I have a simple question for you; what is your favourite currently-airing US or Canadian sci-fi TV show? And is it as good as sci-fi TV shows you’ve loved in the past?
The reason I ask is because I’m finding sci-fi TV to be a bit lack-lustre at the moment. There’s some good stuff out there, certainly, but very little of it is great . Most of the new shows seem to be almost there, but still lack that certain something. All the really good shows, the shows I really looked forward to, seem to have ended or have been cancelled.
I’ve just finished watching season one of Revolution and it was okay. Nothing amazing, and to be honest there’s quite a lot about it that pissed me off on a weekly basis. But it was sci-fi TV, it had some great names behind its creation and I’m a sci-fi fan, so I watched it.
The strange thing is, I’m feeling that way about quite a few shows at the moment. I watch several shows because I feel like I should be watching them; because they’re within my sphere of interest. But mostly the shows I’ve been watching recently are okay at best. None of them are must-watch TV; they look really good in theory but none of them seem to be living up to their potential and I don’t feel the need to watch them as they air. I rarely feel the need to watch anything as soon as I possibly can these days. There’s no show at the moment which I’m really looking forward to each week. The closest, I suppose, is Continuum . It’s a very good show, but it isn’t amazing me; it still hasn’t hit a must-watch point yet.
Continuum and Revolution aren’t alone; there are shows which have been around a few years that still haven’t managed to catch the certain something which makes them “must watch” TV for me. I watch Falling Skies week after week wanting it to get better and it steadfastly remains a middle of the road, by the numbers show with standard sci-fi tropes week after week.
Maybe it’s me. I’ve often said I was a big fan of Fringe . It was my favourite hour of sci-fi TV in my week, and I admit I’ve been looking for a show to replace it. But there seems very little on the TV these days which I’d say is up to the job. More often than not I’m happier sticking a box-set in the DVD player and watching favourite shows from the past. Current shows seem to remind of those past shows a lot these days. Past characters and situations are echoed all the time and to be honest the reminders don’t do the current shows any favours; I’ve seen what they’re doing done better before more often than not. Have we really run out of anything original?
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are still one or two really great TV shows around: Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead (both adaptations, notably). For shows without a literary source, Person Of Interest has a lot of potential. And there are a few new shows on the way that have a lot of hype to live up to, Marvel’s Agents Of Shield probably being top of that list.
In the past we’ve had shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica ; they were always shows you watched on the night they aired. Shows people would discus the following day; shows that people would talk about and dissect. They were shows that people got excited about and there doesn’t seem to be much which generates that kind of following these days. Game Of Thrones is just about the only show which generates anything close to that kind of fervour these days. At least in the circles I frequent.
Too Short A Season?
One aspect of it could be the shorter seasons. I remember a time when shows got between 20 and 24 episodes a season and they were around for half a year. These days most seasons are half that. And I suppose I got to thinking that if shows are only half the length they used to be shouldn’t that mean they get to concentrate the quality? With an episode run of 10 to 12 there’s also the fact that these shows are off our screens for much longer. As I said we used to have half a year of Star Trek or Stargate where as now we’re waiting three quarters of a year in-between each run of episodes. With a wait that long I guess I’m expecting shows to be better than they are. They just don’t seem to be worth the wait these days.
Another aspect is arcs. Every show these days seems to have arcs; one long story told over the entire season. Gone are the episodes of the week; gone are the one self-contained episode stories. It’s all convoluted continuous plotting and sometimes I wish there was a show that put the arc on the back seat a little more. What we end up with is stretched out season long stories with a drip, drip of plot and a load of puzzle pieces to put together and then a season finale that sets up the next puzzle. I’m getting a bit tired of the constant lack of resolution and I yearn for a good simple 40-minute story with a happy ending.
I just wonder whether sci-fi TV has become a little stale of late, have we run out of ways to be original or am I just seeing the sci-fi TV past in rose tinted glasses? What do you think? Is sci-fi TV having a bit of a slump? Do you find yourself watching shows because you think you should? Are you watching things in the constant hope that they’ll get better?
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