SF Fanatic: Current Science Fiction On Television

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.

29 thoughts on “SF Fanatic: Current Science Fiction On Television”

  1. Hmmm not sure about your views on Caprica… and how you can be so certain about what the show is and isn’t after a double epsiode pilot and a whole 2 episodes? Personally I am enjoying it and eager to see where the show goes.

    SG:U is also a show that I am greatly enjoying, probably for all the reasons you aren’t. I like the fact that it isn’t just oohh look at this gate to an alien world (just like earth) with aliens who just need to be shown the American way is best, with flashy lights and cgi special effects. I enjoy the characters although I do think they need a stronger lead.

    I hate Warehouse13 which to me just stinks to high heaven. Artie is the best thing in the show but only because he is the only actual character in the show, the rest being cardboard cut outs which only flex enough to allow them to be poor plot hooks.

  2. I think you rate most of these shows too high. 

    Flashforward showed promise for the first few episodes.  Now it really isn’t watchable at all.

    I agree on Chuck and Eureka.  They try to be exactly what they are and do it fairly well.

    Warehouse 13 fails to be Eureka/X-files.  Poor writing and poor acting kill it.  Not worth watching.

    SGU has a few glimmers of hope (Sgt. Greer and Eli being the best hope), but they need to find their footing soon.  Leaving Rush behind on the last episode should really open up some interesting story lines if the writers are up to the task.

    I don’t know how anyone could even give Caprica a chance after how badly these guys botched Battlestar Galactica.  How do you take the best show on TV for 2 seasons and completely destroy it in the final 2 seasons?  Impressive and disheartening.  I have ZERO faith in these guys.  I won’t even give it a chance.

    Sanctuary is one you didn’t mention and is rather disappointing.  The writing is weak and the actors who play Will and Kate couldn’t have earned the lead roles for any high school play.

  3. I’d like to reinforce the love for Chuck and Eureka. I’m not sure if the tongue-in-cheek factor is what makes these shows so lovable, but the excellent writing and engaging acting by the large ensemble casts certainly can’t hurt!

     

  4. >I don’t know how anyone could even give Caprica a chance after how badly these guys botched Battlestar Galactica.

    Because Caprica has a completely different director than Battlestar Galactica, as well as a different stable of writers? You’re use of the phrase “these guys” indicates an ignorance of the actual production realities.

  5. There’s a new show on FOX called PAST LIFE about reincarnation which has a sf/fantasy vibe going.  The stories have been interesting, but the series actors/characters haven’t really grabbed  me.  The guest stars have been much more interesting.  

    And if you toss in BBC-America, you have all kinds of shows.  DR WHO, TORCHWOOD which is theoretically coming back, PRIMEVAL which has been renewed, the vampire/monster fighter show DEMONS, the monsters as good guys BEING HUMAN, and ASHES TO ASHES which may or may not have been cancelled which is a time travel detective series filmed by a Fellini clone.  

    All are watchable.  

     

  6. @Thursday – Personally as soon as someone slags something off in the same statement that tells me they ain’t watched it i just ignore them for the idiot they obviously are.

  7. @linger

    You might be right about the directors and writers.  I was disappointed enough by Galactica’s final 2 seasons to not even bother looking into Caprica.  My ignorance shines through proudly.

  8. Despite all its flaws aren’t you the least bit curious to see how the Zoey/Cylon hybrid evolves to become the Cylon menace that destroys the colonies?  Having grown up watching the original Battlestar series I seem to recall having nightmares involving Cylons.  I’m kind of curious to see how they came to be, but, maybe it’s just the emotional scarring. (j/k)

  9. Also from BBC is Merlin. It’s a fun, lighthearted fantasy show. I believe the second season will be airing on SyFy later this year. Not very memorable, but a good time-waster. It kinda reminds me of Hercules/Xena from back in the day.

    And I too love me some Chuck. Def one of the few shows mentioned I watch every week and enjoy.

  10. @Kazimak

    “Despite all its flaws aren’t you the least bit curious to see how the Zoey/Cylon hybrid evolves to become the Cylon menace that destroys the colonies?”

    No, not at all.  Why?  Because I can see massive holes in the story just from the commercials.  “Skin jobs” were first and no one knew about them at the beginning of Galactica?  Especially considering Adama’s father already knew.  I’m sure they have some elaborate and impossible explanation for this, but it won’t mesh with history or human behavior.  I can’t think of a major advancement in the past 200 years that happened without a significant number of people knowing something about it or even multiple people discovering it simultaneously.

    I can handle holes in the intentionally non-serious shows (Chuck, Eureka), but Galactica, and one would infer Caprica, are supposed to be serious.

  11. @Chad

    Errr….. There has been no mention of skin jobs in Caprica, so how you think Adama’s father knew about them I have no idea. I have seen the trailers shown for the show in the UK (and a couple from the states on youtube and the like) and all i can assume is that you have taken a little info that in the trailers is probably intentionally misleading and made false assumptions based on them, SciFi are playing on the knowledge the audience has coming off the back of BSG.

