For a while, it seemed that sci-fi was making a comeback on TV networks other than cable channels with gimmicky names like SyFy. While the latter network is still producing a few interesting sci-fi shows, what went wrong when at least half-a-dozen sci-fi shows on commercial TV received the axe this month? If you peruse social media, then you likely saw a few notable sci-fi legends lamenting this and wondering what the future of sci-fi is going to be in the commercial TV environment.
What makes this perhaps more lamentable for those who love sci-fi is that the shows canceled had concepts with extreme promise. What exactly went wrong with shows such as “Revolution”, “Believe”, and “Intelligence?” While the sitcoms canceled this year were mostly due to thin concepts that couldn’t hold without a limited run structure, is sci-fi running into the same roadblock?
This NBC show had so much promise for a longer run, even if the concept of figuring out how to turn the world’s electricity back on might be considered a little thin in the bigger picture. However, the writing team behind “Revolution” was astute enough to expand into exploring many fascinating social themes, including independent militia groups and elusive technologies that never seemed to hold up enough to bring earth’s power source back. The show also brought a little sense of reality to the possibilities of the electromagnetic pulse being a real threat.
Recently, an expert on the EMP concept told U.S. Congress it’s more a matter of when rather than if an EMP will happen in real life. In that regard, it’s too bad the social themes of “Revolution” apparently bored people to a point where we won’t see the show be a real-life parallel. It at least deserves a final episode showing the lights coming back on.
In the meantime, shows like “House of Cards” may be the only show around that likely parallels something concurrently happening in real life.
Some might not find it surprising that NBC’s “Believe” was canceled since the concept of a girl with special powers already gives a red flag of being derivative. Regardless, this show had more than just that in looking at our ills and in juxtaposing two different people who can help the world. Most likely, people didn’t watch because so many abstracts you see explaining a series are as flat as textbook language. Really, they should hire someone to give more exciting descriptions on TV shows rather than play up the generalizations.
The idea of an evil force that wants to control someone capable of something incredible is still a powerful concept. Even “Orphan Black” uses that idea to chilling effect, despite being used many times before. While the idea of a convict on the run with a girl possessing supernatural gifts sounds like forced Yin and Yang, it makes up the best concepts for sci-fi today. This explored a lot of blurred lines that will have to be explored in something else that will no doubt be similar.
CBS hasn’t been in to sci-fi much, even in its entire history. But “Intelligence” had one of the greatest concepts in many years: Exploring the idea of a cyber microchip being placed in an intelligence officer’s brain. This was set up to be “The Bionic Woman/Man” of the 21st century, and possibly where the latter two series would have gone had they still been done today. Then again, for those who wanted more visceral action, it might have been better to set bionics only into a person’s limbs rather than the brain.
The problem with “Intelligence” was that it was likely too thoughtful, which brings down far too many promising series. When you’re dealing with something in one’s brain, it has to go internally, which this one did when Gabriel Vaughn searched for his missing wife through his internal search engine.
Likely, this show will be remembered later for predicting something that we’ll see happen in real life a decade from now. Because it only lasted one season, it probably won’t ever get a revival like “Star Trek” did.
With this and the other two shows canceled, it looks like commercial TV is committed to crime dramas for the long haul. The good news is that fantasy is hotter than ever on network TV and cable. The bridge between fantasy and sci-fi isn’t very far. In that regard, all three of the above sci-fi shows concepts may end up being becoming a part of our reality, hence a new scramble to bring more theoretical science shows at some indefinite date.