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What Does Sci-Fi Need With A Starship?

Sci-Fi on TV: Ed Left ponders space-based shows

There are as many types of science-fiction as there are genres of television. It comes in comedy, romance or drama. It comes as a western, or a medical show or a cop show. For ever type of show, theres been a sci-fi show made in that genre.

So why do fans of sci-fi continually lament the lack of space-based shows? They crave space battles, or space exploration. They seek daring captains and heroic crews saving the day. But why?

I visit many sci-fi forums, and despite the number of genre shows that make it to the air, they always are looking for more space. And they complain on and on that they type of show they want isnt on the air.

I am a fan of all types of genre programming, so I wish I understood the craving for outer space. Perhaps it fills a void in people where they feel the need to search and explore. Maybe battles with space fighters and cauterizing lasers give viewers a war thats cleaner than the pictures of war we find on the six oclock news.

Whatever it is, the viewers that want space shows are vocal. Perhaps not according to the ratings, but in the number of posts I find demanding them. If we go simply by ratings, however, we will find sci-fi viewers like shows such as Eureka and Warehouse 13, two of Syfys most popular scripted shows.

Both show fall under the category of dramatic-comedy, or dramedy. A dramatic story fused with comedic elements, which may or may not contain a larger arc or plot. The show Eureka was recently renewed for a fifth season and a Season 3 renewal for Warehouse 13 cant be far behind.

Looking at the genre shows currently appearing on television, we really only have one space-based show – Stargate: Universe. And while the show received a second season, the jury is out. Viewers of the show are mixed on the quality of the program.

So if fans seem to want space-based shows, why arent the networks delivering? For the answer to this, we must remember that television networks exist solely to make a profit. They are certainly not bastions of art for the people. Except maybe PBS.

The biggest factor is that space shows are expensive. In an Earth-based show, for example, you can get an establishing shot by filming a building or natural setting. For a space show, you have to create it.

For an Earth-based show, you can go down to the prop department and pick up what you need as far as props. For a space show, you typically have to build what you need, or buy something that looks exotic. And chances are that with a space-based show, you have a greater need for special effects than on an Earth-based show.

And because the cost is greater, so is the demand for higher ratings. Consider this — You have a cop show that costs $1 million per episode, and a space show that cost $2 million an episode, and both are getting the same rating. Objectively speaking, which do you renew?

The rating dictates how much you can charge for the advertising shown during the show, so you cannot charge more for the more expensive show. The answer becomes clear.

Space shows are riskier for networks than other shows, and we really should appreciate any network that even tries them these days. I know I do.

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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