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Is SciFi on TV going the way of the dinosaur? (1 Viewer)

Joseph Howard

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I am becoming depressed. It seems that SciFi on TV
(& cable for that matter) seems to be going into the
crapper OR if it does have quality it dies in the ratings.

I mean, think about it. There was some really good
quality SciFi tried on air recently, but it has quickly
withered on the vine.

Why aren't people watching the good shows that have quality
writing and that really try to be good "science fiction?"

The SciFi channel cancels the good shows are replaces it
with ...ahem... crap. (or worse,..) [Dead are Farscape,
Invisible man, etc....]

Fox seems to try occassionally, but (except for the X-files
a few years ago) they don't give it a chance passed about
3 weeks, move the show around, pre-empt it, and then say
it failed as a show. Ok, so they don't try actually.
[the Firefly debacle as example, and the death of Jon Doe]

Why the hell does SciFi keep failing on TV recently?

The writing? The audience? The "reality" factor? The
shows themselves? The networks respect of that type of
show?

What will make quality, SCIENCE fiction work on TV, Cable?

anyone?


Just start thinking about all the "scifi" type shows that
had a real good quality over the last few years and think
about how short their lives were..... you'll get depressed
too.....



Dr. "I want my 'Strange Luck' Back" Joe
 

Jeff Kleist

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It needs time to build an audience, a SciFi show should be promised 2 seasons, and an opportunity to end the macrostory. It shouldn't be advertised during programming which caters to the exact opposite audience (i.e: don't advertise Firefly during baseball, sorry Jason you are a supreme minority) and instead advertise it during simliar themed programming. And number one:

DO NOT PRE-EMPT THE SHOW AS A FORCE OF HABIT. If a viewer has to work to find the show, most people will dump it.
 

Rex Bachmann

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Joseph Howard wrote (post #1):

Depends on your idea of "quality SCIENCE fiction". If it's The Invisible Man, I'm afraid we're on different planets.

Depends on what you mean by "work"? "Grab (and keep) big ratings"? "Actually be science fiction"? Good luck on either count. In my opinion, it would take both a change in programming and, more importantly, a HUGE change in the nature and orientation of the viewing audience to bring about "success", artistic or commercial, for "science-fiction" programming. You need audiences with an attention span and an interest in something more than "boobaliciousness". That, for the most part, you don't got.
 

WillG

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I think generally, Sci-Fi stuff, at least on television, tends to appeal to a cult audience. unfortunately, when it comes to TV the word "cult" usually equates to "short life" Oddly enough, the aversion that most people have to Sci-Fi is seems to be contained to the past decade and a half, as there were Sci-Fi programs that became very successful in the 60s 70s and 80s. Obviously the Star Trek Series comes to mind. And I remember the "V" miniseries doing well in the early 80 as well as Quantum Leap (which was only loosely Sci-Fi based anyway). But you have to remember that back in those days there was far less viewing options for the average person. Now a days, you have your cable tv and satellite which offer hundreds of channels. A Star Trek incarnation, or a "Buffy" may play ok on the WB. The X-files is a rare exception too, but as I recall, did struggle in its early days. But as a whole, Sci-Fi will only appeal to a certain Niche. Remeber that most of America is comprised of the people we call J6P. Plus the nature of most Sci-Fi shows is very serialized and intellectual. It's hard to get people into that kind of stuff. On top of all of this as well, is the stigma that Sci-Fi programming is....well...for nerds. I think that there will always be struggles for these types of shows. Hell, even "Futurama" a Sci-Fi "inspired" comedy has ultimately failed (although Fox has to take much of the blame for this) But for whatever reason, they found that show to be expendable. It's an uphill battle. The weird thing is that Sci-Fi themed movies have killed at the box office. Look at how X-Men is doing (I know it's not like it's hard core Sci-Fi and it's comic based, but has Sci-Fi elements) The new Matrix is going to clean up next weekend as well. Sci-Fi seems to be one gigantic box office genre. Maybe it's because, Sci-fi in movies have greater budgets and can really make something extraordinally visually impressive while Sci-Fi television has to do things cheaply and on tv, it comes of Cheesy.

Thoughts?
 

