BLOGGERS’ WEEK As Ally McBeal creator David E Kelly starts filming on his Wonder Woman pilot, SFX blogger Narin Bahar takes a look at some recent short-lived sci-fi shows for lessons he could learn
1. Don’t spend all your budget on shiny coloured spandex – Syfy’s Flash Gordon
Okay, the photos coming out from set look slightly more reassuring, but those first pics looked less “ superhero for a new generation!” and more Ann Summers’ Budget Sexy Funtimes. There is such a thing as too much shiny spandex, and Syfy’s Flash Gordon is proof. As a side point, if those pictures are anything to go by, Wonder Woman needs a Wonder bra – how’s she supposed to run in that?!
2. Don’t take your audience for granted – Outcasts
This is something lots of genre shows are guilty of (see also the Whedonites’ lament on Dollhouse season one - “if you stick with it till episode six, after then it gets better!”) but that doesn’t make it right. It’s all very well taking time to establish the universe, but there has to be enough of a hook to get people interested from the first episode; you can’t just hope they’ll stick with you to see the fab twist you’ve got in episode three. And let’s not even get started on the ill-advisedness of ending your series on a cliffhanger when you don’t know for sure you’ll be recommissioned…
3. If you can’t afford good CGI then just don’t use any – Bionic Woman (2007)
We can argue on whether the invisible plane is a key part of WW canon or the lamest gadget ever, but there’s one thing we can agree on – if you can’t make it look believable then don’t bother at all. The Michelle Ryan-fronted Bionic Woman is a cautionary tale of ropey green screen aplenty, although arguably the maddest effect attempt was “ageing” Mark Sheppard by seemingly dunking him in a bath of talc.
4. Hold your nerve – Knight Rider (2008)
It’s bad enough taking an established franchise and turning it into something unrecognisable to the fans who loved it, but having done that to suddenly try and change things to make it better by recasting, dumping the show runner ( * cough * Bionic Woman was also guilty of this) or changing the tone when the negative reviews start coming in just won’t work. The fact is, you can’t fix a failing show on the fly and those changes you’re making are only going to alienate the few people who are still watching.
5. Embrace your comic book pedigree – Birds of Prey
When The WB turned its attention to New Gotham City in 2002, fans of the brilliant Birds of Prey comic were hopeful the resultant series would do justice to the strong female characters. Instead the writers seemed to be somewhat reluctant to have parallels drawn with its source materials and seemed to go for a more OC than DC vibe, most notably with the decision that Huntress wouldn’t wear a mask (presumably because it was thought that a fully-visible Ashley Scott would be more tempting to viewers). If you’re going to be a superhero show, be so unashamedly – you don’t have to be full-on all the time ( Smallville , for some of its other faults, is pretty good for this; think how late on it was before they gave Clark the Superman outfit).
6. Silly accents are a no-no – Demons
Liz Hurley, we’re looking at you. No offence, but you’ve got form.
7. Get the tone of your universe right – The Middleman
Let’s gloss over the fact that it’s a travesty that The Middleman is in this list of failed one-season shows and instead celebrate the fact it got the tone of its show so right. It was a wacky universe Dub Dub et al lived in, but the absurdity was handled seriously by the characters. You know what that means Mr Kelley? No dancing babies. That’s all we ask.
Are you optimistic for the Wonder Woman pilot? What do you hope to see in the show? Which other sci-fi shows cancelled after a season deserve a mention for something they did well (or badly)? Have your say in the comments below.
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