It’s no secret that sci-fi has taken a hit on at least network TV lately. With a broad swoop, shows like “Revolution” and “Intelligence” were given pink slips due to their elaborate plots that perhaps viewers didn’t have time to absorb. Yes, the complexities of sci-fi shows may be one reason why they’re not doing as well as they should on the mainstream networks. While SyFy continues to put out some fairly good sci-fi shows, you have to wonder if sci-fi will have to be dumbed down in order to have audiences take the time to get into the stories.
All of this will probably be addressed on an interesting new show that’s bound to be successful: “The Wil Wheaton Project.” Airing on SyFy, it’s going to offer weekly analysis of what’s going on in the world of sci-fi on television, the movies, and just about everywhere else. And with Wil Wheaton being an insightful blogger and general conversationalist, we’re probably going to get plenty of analysis of what’s really wrong with sci-fi on network TV lately.
You also have to wonder if Wheaton will be so convincing in his arguments that people will finally take on sci-fi who haven’t before, or perhaps gave up on it. Part of the problem may be hidden and in the fact that people make assumptions about sci-fi before they sit down to watch the details.
Were There Assumptions Made About “Revolution” and Other Sci-Fi Shows?
If you look at “Revolution” on the surface, you could easily make quick jumps to conclusions on the contrivances of the plot. After about a year of the earth’s power being out, the story admittedly did get protracted in the finding of clues to get the power back on and in the militia groups. Those who didn’t follow the show regularly could easily get lost and find themselves puzzling over what’s happening in each episode. Also, for those who only skim the surface of a story, the idea of the power going out and surviving for years might be seen as being boxed into a corner.
In reality, it had a lot of interesting details it explored that could have gone far had more people been patient with the show. It might have to change sci-fi on network TV in the future into something that can stand alone each week rather than a continual story getting more complex as the show moves along. Perhaps audiences want something anthological like “The Twilight Zone”, or at least a sci-fi show with some sort of resolution each week.
Shows like canceled “Intelligence” on CBS had an intriguingly complex background story going with the main character, Gabriel Vaughn, searching for his missing wife through the microchip implanted in his brain. While other stories had their own resolution each week, it used the old formula of a backbone story rather than letting it be the only story. You can say the same thing about “The Walking Dead” where we get a character arc almost every week as a separate aside from the background story.
Can Wil Wheaton Make Sci-Fi Relatable?
Those who’ve seen Wil Wheaton on other shows know how persuasive he is in his arguments and in his ability to explain complex plot points on other sci-fi shows. He could be the Pied Piper of saving sci-fi on TV as it seems to go through one of its ebbs right now. While it might seem pathetic that sci-fi has to have a celebrity professor to make it understandable and enjoyable to the masses, we’ve always needed that to help make something better in our minds. It’s why teachers exist in the first place to remove the cobwebs of stigma on subjects we don’t fully comprehend. Just ask Morgan Freeman who hosts a show about complex science theory (“Through the Wormhole”).
No doubt Wheaton will have his own recommendations on how sci-fi can be fixed and whether it can be rescued beyond the sci-fi shows on SyFy. Some even say the sci-fi shows on SyFy don’t have the appeal they used to, even with such intriguing futuristic alien fare as “Defiance.” In that regard, Wheaton has a good chance, in theory, of becoming a consultant for their programming department.
The big question is whether shows directly on SyFy will need as much paring down from hard science as the network shows need to do. If so, that means far too many established sci-fi fans may be on Netflix absorbing all the sci-fi on there, even if there’s nothing new there (yet).