Brad Porter

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I'd like someone to produce a science fiction or fantasy show that doesn't reuse these same basic premises:

• The Star Trek premise - a diverse group of idealistic humans (and possibly humanoid aliens) encounter action and adventure, often while teaching an important moral lesson.
• The X-Files premise - a gifted loner (sometimes with special powers) fights corrupt authority figures in search of the answers to a greater mystery. Sometimes the loner has a sidekick.
• The Knight Rider premise - "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So let's take a car, an android, a clone, virtual reality, a website, etc. and give it an action hero partner. Then they'll both do things that are amazing and unexpected.

I think Firefly avoided using the first premise, but only by mocking the shows that use that premise. I think audiences are dismissing these shows because they don't look original. I never watched Farscape or Babylon 5, because I got the impression from my limited exposure to them that they were yet another version of the Star Trek premise. I'm probably absolutely wrong in this assessment, but that's my best explanation for why I and so many other potential viewers never tuned in.

Brad
 

TheLongshot

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Jason
I never watched Farscape or Babylon 5, because I got the impression from my limited exposure to them that they were yet another version of the Star Trek premise.
I can kinda see that for "Babylon 5" (Tho it was more than just that.), but not for "Farscape", which is rather the anti-Star Trek in a lot of ways. If anything, it was a lot like "Blake's 7", which is bizzare in its own fashion.

Getting right down to it, the problem comes to money. The ambisious space shows are expensive to produce and are high risk. If they don't find an audience in the first season, it isn't going to find a second season.

This is where we get the other shows, like "John Doe". Come up with an idea that isn't expensive to produce, but has a "SciFi-like" hook to get the fans into the show. You get more of those with long runs (X-Files, Quantum Leap), than any other type, because it is realitivly cheap to start these shows, and when the show gets successful, you can raise the budget and do more with it.

Jason
 

Jeff Kleist

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Brad, I will tell you that Babylong 5 is close to the Trek premise while still maintaining enough unique aspects that the comparison isn't fair (I still think DS9 was loads better so nyeah :) )

The only similarity Farscape has to Trek is that both occur in space, they visit planets occasionally, and there are aliens. But the style in which Farscape handles these situations is greatly divorced from Trek. Give it a shot. At the very least you'll see one big thing Trek is lacking. ALIEN aliens. You won't find too many bumpy forheads on that show
 

Brad Porter

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As I said, I never watched either of the two shows. Unless you sit down and watch them, there is no way to know that they aren't cookie cutter retreads of the Star Trek premise. I'm just proposing that other viewers in this amazingly untapped general sci-fi audience that everyone is fantasizing about had the same (apparently mistaken) impression that I had - and therefore stayed away.

Actually, with Farscape, it started airing after I had acquired TiVo, so I don't recall seeing any specific advertising for it.

Brad
 

Rex Bachmann

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Jeff Kleist wrote (post #7):

No, you'll find heavier, more bizarre-looking prosthetics and more body-paint, 'cause more skin is on display of its mostly humanoid "aliens", who have the same old humanlike agendas and/or foibles---power/conquest, greed/wealth, lust/satiation, jealousy/revenge, etc.---that you'll find almost everywhere else in popular filmed "sci-fi".

"ALIEN aliens" in Farscape? Bullshit. SOS!

(That doesn't mean one shouldn't try out the show for himself, of course. Just not to get one's hopes up high, if one is really looking for "different".)
 

Arkady Kleiner

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Has there been any Science Fiction or Fantasy Fiction series made for television that had truly "alien" aliens, with incomprehensible motives, agendas and goals?

Babylon 5 came closer than the rest with the First Ones, but even it falls far short of truly "alien" aliens.

Thinking about it, even in film, there has only been the one that had aliens who's motives and goals were incomperehensible to the characters and the audience. It's '2001: A Space Odyssey', ofcourse.

Forget about aliens that look alien. Hard to come up with those seing as there are no real life examples to draw inspiration from. Not on a TV budget. And certainly not on a consistent, every episode basis.

Personally, i believe so called "science fiction" on television fails because it's being presented the wrong way. Shows like Firefly, Farscape or Babylon 5 should be presented as dramas set in futuristic/weird/fantasy settings. Not as hard core science fiction.

