From the category archives: TV
Wow! This is shaping up to be a good season for teevee science fiction! First, we get a remade V (which didn't disappoint, although the first episode wasn't as strong as the original, IMHO), now I see that The Prisoner (an absolutely iconic science fiction series from the 60s) is being remade for AMC. Go AMC! Go teevee!
I am a big fan of the original mini-series, V, that aired in 1983. I was pretty young back then, so my recollection of the series is primarily through re-runs on Syfy years ago before the channel had a stupid name. The mini-series was gripping and original. The WWII analogies were strong and well written, and the character reactions of the story were very plausible. In addition, the main protagonist was a cameraman. Give it up for the geeks! The story ended with a victorious battle, but the war was very far from over. There were lots of open ended questions and cliff hangers.
The next year, a sequel mini-series was made, V: The Final Battle. It completely sucked1. They either ignored or quickly wrapped up the very dramatically laid loose ends from the previous year in very unsatisfactory ways. The story devolved from a WWII analogy into more of a religious analogy, with the hybrid human-visitor having magical Christ-like powers that neither parent possessed (seriously, wtf?). And they had Michael Ironside. (Has your favorite show jumped the shark? If Michael Ironside was just added to the cast then the answer is yes!) And to top it all off, the humans beat the visitors with the most lame War of the Worlds deus ex machina2 rip-off ending ever – complete with like fifteen minutes of stock footage cheering and rejoicing! After that, NBC started a series sequel to V. The visitors quickly developed an immunity to the poison dust, lost their warbled distorted voices (no explanation given), regained rule over the planet with little resistance, and the series continued to suck and disappoint like only a series that jumps the shark before it even begins can!
Anyway, so there's a new V series starting tomorrow. I'm very excited about it. The whole premise of V is very rich and exciting. It's unique in that the aliens don't just nuke cities a la Independence Day, but instead use politics, torture, mind control, and media manipulation to gain control of Earth. I think the WWII parallels also create a very eerie sense of "omg, dude, this could totally really actually happen" since in human history it did actually happen (sans aliens) in Germany.
The one thing that concerns me about the new V series is that the synopsis sounds more like the reimagined Battlestar Galactica than the old V. There is plenty of room for the writers to come up with great storylines, don't get me wrong, I just hope that it does the original honor with a lot of manipulation and very little nuking. Battlestar already thoroughly explored the human condition (IN SPACE) with regard to modern problems (terrorism, modern warfare, torture, etc.). I want a strong manipulative invasion story, where humans are pitted against humans and the visitors are pulling the strings. Here's hoping it doesn't suck! (Reviews are good so far, so I'm excited!)
1. The Final Battle was apparently made without much input from original "V" mythos creator, Kenneth Johnson. Mr. Johnson eventually published a book in 2008 which contained (I would presume) his preferred ending to the V story, ignoring the entire Final Battle and subsequent series storylines completely. I need to read this.
2. I should point out that War of the Worlds is not lame, despite the lameness of the similar ripped-off ending used in V: The Final Battle.
First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson, and now Billy Mays has died. Okay maybe it's weird that I'm a fan of a teevee direct marketing pitchman, but I really liked the guy. I didn't find his "Hi! Billy Mays here" commercials annoying at all, and I use several of his products and think they work exactly as advertised. Plus, after watching his show Pitchmen on the Discovery Channel, I really grew to like the guy as a person. He just seemed like a nice down-to-earth guy who really believed in the products he sold (unlike the shamwow guy, who I find very annoying). This is a sad day for direct marketing. Their biggest star, who was still far from his peak, has passed on.
Rest in peace, Mr. Mays. I will certainly miss you.
Following in the wake of the massive blockbuster success of G4 and Spike TV, The SciFi Channel has decided change their name to "SyFy." Their new tagline is "Imagine Greater." No, it's not April 1st. This is real. I saw an ad that actually said, I'm not making this up, "Bright Lights, Big Imagination, Top 5 Channel." Wha--?
