Is science fiction no longer entertaining television for mainstream viewers?

Discussion in 'General TV Discussion' started by Vincent Tauscher, Mar 13, 2008.

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    Vincent Tauscher

    Vincent Tauscher New Member

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    I was browsing the web and came across an interesting article that talks about the degredation of television programming to appease the simple-minded "sheep" (as I call them). The basic claim was that, because people have gotten so lazy and stupid, the major network schedules were being filled with reality TV and crime dramas because of their simple nature.

    I've noticed this over the years, but this article has reminded me of something else troubling. Has anybody noticed how science fiction shows simply do not work on any channels aside from the Sci-Fi channel? Back in the good ol' days, we had Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater, but now there's nothing except CSI and Survivor. The few science fiction-oriented shows all seem to get cancelled.

    Just a few that I can remember: Bionic Woman, Jericho, Firefly, Terminator (my guess, from the FOX has been lately). I mean, maybe a lot of people have simply accepted this as a fact, but man, it's sure ticking me off to find nothing on TV except some murder investigation (I get enough of that living in the Big Apple, honestly). What ever happened to the good old days and is there any hope of getting some sci fi back on the major netorks?

    Oh, and here's the article for your reading enjoyment:

    The Degradation of Quality Television (article)
     
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    Bionic Woman got cancelled? They've only just started showing it over here...oh dear.
     
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    There's always room for thought-provoking drama - sf or mainstream - and as chennels proliferate, they'll find homes. However... sf programmes are expensive to make. Reality tv is cheap. Guess which one gives a better return on investment...

    Which is why I fully support the TV Licence and the BBC. Yes, they churn out some crap, but they've also given us some excellent innovative drama - like Life on Mars, or its "sequel", Ashes to Ashes. Not to mention all those nature programmes :)
     
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    Urien

    Urien New Member

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    I'm not sure where one would place Lost or Heroes, most might categorize them as Sci-Fi. On the supernatural side we have things like Supernatural and Medium (is that the name). Though I admit I don't know the current US schedules. Right now there doesn't seem to be any fellows in space ships dramas.

    I think these things come in waves; if someone comes up with a good and viable idea I expect they'll commission it.
     
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    Aniri

    Aniri Gir

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    It seems so. Sad...very sad. My husband said something the other that rang too close to the truth...he said the he is afraid for the future...afraid that it will be like that movie Idiocracy. *shudder*
     
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    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Its the fault of the big basic tv networks in US, they keep killing off praised SF shows for predictable stuff that will sell. SF doesnt sell apparently in their eyes.

    Which is wierd since a couple of years ago the most praised shows was SF. Firefly,SG1,Farscape,4400 ,BSG etc

    Lost,Heroes hurts the genre on tv more than reality tv. They are predictable soap that is easy to sell and easy to make.

    I have given up hope on US sf tv shows. Specially when they canceled promising shows like Daybreak,Jericho,Journeyman etc

    Its NOT a coicidence that both Sci-fi channel and US network canceled many of their famous SF series after NBC Universal bought both in 2004......
     
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    People can praise shows all they want but if enough people aren't actually watching them then it's empty praise as far as the program makers are concerned.

    On the other hand, people slate reality tv shows, but so many people end up watching them, almost a guity pleasure for many.

    People who invest in program making are looking to make money and they do so by making programs that put bums on seats, not by drawing critical acclaim for shows that reach only niche audiences.
     
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    Parson

    Parson This world is not my home

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    Exactly Egg,

    I loved Journey Man, but everyone I talked to thought I was crazy. Few of them saw it, because they couldn't give up CSI Miami. I think that another time slot might have made Journey Man a winner.

    The masses love "American Idol," "The Bachelor," and the name that all these sort of shows should be called "The Biggest Loser." Sigh! We'll just have to read.
     
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    ray gower

    ray gower New Member

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    I suspect there are a lot of reasons floating around:

    The proliferation of television stations. They may create 'choice', but they are all fishing from the same pool for revenue and with the tight economic climate, that pool is getting smaller.

    Imagination- Mainstream SF over the last dozen or so years seems to be taking itself too seriously, even re-branding itself 'future fiction', which basically means it is concerning itself far too much with will it work tomorrow based on what we knew yesterday, not what might be possible in a hundred years time; they are dull even for an avid SF reader let alone the peasantry. Mean while the television companies, because of the limited funs and dearth of anything that would be popular, are having to play safe: retreading popular but overplayed and worn out ideas.

    Attitude- During the Sixties and Seventies, the US and Russia were locked in to a battle to reach space and technological advances appeared every other day. There was a general interest in what science might bring that might offer a future other than annihilation (Suez, Cuba, Vietnam, Six Day War etc). Even in he early eighties there was the Shuttle. But since then there has been nothing. The International Space Station is simply a bigger version of Nia- the air still smells, things are still glued to the wall with sticky tape etc. Been there, done it, got the tee-shirt- hardly visionary and certainly not going to fire the imagination.
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Sorry, I don't mean to snipe, but the mere mention of that film!!!! I attempted to watch it, and was so ticked off by the obviousness and crudity of the satire -- not to mention the fact that it's a direct rip-off of C. M. Kornbluth's classic tales "The Marching Morons" and "The Little Black Bag" -- that I see red whenever it's mentioned. You want to see a more stinging indictment of this trend? Read the Kornbluth originals. They make that piece of dreck absolutely vanish in comparison....

