the end. I think your analysis of why sci-fi doesn't do well probably has more than a bit of truth to it, but that doesn't explain why Firefly got poor ratings and was canceled. I'm just REALLY glad that Fringe was renewed. @Mia - lol! I never read the books; I love vampire stuff, so I'm sure I'll give it a shot. But I agree on Twilight (which I saw on an airline flight)...

Mia
Mia

Vampire Diaries? Seriously? I loved these books growing up. I can't wait to see this. It has to be better than Twilight...not that that's much of an accomplishment.

erika
erika

Waiting for the summer episodes of Eureka! I think the Nets know that us Sci-Fi fans are a good market, but we are expecting Great Things, so it can be hard to actually get a show to catch on. The netowrks aren;t exactly known for their confidence in backing good Sci-Fi. I am pleased to see Fox not backing down on the Sci-Fi front, but honestly, most of these shows don't inspire swells of joy in my heart. I will give them a shot, because I can't help myself, but I feel like I have been burned so many times now, I am wary... I, of course, wish all the best to my friends late of Jericho for their shows to succeed. Right now, the new show I am most excited about is Glee, which just happens to be non-scifi, and on Fox. So, there's that....