Okay, I'm admit I'm not marketing professional like Dave Howe, but I think I have pretty good common sense. I'm trying to figure out why companies think that changing their name will suddenly cause people to flock to their product (in this case, a cable channel). Remember when Borland was going to take over the world as the newly christened Inprise: Integrating the Enterprise? You know they thought they were oh-so-clever when they thought that one up. Just as I'm sure SciFi is thinking now. Well, you saw how well that turned out for Borland. They became a minor player (and lost a lot of money) until they went back to the name that people actually knew: Borland.
Or how about the above examples? Tech TV and the old G4 merged to become a mighty superpower of… COPs reruns and Japanese obstacle course shows. Awesome! At least Spike has some original programming. The UFC stuff has a niche market. Rassling, well, it's rassling. I'm sure it makes some money. Oh yes, SciFi has rassling too, I haven't forgotten.
Lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.
But really, I mean how do these people get these jobs and make these ridiculous decisions? If you want a science fiction channel to be successful, you don't hide the science fiction stuff! SciFi has been doing this for years. From, essentially, forbidding classic ship-and-crew Star Trek like new shows in the late 90s, to showing every single lousy B movie in existence without little robots at the bottom of the screen poking fun at it (although, in their defense, they did do that too for a few years), SciFi has been in a holding pattern of reinventing itself for fifteen years! Stop it! You show science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Stop wasting money rebranding yourself, changing your name, and failing at entering new markets that have absolutely no interest in you!
Look, some channels just have niche markets. They aren't going to ever become massively dominant top-10 ratings machines. That's okay! Really! Those of us that love niche programming, like science fiction, appreciate having a single place dedicated to it. Stop trying to grow your channel to unrealistic heights. Let it just be the size it is. You don't need the money for dozens of massively expensive original shows and CEO bonuses.
Ride your successes, like Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Eureka, etc., and embrace your destiny as a niche market with geeky fans. Stop ruining what is good about your channel under the guise of entering new markets.
Also, stop cancelling shows that are good and profitable, just because there might be a few more cents in a reality show or freaking rassling (I'm looking at you, ECW). Really. That pisses us true science fiction fans off big-time. I'm still raw at Farscape getting canned without a complete fifth season which would have ended the story arcs at a natural pace and then quickly replacing it with the big steaming pile of fail, Tremors: The Series. (Who in their right mind thought that show would succeed?) The eventual Farscape miniseries was a nice olive branch, but it was far from the optimal outcome.
Whoever is making decisions for SciFi has officially now gotten on the Silly Wagon. SyFy?! This is the dumbest rebranding campaign I've ever seen money wasted on. You have now officially surpassed Inprise. You paid good money for this marketing campaign – i know you did. That was a massive waste. I'm telling you nothing is going to change. I'm stating right now, today, that SyFy will be no more of a success than SciFi currently is. You are wasting your money and depriving us of good science fiction that the money could have gone to.
Embrace your niche! Stop screwing it up by trying to become more mainstream!
Also, more Anime pleez. :-D (Anime historically makes little money for teevee stations, but I have to try!)
I'm a big fan of Japanese Anime. I DVR pretty much anything (except the "kiddy" stuff like Pokemon) that comes on the few outlets we have here in the USA (basically Sci-Fi Channel and Adult Swim). When Eureka Seven first aired on Adult Swim, I thought the first episode was sort of corny. But by episode two, I was hooked! I got to about episode 30 before my DVR skipped a few episodes (what a sad time). So I set it up to record the second run on Adult Swim. After two years of putting off rewatching the series due to not having time for whatever dumb reason, I started watching Eureka Seven again. I just got through the final episode today and all I can say is WOW. I highly recommend this series to anybody who even has just a passing interest in good anime, good scifi, good romance, or any sort of good story-telling (or, heck, even just random dance music scene references)! I am not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two at the wonderful sweet ending after 50 amazing episodes. If only we could learn to get along like the Humans and Coralians finally did!
I was a fan of the original 1980s series,
Knight Rider. I tried very hard not to get my hopes up on the
TV movie / backdoor pilot that aired last night, because I've been disappointed in the past. The 90s, afterall, brought us such wonders as
Knight Rider 2000 (meh...),
Knight Rider 2010 (huh?), and
Team Knight Rider (AGH!). For Knight Rider fans, the 90s were teh suck. Like
The Hoff singing level of suck. Yes, that bad. The 90s killed the Knight Rider, then buried it, then dug it up, then spat on it, then buried it again, then dynamited the bural ground, then spat on it again, then buried it one more time before dumping the contents of a porta-potty ontop of it.