    On the current topic (actually, the above is related, I'd say), don't forget that anthology shows used to be fairly common, from straightforward dramas such as Playhouse 90 through the sf and fantasy shows such as Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Thriller (or even Night Gallery, though the quality there was a little more variable -- not quite as much as it has the reputation for being, though). These were all fairly popular series, and have been considered classic television ever since. But just try to get a true anthology program going today.

    Frankly, I'd say it all has to do with what people are comfortable with. It's one thing to have a fantastic set-up where no deep emotional chords are being struck, or to watch a soap-operaish reality show that feeds into the most venal and degrading aspects of human nature, but good science fiction or fantasy is troubling -- it asks provoking questions, makes one think and explore the options, extrapolates on trends and probes what it means to be human... and often asks us to reach in there and take the hard road of following our noblest aspirations. That's a lot of work, and it's also saying this isn't just "the way things are", but that we have a hand in making them that way, and we also have the responsibility for changing them. None of that sets all that well with most people, who are frankly fed up, feeling helpless, and tuckered-out from the amount of work they put in to simply keep a family alive.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2008
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    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Its not reality tv shows that are killing them off but the idea that there must be a 10 CSI, a 1000 Grey,OC etc......

    If it was reality tv, it should hurt other genres too not only SF.

    The problem was the cable shows before was happy with 2-3 millions watching a SF show that only had to compete with other series of its type in a small cable channel.

    Like Dexter, who has 2 mill viewers for showtime which is like 20 million for NBC seeing how few people have showtime. That use to work for sf shows on cable but not anymore apparently.

    Basic tv sf like Jericho,Journeyman are even more screwed.

    NBC cancel sf shows to show reruns,wrestling. Check out the sc-fi channel. Its not sf anymore.

    Thats the sad truth. Its like they are making an effort to wipe out sf shows.

    Which is messed up since hollywood idea's a good sf is something like Doom.....
     
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Oh man, tell me that. In India, when the central/state government sponsored television was the only thing we had, and no one had to worry about having to cater to the lowest tastes, we had a slew of good anthologies, giving us nice adaptations of classic stories, with several by the likes of Maupassant and Saki, and also reknowned Indian authors like R.K. Narayan. Also some cool horror anthologies (given the limitations of production budgets). This was during the 1980's.

    Now TV out here is divided between puke-worthy daily soaps, puke-worthy reality shows and headache-inducing cricket matches.
     
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    I think the only way forward for sci fi on tv (or any other niche interest) is for subscription channels that do not have to rely on advertising for funding. Sci Fi fans will have to pay, and pay handsomely for their tv shows.
     
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    Delvo

    Delvo New Member

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    The original post's question is whether SF is entertaining to mainstream viewers. To blame the lack of it in the TV schedules right now on market forces compelling the TV businesses to broadcast other stuff that gets more viewers is to acknowledge the fact that the answer is "No". If it were, then those same market forces would compel the TV businesses to broadcast that instead.

    That's simple enough. The only problem with the original post is the word "anymore". I don't see any evidence that it ever has been...
     
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    Aniri

    Aniri Gir

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    Hey, hey, hey...what's wrong with LOST and Heroes?? I happen to dig both of these shows. I must be a moron if they are predictable.
     
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    Spade

    Spade Custom User Title

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    All Sci-fi has become stupid to the mainstream except for Star Wars and The Matrix, it seems. It's sad but true.
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Haven't seen Heroes, but I've watched a fair portion of Lost -- and there it's not predictability so much as having very good concepts that are often very poorly thought-out... it has the feel of "being made up as you go along", and with such things as time-paradox stories, this is fatal, as it leaves you with all sorts of holes in the logic of your story.... A pity, that, as they really are very good concepts, and some of the way they're handled is quite well done; certainly the performers do well with the material. But it seems rather evident to me that, though the creators may well have had a way they wanted to go with this originally, they've thrown in so many added elements that weren't originally part of the scenario, that it has derailed any logical development and simply become a continuity nightmare, much like X-Files....
     
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    I could kick myself over "Lost"...I watched the first couple of episodes, and then gave up, thinking it was just going to be a survival-on-a-desert-island/group dynamics thing.
    By the time I found out about the real agenda of the show, it was too late to pick up the thread...:(
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Not necessarily... they've actually had at least one "recap" episode, which was designed specifically to fill in new viewers; one is available online, should you be so inclined.... It's titled simply "Lost: Past, Present, & Future"....
     
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Thanks, j,d, - I'll look it out...
     

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