The way these shows are currently marketed, the people looking for hard science fiction are dissapointed when they don't find it. While those who would enjoy clever dramas, stay away, because they are not looking for real science fiction.
 

Jack Briggs

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When the proviso of true, honest-to-goodness "real" science fiction has been applied to television series, the ratings tanked. The finest (and perhaps only) "real" SF series, ABC-TV's The Outer Limits, lasted only a season and a half.

For today's audiences, weened on what Hollywood passes off as SF (and for which Rex correctly excoriates its credentials as SF), something on the order of 2001: A Space Odyssey won't have the appeal it did in the late '60s and early '70s (in terms of box-office power).

At its best, "real" science fiction challenges audiences on a cerebral level when what today's audiences want is something that grabs them at a visceral level.

There has been very little filmed drama, television or cinema, that can truly be called "science fiction." The situation won't improve any time soon, either.
 

Joseph Howard

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Ok, I'm not quite the "hardliner" when it comes to
definitions about what "is" or "isn't" something, but
in this case I think it might be interesting to explore
in terms of what this thread is about.

What is "SCIENCE Fiction?"

What is "science FICTION?"

What is "science fantasy?"

I see much of the "science fiction" programming more
as a spectrum of SCIENCE fiction rather than discrete
quanta of specific archtypes.

Oh, and my dream is that I want an "intelligently written,
smartly acted, based in science plausability (with a bit
of fantasy), non-technobabble false jargon, dramatic,
philosophic, questioning, deep thinking show about the
wonderous strangeness of reality" show.

If that show is "space-based," "futuristic," or more
"terrestrial," I don't really care.

Can I write that show? Probably not, but I sure do read a
lot of good Science Fiction books that cause me to think
along those lines. Maybe, that's my answer...stick to
books... they're better anyway.

I bet we get "BAYWATCH - On Martian Beach" or "Titan Teens
90210" before anything else.

---sigh----

Dr. Joe
 

Jack Briggs

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First off, Dr. Howard, it looks like this thread won't die a premature death.

In your hypothetical description of what would constitute "real" filmed science fiction, I'd leave out that "with just a little fantasy" ingredient. Either something is plausible and internally consistent or it isn't.
 

Jonny P

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Shows euphemistically referred to as "sci fi" have always struggled on TV.

I would go on to argue that many "sci fi" movies over the years have struggled at the box office until recently with the advances in digital effects.

Sci fi...fantasy...futuristic...it is hard to exactly peg a term for these sorts of shows that encompasses all of them.

Among the offerings currently on TV we have the following first-run series:
Smallville
Enterprise
The Dead Zone
Tremors: The Series
Stargate: SG-1
Angel
Charmed

Some of those lean more fantasy than scifi. That is still a very high ratio of shows that fit in the genre I think we are talking about here.

No, this isn't 1993 when we had two flavors of "Star Trek" on TV, but I am not disappointed by that fact.

Yes..."Firefly" failed, but my personal feeling was that the show was doomed from the beginning. We all read that the original pilot was scrapped (only to air later on) for a new pilot.

The concept of "western-meets-Star Trek" wasn't going to fly. SciFi always starts out with a cult audience, and westerns as TV series have laid dormant for a long time.

Hollywood goes through phases. In the early to mid 90s sitcoms were prevalent. In the late 90s we were faced with a glut of legal and medical dramas. The last few years we have been faced with a glut of reality shows.

At some point, this will all change...again.

I do want to give credit to the show "The Dead Zone" created by Michael Piller. Granted, it isn't a space opera, but the show combines a great cast with terrific fantasy elements.

I also have enjoyed the "Dune" miniseries that have appeared on the SciFi Channel. They are better budget and better quality scifi offerings than we normally see on TV.

Steven Spielberg's "Taken" was very successful when it aired last year on SciFi.

Over the years, in syndication, we have had shows like "Xena" and "Hercules"...and continue to see Sorbo in "Andromeda".

In fact, I would argue that there are more scifi/fantasy offerings than ever. Granted, there isn't a good "Star Trek" show, but that could merely have to do with the fact that they have really milked that cow dry.
 

