Dec 3, 2009

[TV] The State of Science Fiction TV

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November is always such a traumatizing month for TV geeks like me.

Let's face it, as much as sweeps week puts a lot of pressure on the TV networks and thus potentially pushing better content, it's also a means optimizing screen time for better shows and thus cutting lower-performing ones.

We live in a time without a Star Trek series on the air and by the same note without a major science fiction epic to carry us fans along. Battlestar Galactica has finished its noble run while its spin-off Caprica is taking its sweet time of getting here. We have few other shows trying their luck in terms of making it big or something along those lines, but no dice just yet.

What is happening to the world?

I wonder if we can document this as one of the effects of the US recession - the short life of science fiction TV shows and series. As much as there have been a few shows that have shown a fair amount of potential, networks seem to get pretty impatient and don't want to stick around with a show that doesn't show a return on their investment within a limited period of time.

This year we saw the death of the Whedon creation, Dollhouse, and the more fantastical Eastwick to boot. FlashForward and V are still a tad shaky and are still struggling to create a niche for themselves. It's the same way every year with science fiction or fantasy shows that just might make it big but the networks decide to cut their losses and BAM - no more.

Geeks have been trying to rally to protect their shows at this time of the year, one of the most significant geek battles of recent history include the ever classic Firefly, which will always be a sore spot for many of us geeks.

Maybe the true lesson to be learned here is that perhaps the networks are no longer the best place for science fiction. Their revenue model is just too hard-wired with the need for instantly marketable projects, things that have more immediate returns and cross age brackets and other view demographics. Perhaps we shouldn't really bank on network shows of the science fiction or fantasy variety and just focus our efforts on more reliable segments.

We seem to stand a better chance with shows that are carried by paid / cable TV networks like the obviously friendly to science fiction SyFy or even channels like Spike. They rely on a different revenue model that is not primarily ad-supported and so it gives them a bit more to work with in terms of investing in new science fiction shows. They come up with some decent ventures that make things worthwhile, anbd this phenomenon hasn't been limited to shows like BSG. The various incarnations of Stargate have done well on the channel along with newer programs like Warehouse 13.

Or maybe we stand a better chance of convincing pay TV companies to "save" dead science fiction shows from the networks. Just look at what DIRECTV has managed to do for Friday Night Lights - just when we thought it was the end of the road, they decide to work out a unique deal that allows the show to continue as long as the new season first appears on DIRECTV's 101 network before it gets released on its parent network. Why should we force the networks to ignore their precious old school revenue model when we can try to venture outside to find new folks to support our fantastical addictions?

My point is this - perhaps its about time that we accept the fact that science fiction stands a very small chance of surviving on a regular TV network given all the different markets they try to target. We just can't seem to generate enough support nor should we force our friends to enjoy such shows against their own will. Thus lets focus our efforts on something that just might work, and that's trying to get the pay TV folks to invest more in science fiction since they can better control their content, market to the right geeky markets and we all go home happier.

OR you guys can think of something better - this is just what came to me on my train road home from work. Ha! Take that call center life!

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