It’s that time of year again when the new television season is ready to begin. As the networks roll out their latest lineup, we will be greeted by some old friends and mourn the loss of others. We will welcome new shows to the airwaves, and turn our backs on others.
And to that effect, network marketing is in full swing with promos, banners and clips encouraging viewers to tune in.
Had it not been for “Stargate: Universe” and “V,” I would have said that the science-fiction genre was dead in the water.
The same happens every year. Despite the loyal following most genre shows amass, the sci-fi genre is forgotten, often considered a bad choice of phrasing. Networks go to obscene lengths to avoid labeling a show as sci-fi.
Both “Universe” and “V” are exceptions to this rule. Firstly, “Universe” is a product of Syfy (even the SciFi Channel has shed its association with sci-fi as a genre, opting for a newer, kewler name that we had already been using for a decade). And secondly, “V” is an established brand that has been re-envisioned in a very “Battlestar Galactica” kind of way. But here’s the clincher: Both of these shows could be considered mainstream.
I know what you are thinking; How can a series set in space with people flying about on a ship tens of thousands of years old be considered mainstream? For a start, Stargate always has been grounded in reality, steeped in military history and protocol to the point where it could be considered a mainstream show with a twist. The same can now be said of the new and improved “V.”
The ABC series’ upfront trailer certainly packs a punch, and from the time it leaked to the Web I have been eagerly anticipating its premiere. It looks epic, has an extremely talented cast (with several names known to the genre) and has a concept not too dissimilar to the one-time addictive “Earth: Final Conflict.” At the end of the day though, it’s mainstream with aliens.
Much the same can be said about “Flash Forward.” Novel the concept may be, the idea of having the entire world witness their own future leads on to a story about how the world changes following that incident with burning questions on what happened, why it happened or even who caused it to happen. The show has the potential to be the next “Lost” which, up until its last few seasons, couldn’t even be considered a genre show.
Even The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” can be considered a mainstream show. Jumping on the “Twilight” bandwagon, Warner Bros. has snagged themselves a series telling a star-crossed romance between a young girl and a vampire and thus far is more of a romance than it anything else.
Returning shows from the genre include “Smallville” and “Heroes,” both comic book-themed shows that have at one time been a resounding success. Unfortunately, both have fallen from their pedestal. “Smallville” has gone through many renovations over recent years but still falls short of the greatness it achieved in its fifth season. It has spent a great deal of time murkying the waters of Superman-lore. In spite of that, the series remains well crafted and compelling to watch now that Clark (Tom Welling) is on the verge of finally becoming Superman.
“Heroes” is another entity entirely. In its first season, the show commanded so much respect and reverence. It was a comic book series in the real world. It took a theme that is normally met with snickers by “cool people” and turned it into something very modern and hip. The first season moseyed along at a very natural pace, but quickly nose-dived in its second season.
After some promising developments, last year was a complete disaster with the exception of a handful of episodes in the fourth volume.
Up until recently, I wasn’t even planning on watching the show when it returns for its new season — even with the promise of a steamy lesbian love affair for the infamous cheerleader has failed to enthuse me in any way.
Instead there is one person that has me tuning into the series, a man of tremendous talent and who is always a joy to watch when he enters a new persona. On “Prison Break,” Robert Knepper was the character you love to hate – – he was twisted, vulgar and diabolically evil … so much so that in some cases it was easy to root for him over the good guys.
The 2009-10 season belongs to mainstream television, and one show in particular is leading the pack — “Glee.” It may be “too mainstream” for some viewers (the show itself cannot even be classed as remotely genre), but this show has more creativity in its baby finger than any other show currently on the air (and likely more than the new shows ready to begin their run).
Say good-bye to sci-fi as we know it.