When you find fans of sci-fi, it seems sociological sci-fi frequently has the most appeal based on its analysis of human beings rather than hard science. That doesn’t mean television has had a considerable amount of sociological sci-fi, even if “The Twilight Zone” set a strong pattern for it 50 years ago. Networks like SyFy have some elements of the genre, if you consider the study of alien races to be sociological. The comparison between humans and aliens has always been one of the top choices in capturing the best sociological sci-fi angle. And with various sci-fi shows canceled recently that you could directly or indirectly call sociological sci-fi, are there still some left?
Call it irony that CBS might be the last bastion for it, at least for this year. In fact, this summer may prove the genre is still alive and healthy with the return of “Under the Dome”, plus adding the limited-run series “Extant” with Halle Berry.
It could spell out an interesting summer, particularly with the above irony attaching to CBS being the original home of “The Twilight Zone” where sociological sci-fi on TV all began. It’s all a matter of how people are going to continue to relate to “Under the Dome” and accept Halle Berry into the world of commercial television with the above-mentioned “Extant” series.
How Will “Under the Dome” Fare in its Second Season?
After a successful summer run last year, will audiences still find intrigue in the idea of a town being covered in a dome brought on by a mysterious alien force? With the idea coming from a Stephen King book, it’s going to be moving on far from the book, which may prove risky. The final episodes of last year’s initial run had mixed reviews, even if some of it was keeping in tone with the B-movie sensibility that Stephen King put into the original novel.
It’s worth nothing how the above problem plagued “The Twilight Zone” in its initial run. Rod Serling noted in later interviews how he wished all the episodes had the quality of the ones we deem classic. A few episodes had lower budgets and a painfully obvious B movie quality, despite still making strong and timeless social statements.
CBS may feel the same way about “Under the Dome” with the intention of doing what “Revolution” attempted to do: Prepare people for how to cope in the worst possible disaster. With most of us drastically unprepared for the idea of being trapped without our usual resources, shows like “Under the Dome” may help educate people on the societal outcomes we can learn from in advance.
Will “Extant” Give a New Take on Living in Space and Artificial Intelligence?
No doubt the summer series “Extant” is going to receive considerably more buzz after the writing of this article. Whether Halle Berry can create a popular new sociological sci-fi show will depend on if the public wants to see another take on artificial intelligence as this one reportedly will. However, in the beginning, it’s also going to show a psychological study on living in space for a year before returning home. It could be a perfect acting showcase for Berry who needs a good project after having more limited success in big-screen movies lately.
With “Cloud Atlas” already on her resume, she seems to fit into the sci-fi arena. The only danger is running too long and confusing viewers as “Cloud Atlas” happened to do in one sitting. “Extant” promises to bring some fresh angles to studying the psychology of human beings after spending time in space and in breeding artificial intelligence here on earth. It’s a perfect complement to “Under the Dome” and also new territory for CBS who stayed away from sci-fi for years after “The Twilight Zone” was canceled in the mid 1960s.
Always considered to be more conservative, CBS might be bringing a new edge to a sci-fi genre that almost died out recently with one giant pink slip. Re-growing it in the summer when people are searching for original programming may be almost sociological on its own in helping us understand ourselves a little better.