Rex Bachmann

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Brad Porter wrote (post #5):

Well, that's the thing. Think about it: how many medical, legal, or other types of "regular" dramas "look original", that is, don't use the same premises that have already been exploited over and over and over again throughout the history of filmed entertainment? Really, how many "different" romantic situations can a new drama have? How many "new" kinds of courtroom scenarios can we expect from a legal drama, or surgical scenes from a medical drama?

I think we all know the answer to those questions. The question then becomes: why is "sci-fi" (broadly defined) held to a different standard? I've said this before around here many times and I'll end up saying it again many times more: when you have a "science-fictional" or a supernatural premise for a continuing program, you have an exponentially more difficult time in capturing and keeping an audience, because of the added burden of

(1) bringing about the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience on a weekly basis, which is greatly intensified exactly because of the powerful and fantastic premises of such shows

(2) producing such a program with or without "diluting" the "purity" of the product to a "demographically desirable" audience. More often than not the former comes to pass, if anything. (Or the show is quickly cancelled.)

I also find ironic, in particular connexion with the Star Trek programs, the following:

One of Gene Roddenberry's favorite peeves about the treatment TOS received from NBC was that, at the time, demographic tracking of ratings was done according to largest number of audience viewers ("quantity") and, had the show run just a few years thence, the ratings would have been measured and evaluated by "quality" of audience, which translated into more "young adult" viewers and fewer of what he called "firemen's (or policemen's) widows". And Mr. Roddenberry thought, no doubt rightly at the time (early to mid 70's), that on such a basis Star Trek would easily have been a "darling" among the advertisers of the day.

Now, 30 years later, that kind of thinking is, to my mind, part of the enemy of such programming. Shows like Enterprise and Babylon 5 are considered "unhip, uncool", and, hence, unappealing, among the "young-adult" audiences, as far as the demographers and advertisers are concerned. (Why else would the "WB", as it's called, have refused to even consider hosting and airing the "in-house" productions of Babylon Five, which was constantly endanger of cancellation, or its spin-offs Crusade or Legend of the Rangers??? That network now seems to have no problem picking up some of its "in-house" productions, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, cancelled by the bigger broadcast networks.)

The sizes of the audiences these shows might at least have the opportunity to build---not that they would necessarily be large by network viewing standards---no longer matter, it's the "quality" of the audiences that count most (in this case, the car-, soft drink-, and "accessory"-buying "young-adult" (18-35, or whatever) audiences). Exactly what Mr. Roddenberry dreamed of in the 70's is here now and to no good benefit of the types of shows he produced, mostly for those same audiences. Irony.

So, there is no "level playing field" and all television shows are not "created equal", no matter who says otherwise.
 

Jason Seaver

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Fox seems to try occassionally, but (except for the X-files a few years ago) they don't give it a chance passed about 3 weeks, move the show around, pre-empt it, and then say it failed as a show. Ok, so they don't try actually.
It certainly can seem that way to a disgruntled audience member, but I for one am glad Fox keeps trying. Fox seems to understand that sci-fi is a high-risk/high-reward proposition - these shows are too expensive unless they succeed big - and accordingly cuts their losses fairly quickly. But it sure as hell beats the alternative.
 

Aaron Thomas

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what did Firefly cost per episode after its $20M pilot?).
Previous posts on the HTF have consistently put it at $2M an episode. While that boggles my mind, I have no Big Idea about how to control costs. I suppose you could try an initial pilot movie or a weekly miniseries to try and gauge pubic opinion...

Question: Would holding a pilot back untiil January or March either control advertising costs (less new series to compete with for dollars) or ratings pressure (less series to compete with, perhaps acceptance of slightly lower ratings than in September)?

Aaron Thomas
needs more data for a proper cost analysis...
 

TheLongshot

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Why else would the "WB", as it's called, have refused to even consider hosting and airing the "in-house" productions of Babylon Five, which was constantly endanger of cancellation, or its spin-offs Crusade or Legend of the Rangers???
Well, I know the WB didn't exist when Babylon 5 started (It was part of the "PTEN" network), and because of its nature, would be a hard series to sell midstream.

Also, the network and syndication branches are seperate entities usually, and they probably got better deals in syndication and TNT and Sci-Fi than they would have gotten from the WB, which tells you where that network is...

Jason
 

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