From looking at the number of science fiction(ish) shows on television, you might think we’re in a renaissance of sorts for SF on TV. I listed all the SF shows that I watch regularly, irregularly, or have watched but quit. I was surprised at the quantity of shows that are out and when you add in the ones I don’t watch or never have, there is a lot of SF/F on TV.
But are we inundated with quality shows? Let’s find out! In no particular order:
LOST – Not just the best science fiction show on TV, one of the best shows on TV, period. Mythologically dense (in a good way), mind bending stories, interesting characters, great acting (for the most part) and terrific production values equals a winner in my book.
VERDICT – Record and watch as soon as the kids are in bed.
Flashforward – Based on the entertaining book by Robert J. Sawyer, the television show suffers from flat characters and mediocre acting. The story is different enough from the book that, so far, we are confused as to where its going. This worked for LOST, but Flashforward fails to hook me like the best show on TV. It could be so much more, let’s hope the hiatus allowed them to re-tool and come back strong.
VERDICT – Record and watch at some point later.
Fringe – I detailed my issues with Fringe in last week’s SF Fanatic. Even though I think there is a lot of wasted potential, I still watch just for the mythology episodes. Who doesn’t like a cross dimensional war?
VERDICT – Record and watch at some point later.
Heroes – The first season was on a terrific roll right up until the slap in your face ridiculous season ender. Since then it’s been on a downward spiral of suck: lame stories, stupid characters, too much soap, and more. It’s a good thing NBC is the lowest rated network or else Heroes would have been canned a long time ago, but being the big fish in a small pond as its advantages. The rest of us have to live with it.
VERDICT – Avoid like the plague, which at least causes interesting things to happen. Nothing interesting has happened to Heroes since season 1.
V – The remake of the classic 1980’s series has its own issues. While the acting hasn’t been bad, the story so far feels rushed, like the writers are trying to jam the entire original min-series into as few episodes as possible. The whole teenage interspecies love angle is just so 90210 it makes me want to puke. Even the usually stunning Morena Baccarin comes off…oddly. And human skin over a reptilian body? Really? Oh, and humans and lizards mating? WTF? That’s just plain stupid. It’s 2010, people aren’t that dumb. Or are they?
VERDICT – Record and watch at some point (much) later.
Stargate Universe – I want to really like this show, I do. But it’s just not there yet. I love the premise: a group of people stranded in another galaxy on a derelict alien ship. They had me at alien ship. Sadly, what we get is Battlestar Emolactica without the shooty bits. The pacing is slow, we wallow in the melodrama, and there isn’t a character in the whole cast to really like. I keep thinking of all the cool things they could find on the ship and the interesting planets they could visit, but we get very little of that. Quick fix: Hook up a gate in our galaxy to a black hole for power, rescue everyone, then have a rotating team of scientists explore the ship and the planets it happens upon. And don’t tell me a black hole doesn’t have more power than a geothermically active planet. Sam will back me up.
VERDICT: Record and watch at a later point, hoping to see more of the ship.
Caprica – Oh man, where to begin here? Dallas in space without anyone approaching J.R.’s level of interest. It’s like the producers learned the wrong lesson from Galactica, thinking an ‘grim and gritty’ soap, in spaaaace, would be great, and they’re the same people! So far I’ve seen nothing that hasn’t been covered in other, better, science fiction works. It doesn’t help that I find the character of Zoey to be annoyingly grating and the whole terrorist angle seems glommed on to be ‘relevant to today’s society’. Give me entertaining over relevant any day. Caprica isn’t.
VERDICT – Don’t record, watch on Hulu at a later point. In danger of being dropped completely.
Eureka – Ah, Eureka, a show that doesn’t take itself seriously, unlike other SyFy shows <*cough*>Caprica SGU<*cough*>. Those two shows could learn a thing or two about how to use humor and interesting characters and situations to create something entertaining. I really like Eureka, although the technobabble is getting very old.
VERDICT – Record and watch after the kids are in bed.
Warehouse 13 – What do you get when you cross Eureka‘s irreverence with The X-Files stories? Warehouse 13. It’s a bit uneven in terms of stories, and I don’t really like the hacker character, but Pete and Artie steal the show every time. Add in a steampunk aesthetic and I keep watching. Which is good since they seem to be intent on using season long story arcs to tie the episodes together.
VERDICT – Record and watch at a later point.
Chuck – Yes, Chuck is science fiction. Chuck has an huge database in his head that he can access and, now, he can ‘learn’ any skill he needs, a la The Matrix. Plus the writers are huge science fiction fans and gamers to boot. All you have to do is look closely to see the references everywhere. Heck, Morgan has a Tyrell Corporation backpack. I want a Tyrell Corporation backpack. And how can you not like a show where two main characters dress up every Halloween as a Shai-Hulud? Yes, the on-again, off-again ‘romance’ between Chuck and Sarah seems seems to be on a Moonlighting path so getting them apart can only be a good thing. Chuck is another show that doesn’t take itself seriously, Chuck is a hugely sympathetic character and who doesn’t want to see Adam Baldwin (with guns!) again?
VERDICT – Watch on Hulu the next day.
The Big Bang Theory – Not science fiction at all, unless you buy into the stereotype of geeks being unable to ‘get the girl’, which BBT subverts nicely, as it does many other geek stereotypes. The first season was uneven, but the show has hit a nice stride starting with season 2, being funny, with the odd clunker, and engaging. As far as making fun of geeks, there is some of that, but no more than other sitcoms make fun of the characters in them. What The Big Bang Theory has done well is portray the ‘geeks’ as people too. Plus there are a ton of in jokes for the science/fiction/math/physics crowd. It’s like a live-action XKCD.
VERDICT – Watch as soon as I can.
Legend Of The Seeker – The keen eyed among you will have noticed the lack of fantasy in my TV viewing so I tried an episode of Seeker. Actually, I tired one, couldn’t get past 5 minutes and tried another one that had Jolene Blalock in it. Ugh. Cliched story lines (yes, based on the book, what’s your point?), horrible acting and dialog only George Lucas could love results in a train wreck of a show. Seeker proves that even hot chicks can’t save a bad show. The Mord’Sith actress seems to confuse tilting her head and prowling around for acting and it only gets worse from there. And despite Jolene Blalocks substantial assets, she can’t save the episode I saw her in. Something about the Sisters of the Light, yada yada yada. Derivative fantasy, thy name is Legend Of The Seeker.
VERDICT: No way, no how will I record this or watch another episode. Ever.
So what can we learn from this? Despite there being many SF shows on TV right now, it’s definitely quantity over quality. Even most of the shows I watch and like aren’t going to be confused for great television and once LOST is gone, there won’t be a great SF show on TV. Which is a shame as science fiction, done right, can be just as good, if not better, than anything else on TV, certainly anything on NBC.
I’m willing to blow the horn for any SF show that really rocks. All we need now is someone willing to produce it.