    All I can suggest is that you watch the show for yourself, or stop making grand assumptions about something you actually know very little about ;-) the Zoey/Cylon hybrid that Kazimak is talking about isn’t a skin job, and I think it highly unlikely it will have anything to do with the skin jobs either. That said I ain’t sure what they will do about the cluster frag of the final five cylons and ‘The Plan’ or wether they will just ignore them as they are/might be irrelevant to the story being told in Caprica.

    I really fragging hate it when people attack stuff they don’t/can’t/won’t/haven’t watch(ed). Personally I have never watched an episode of Chuck, BBT (or Sex in the City for that matter) and I have very little intention of… they just don’t grab my interest, but because of that I don’t feel I have any right to coment on the shows, and certainly not to slag them off because of my preconceptions that I wouldn’t like them if I were to watch them.

    /rant.

  12. Well, I feel fine with commenting on something I have never seen…so we are different in that respect.

     

    “Skin job”, just a plain robot with skin to make it look human, cyborg, hybrid or whatever the dead girl is supposed to be it is still a functional fake human.  Thus, not a big surprise when the cylons make a “skin job” or functional fake human in the future.  Maybe Galactica is surprised the fake humans aren’t the same internally as Zoey, but it is still weird everyone is surprised any type of fake human exists in Galactica.

  13. @Chad

    LMAO, I might as well say I object to Chuck because I don’t see how you can make an interesting TV show out of a tool you use to tighten up drill bits. Or that I object to Big Bang Theory because I believe the Celestial Teapot created the universe therefore the big bang never happened, so how can anyone have a theory about it. Your critisims of Caprica have got nothing to do with the show… you might as well be complaining that you don’t like the animation in it and think its a rip off of South Park.

  14. Thumbs up for Chuck, but a big thumbs down from me on Lost.  

    The show became confusing for confusion’s sake.  Like they said “Hey, if we make this inscrutable and confusing, people will think it is hip and cool and act like they ‘get it’ in order to impress.”  OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but still, the end will be terrible.  It will have to be, there is no explanation (at least none anybody can reasonably think of) that will have you saying “Oh wow, that wrapped that up nicely in a cool scifi way.” Although, I suppose if Sawyer woke up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette and said “Wow, I had an incredible dream” I’d take that back.

    I gave up in season 2, perhaps it got better?

    As for that bag, you can order this one.  http://www.cafepress.com/fbod.28814776

  15. I party agree on your critique of Stargate Universe, but completely disagree on your idea how to “fix” it – I mean a “team of scientists explore the ship and the planets it happens upon” ?? Really? We already had that for 10+5 seasons, why should they do it again? No, for me the body-takeover-connection to earth is nearly too much already. They need to get me to like some of the characters, that would be a start. If you like the assholes most, then something seems wrong. ;-) And story-wise further exploration of the ship is definitely a good idea, though I suspect they didnt do it more due to cost-related reasons?

     

    The bbc-shows that are mentioned in the comments are worth looking into. Mostley Dr. Who, that starts a new season (and new doctor) soon, but also Torchwood (on some kind of hiatus now) and of course Being Human.

  16. A new series of Torchwood is on the books, but they are just being coy about it at the moment trying to hide the casting. There is also talk of a US version of Torchwood.

    Other BBC shows that fit the bill are Survivors (a remake of a 70s show by the same name) which tells the tale of a small bunch of survivors after a pandemic wipes out most of humanity, the 2nd series of which is now showing.

    There is also Paradox which aired last year about a scientist who recieves a bunch of pictures from the future that are used by some fairly anemic police officers to try and prevent future crimes/accidents. It got off to a slow start but the last 3 episodes (out of 6 I think) where getting a lot better, we are still waiting to see if it gets a 2nd series – something I hope it does.

  17. Nice to here that news about Torchwood!

    And I forgot about survivors, right. I like the production in general, I like that some characters stay ambivalent throughout the whole series, I like that they take their time to tell stories and so sometimes create very slow and nice moments. But overall there is something off about the series, I can’t quite put my finger on it (beside the fact that they bring a ten year old to a breakout, who off course screws up, by running into the arms of the enemy like an idiot – and the group makes stupid decisions like this too regularly for my taste). As for the characters, the Paterson Joseph character should be the most likeable, if ONLY he weren’t so bloody self-righteous all the time, whatever the topic, HE takes the moral high ground. As the “boss” Abby is somehow both boring and not so likeable, I found myself rooting for the criminal (Beesley) quite regularly, even when he comits his crimes, ;-), or the doctor when Beesley becomes too unbearable.

  18. @ Andy W

     

    Ok, but you didn’t disprove my last argument, you just avoided it.  This makes me think it might even have merit in your eyes.

  19. @Chad – I jsut wanted to get that point across before adressing your point, the thing is the Zoey/Cylon hybrid has nothing to do with the human cylons we saw in BSG.

