If you’re been coming to Airlock Alpha for a long time, then there is one thing you probably know about me: I miss “Alien Nation.”
When I was just on the cusp of adolescence, Fox premiered this show about a bunch of aliens who crash-landed on Earth in modern times, and then are integrated into society. They had no hair, just splotchy heads. But if you threw a wig on them, and ignored their affinity for sour milk, you wouldn’t know they weren’t human.
I never saw the movie with James Caan and Mandy Pantinkin, but I didn’t need to. This new series on Fox rocked, and it was exactly the show I was looking for to balance the sometimes too-perfect (but still well-loved for me) “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
But like most things on Fox that involve the words “science” and “fiction,” “Alien Nation” didn’t last long. Just one season, to be exact, with one hell of a cliffhanger that would later be resolved in made-for-TV movies.
That whole experience taught me a very important lesson: Hollywood could give two peanuts for science-fiction, and they’re not going to be interested unless there’s lots of space battles, or tons of big-breasted women in tight outfits.
And that’s the way it seems to go. If it’s science-fiction, Hollywood isn’t really interested. However, in the rare times (like this season) when Hollywood is interested, it seems that audiences aren’t. That is, until we talk about movies.
If you look at the top grossing films of all time, seven of the top ten are considered genre films. No. 1 is “Titanic,” and probably always will be. But then you have “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “E.T.,” “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Spider-Man 2.”
Hell, look a little further to the top 50 highest-grossing films of all time, you end up with half of them being considered genre films.
So what gives? Why is it that we can plunk down $20 for a single movie ticket, but we can’t sit on our butts at home and watch shows enough to make networks want to produce more? Why is it that a Peabody Award-winning series like “Battlestar Galactica” — probably one of the best television shows of all time — can barely manage 2 million viewers week to week, but then garbage like “Grey’s Anatomy” has enough viewers to fill a medium-sized state?
To be honest, not all the genre shows that have hit the small tube this past year has exactly been great. We had shows like “Painkiller Jane,” “Bionic Woman” and “Journeyman” just to name a few. But seriously, was “Heroes” really that bad? And where the hell are all the people that should be watching “Supernatural”? I know it’s on The CW, but don’t make that show suffer for something they can’t help.
We may have run out of episodes of all of our fall offerings, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more shows coming their way in the winter. There is no excuse — especially with the limited programming out there — for those who really love genre to not be watching “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which “Battlestar Galactica” composer Bear McCreary told me was a show that will really blow you away. There is no reason for all of you to not be watching the return of “Jericho” (in fact, you better be watching “Jericho.”) And above all else, let’s show the world how amazing “Battlestar Galactica” is, and how genius Ronald D. Moore and his cast and crew are, and make sure we tune in to that SciFi Channel show when it returns in March.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited as hell that the genre we love, the genre we get picked on at school and at work over, is taking over television. Let’s do our part to make sure it stays on top.
My oldest brother Randy has told me that he is helping out at a house being built for the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Randy owns a company in Richmond, Va., called Hinman’s Cabinets that will have more of an unseen role in an episode that is expected to air in January or so. Randy and his family seem to find their way in front of the camera a lot. His oldest son (and my oldest nephew) Jeremy was an extra in the movie “Major Payne,” which was quite payneful to watch, but worth it to see my nephew and his 15 seconds of fame.
We are ending our “Supernatural” magazine contest today, and we’ll announce the winners next week. But just a head’s up to let you know that we’ll be running a new contest over the next two weeks, this time giving away three soundtracks to the third season of “Battlestar Galactica” — autographed by the composer himself, the great Bear McCreary. We’ll be publishing an interview with the music master on Monday, but in the meantime, Bear wants you to check out his cool new blog. It can be found at www.bearmcreary.com/blog. It’s worth the read.
Also, if you haven’t picked up “Battlestar Galactica: Razor” on DVD because you think it’s just buying something you’ve already watched, you don’t know what you’re missing. The added scenes tell such a complete story that you will wish SciFi Channel would’ve just devoted another 30 minutes to the original airing.
OK, fine, we’ll get to the letters.
After watching “Razor,” i was left asking myself about Lt. Thorn and his importance to the Pegasus. In the “Pegasus” and “Resurrection Ship” episodes, it seems like everyone is saying they “owe their life to Lt. Thorn” or something similar. However, on “Razor,” we see no special reason or heroic acts from him to justify this deep praise. Beating up a Cylon is not necessarily like saving the ship. I was just hoping there was something more.
Do you know if the extended DVD answers this question?
— Stephen Herrera
I have to agree that we saw really nothing in the telemovie that would explain why everyone was so teary-eyed over Lt. Thorn’s death, and no, the DVD doesn’t go any further in explaining it.
I guess this will simply have to be one of those “Chekov running into Khan in the men’s room of the Enterprise” situations where it all took place off camera.
Just read your review on “Tin Man,” and I have to say I thought it was spot on. I didn’t understand the need to abbreviate the names such as D.G. I found myself sitting and thinking, ‘What was her full name?”
To me, it took away from her character. Zooey Deschanel’s acting did seemed forced. I’m a fan of hers, but there were times when she delivered her lines like she was the mechanical person. On another note, I did like the Tin Man character.
Also, my 11-year-old daughter is loving this version. She made the comment that “this is so much better than the original.”
— John Tackkett
Since you’re agreeing with my review, I have to agree with your daughter. While it was certainly not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on television, it definitely was entertaining and given a choice between the original and “Tin Man,” I will take “Tin Man” any day (and that’s saying a lot, because I like the original).
I am really hoping that they will pick this up for a series, as long as they feel that they can sustain it, and are willing to recast D.G. (or at the very least, send Deschanel to acting school). That was really the biggest let-down for me … the crew put all this work into this miniseries to make it great, and here we end up looking at a complete miscast in one of the starring roles.
I am Canadian, although I have lived in the United States now for 10 years. I chuckled when I first read your “north of the border” comment in your column because I totally got it.
I have to tell people I am from “east of Maine” because most Americans don’t know anything about the Canadian Maritimes. Often, the response I get is, “I thought the Atlantic Ocean was east of Maine?”
The irritated Canadians that e-mailed you were being uncharacteristically oversensitive. On behalf of my countrymen, I apologize.
— Heather Murphy
Well, Heather, no need to apologize. I wrote my column in response to a blog post that called me a hoser, lol. And maybe he did have a point.
Daniel Malen, better known as The TV Addict who usually agrees with me on many things, didn’t agree with me on this. Even he told me that instead of calling it a small town just north of the American border, I should’ve just referred to it as Vancouver (even though it’s like 30 miles from Vancouver proper).
So I guess I have to chalk it up as one of those learning experiences. Of course, Heather, you know and I know that I have nothing but love and respect for that great country to the north of us. The blogger who called me a hoser later backed off from that after hearing an explanation, and was actually really cool about the whole thing. In fact, he’s not a hoser like I am because he presented a very intelligent argument, but still maintained an open mind to hear my side, and to take it for what it’s worth. Sadly, there are a few people who do that these days.
In any event, I will be more careful about how I describe Canada in the future, because that’s a place I look forward to visiting again real soon.
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Michael Hinman, a 22-time winner of the British lottery and heir to three Nigerian fortunes, is the founder and site coordinator for Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org