On Monday SFX posted a handy guide to which shows had been cancelled, which show were coming back and what new shows we can look forward to on some of the major US networks this year.
The big news is that Alcatraz is gone. I had such high hopes for that show and, truth be known, it’s been a little bit disappointing. The show set out its basic premise – prisoners that disappeared in 1963 turning up in the present with no explanation – and then seemed to go into a holding pattern of repeating that basic plot with each new episode. I can see why the show haemorrhaged viewers, but on the other hand it never had the chance to find its feet. Thirteen episodes and it’s gone.
It’s not all bad; there’s still some good TV out there. But at the moment my sci-fi TV viewing consists of no new stuff, just shows that have been around for a few years; Fringe, A Town Called Eureka, Game Of Thrones and True Blood . Unfortunately we’re losing two of those soon. Eureka is just about to return for its last run of 15 episodes and Fringe will be back for its last 13 at the end of the year. The other two have both been renewed for next year and will hopefully be around for a few more years after that; HBO seems to be one channel that gives new shows a chance to flourish.
I do wonder if America has fallen out of love with the season-long-arc sci-fi television show. Time was we’d have nothing but episodic TV, shows you could dip in and out of; shows that you could miss now and then and not suffer for it. These days it seems that all we have are complicated, densely plotted shows that have a big central mystery, a drip, drip of information and large interconnected casts.
We don’t have a Star Trek or a Stargate anymore. I miss those shows and others like them; shows that are fun weekly adventures, that don’t have ten different plots all up in the air at once. I said in my recent Stargate blog that most shows these days are dark and serious and grim. I miss the fun and adventure of the shows from the ’90s and early noughties. I miss the space ships.
Maybe after the audience dividing finales of shows such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica , viewers have been turned off from arc-heavy sci-fi. Since those shows we’ve had some spectacular failed attempts to catch the lightening again. Flash Forward, Terra Nova and The Event are shows that come to mind as big, brash, expensive-looking efforts that disappeared up their own plot.
Are there too many arc-heavy, densely-plotted shows? Are people not willing to invest in these demanding shows because they’ve been let down in the past? Or is it that the standards of sci-fi TV have dropped? Is all the new TV just not very good? Are we being served up a series of mediocre shows that don’t stand a chance even if they do manage to get beyond a first season? Maybe it is time to go back to the simpler less demanding type of sci-fi, or at the very least have a decent mix of the two types of show.
With all these fledgling shows being cancelled I also wonder if people are becoming wary of giving them a chance. I know I am. I read about upcoming shows in SFX and online, I see trailers and I get excited about them coming to the UK, but it seems they’re gone before they even get here. There’s such a high chance of new shows being cancelled after just one season and leaving us hanging that I don’t want to spend weeks falling in love with new characters to just have them cruelly taken away from me. Some people I know are holding off watching the first seasons of new shows in case they get cancelled. “I can always catch up if the show lasts a few years,” seems to be the general thinking… With the cancellation of shows such as Caprica, Stargate: Universe, V and Dollhouse over the last few years, I can certainly see the appeal of the wait and see approach.
I’ve commented before on the fact that we have no control over these things. We don’t count in the ratings figures they use in America. But if sci-fi fans in the US are having the same reservations and playing the waiting game regarding new shows then it could be a bad time for sci-fi TV as it may lead to lower viewer figures and a higher likelihood of show cancellations anyway. It’ll become a self fulfilling prophecy…
So what do you think? Are you wary of giving new shows a chance? Why are new shows dying so quickly? Have we been served a higher number of bad shows of late? ( Not bad, but distinctly average, I’d say –ed .) Is US sci-fi TV all getting a bit crap? Or are we all just getting a wee bit cynical?
And when, oh when will we get a TV show with bloody space ships in again?