    Zoey has 2 characters in Caprica, one is a flesh and blood human, the other is an AI construct based said human, the human/cylon hybrid was created when the AI construct was downloaded in to a cybernetic body (the prototype cylon chasis). Maybe if you had watched the show you would have known this and not been making comments slagging off Caprica that have nothing to do with what has happened in the show.

  20. Now that’s a better argument. Essentially making mine moot. That’s all that was necessary.

    Of course, I’m still not watching it, as the overall story line doesn’t excite me much. Plus, it’s a prequal and that always annoys me, as I already know the end result.

  21. errr didn’t I say that ages ago….

    the Zoey/Cylon hybrid that Kazimak is talking about isn’t a skin job, and I think it highly unlikely it will have anything to do with the skin jobs either.

     

  22. Perhaps the writer, as well as many of you who left comments, simply do not like science fiction?  Way too critical in my opinion.

  23. @Steve – The title of the post has ‘SF Fanatic’ in it which should be a clue that, indeed, I do like science fiction. A lot. Also, being one of the co-creators and contributors to SF Signal should be another! :)

    As for being critical, yes, I am. That’s because I want to see SF on TV to be better than what we usually get. The current state won’t change unless the viewers demand it to change, which is sort of what I’m doing here…

  24. @JP Frantz: 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.”

    I think your assessment of Caprica sorely misrepresents the show and is rather reductive. Calling it a “soap, in spaaaace” is inaccurate to say the least — instead, the sophistication and complexity of its themes, the richness of its worldbuilding, and the high quality of its writing and acting and cinematography make it an enthralling, challenging drama of highest order.

    Caprica is turning into not just the best SF show on TV, but one of the best TV shows overall.

    The scene when Daniel Greystone brings the cylon to his company’s board meeting and presents it as the future, a future in which such robots will have “no rights,” was chilling and powerful, particularly when he commands the cylon to rip off its left arm. The cutting between Zoe’s confusion and the cylon obeying Greystone said so, so much about the possible consequences of Greystone’s hubris. Moreover, this specific scene, really, represented the turning point in the BSG universe: located directly in Greystone’s attitude toward the cylon and his vision of what cylons would mean and could do for humanity.

    The show’s relevance involves much more than the terrorism plotline. You’ve got politics, religion, family, the nature of identity in an increasingly technological/virtual society, economic/corporate greed, and so forth — all of it handled with intelligence and a definite edginess.

    I hope your assessment of the show did not turn people off from giving it a chance. If so, they are missing something special.

     

  25. @ JP – I respect your critisim of the show, even thou I disagree as stated before. I think the show is developing very nicely the last few episodes are slowly ramping up the pace and things are starting to get very interesting. The writers have taken their time to bed characters down letting them grown into deeper plots than we see in most dramas regardless of genre.

    I hope they do delve into some high scifi morality that has been a bedrock of the genre, from writers such as Clark, Asimov, Heinlein, Orwell, Banks and many many more. I like brave TV shows that ask me as a veiwer to get involved and care about something ‘real’, to think about the broader story being told from the fights against a corrupt government in B5 to the realities of the effects of the ‘war on drugs’ on society as shown in The Wire. If Caprica delves into the questions of what it means to be human and what it means to create a new ‘artificial’ type of life. If it delves into the realtionships between people and avatars of (dead) people and the questions of what it means in terms of dying. If it takes a look at a violent society and the effects that has on the people involved and how Bill Adama grows up to be the man we met in BSG.

    Thats a lot of ifs and I have a strong feeling that this show is going to tackle some of these questions and that its going to take a decent stab at figuring out the questions before it finds a way to fluff the answers.

    The writers and crew listened to what the fans said when they made BSG, I am sure they are doing the same now.

  26. Mmmm – its seems the only SF you like is not SF – are you sure you wouldn’t rather be critiquing soaps?

    It is unfortunate that the same minded people seem to be running SyFy as they have just dropped Caprica mid-season – but the good news perhaps (for those like you) is that they will be replacing it with a cooking show and more wrestling. Why can’t people understand that SyFy can have a story and doesn’t have to be all laser guns and dodgy aliens. I truley believe Caprica could have beena great ongoign show given time and effort – but with a pilot a year before the series and large breaks during the first run (and of course cancelling it mid first season!) what did they expect? Reminds me of when another network canned Numb3rs after a fall in ratings, replaced it with the biggest pile of doodah one could imagine (which bombed enough that they canned that too!) after it dropped in ratings (but still was in their top 5 rating shows!) after they changed its schedule and run it against the Superbowl! 

  27. The year is almost over, and IMHO, SGU has become the best show of the lot, only to be cancelled.

     

    Bah, Humbug.

     

     

  28. I agree with the comment above. SGU has become the best out of all of these , it really came in to it’s own and is now no more.

    Shame on them.

     

    Now there is nothing. Most got the axe, the rest are boring as hell. I also think the Warehouse 13 is just terrible. The scripts! c’mon did everyone just learn how to read egyption at school or know astrology just in the drop of a line in an episode and that girl hacker, knowing all that alien tech, just wa la, that’s so much worse than jar jar binks ever was….pleeease

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