But you know what? This new Knight Rider was actually pretty good! Sure, it did have its moments of being a big Ford commercial, but was the original Knight Rider any less of a commercial for Pontiac? It's all in good fun. It pays the bills too, afterall. And when Ford makes a Mustang that actually gets 167 mpg and drives itself, I'll be lining up to buy it!
Speaking of which,
KITTstang was cool. I've read a lot of people bitching that KITT wasn't a classic or concept Camero or Firebird (or some other GM), but really, we've been down that road before. Remember that
red thing in Knight Rider 2000? Okay, maybe it was a cool car in its day, but it doesn't have the "wolf in sheep's clothing" sorta thing going on. I don't know. It just wasn't as cool as the original Trans Am KITT. And before that red thing in the movie, he was some classic something. I don't really remember, I just remember he shot Scotty with some sort of stun gun. Anyway, the point is, GM doesn't have a Camaro/Firebird right now to sell, Ford wants to sell the Mustang, so get over it. KITT's a Mustang now.
Now, the series did have its flaws. (What fun would a blog post be without some know-it-all complaining about something?) I was not very excited about
Michael Knight Junior (a.k.a. Mike Traceur) at first. His character grew on me by the end, though. They tried too hard to make him the dumb muscle / comic relief / smart hero all rolled into one waaaay too quick. It took
MacGuyver-er-Jack O'Neil many seasons to get that going where it worked on
Stargate SG-1, so they shouldn't have tried to force it so hard in this short movie. Bad writing. Very FORCED character development. By the end he was less "comic relief" and more just saracastic bantering with KITT, which fit better with the "Knight" loner / hero persona they should have been going for. Second half of the movie, his character worked. When Mike started kicking ass at the casino, it was the first time I could see him settling into the new Michael Knight persona. The writers blew the first hour of character development there. Also, if this becomes a series, his racing car sidekick mechanic buddy comic goofball needs to go. Quickly.
Second, was it just me or was Sarah Graiman a lesbian at the beginning of the movie and then pining for her true-lost-love Mike at the end? Or did losing Mike all those summers ago turn her off men? Actually, at the beginning, I was excited because I thought that meant they weren't going to do any tired predictable sexual tension between the two since she might not swing his way, but, alas no. Those two had to have a past and bring out the predictable cliches. Thanks, NBC. I guess Sarah is bisexual. I wonder how that will work out if this becomes a series? Seems kind of useless and tangential to what people want to see: Mike and KITT kicking ass. Make her go back to doing women exclusively and let Mike just be a loner on a mission with no ties. Please!
Third, nano robots? Why is that such a popular theme these days? They did that in the
new Bionic Woman too. Old KITT was bullet proof without little robots! At first this whole nanotechnology stuff made me wince. Of course, it's probably more plausible than the advanced AI that KITT is, but the growing a double spoiler out of thin air just gave me flashbacks of
Team Knight Rider's motorcycles. AGH! Stop! My brain! It hurts! Nano robots would have been fine if they weren't responsible for transforming KITT's body. I don't know why I think that. But I do. Gives me flashbacks of the Knight Rider rip-off series (from the same swamp of 90s suck),
Viper (you know you watched it too -- pining for a black Trans Am to take out the Dodge Viper). Anyway, I'd rather see the spoiler/wing/air-intake/whatever-else come out of a compartment, mechanically, and the nano robots just responsible for like repairs and color changing and stuff. Suspension of Disbelief... Suspension of Disbelief...
But you know, despite all this complaining, I really enjoyed it. I really did! Overall, KITT was extremely cool. Sarah wasn't that annoying. Mike turned out to be a pretty cool "Michael Knight Junior" after the first half of the movie. And, yes, KITT kept taking him down a notch, in proper form. It was fun. It really kept you into it. It wasn't just nostalgia either, it was good on its own even if you never watched the old Knight Rider. And it treated the Knight Rider series the way it should have been treated back in the 90s. I hope this becomes a regular series. Afterall, we have only one more season of the
new Battlestar Galactica coming up (one of the best shows on the teevee, ever). So if
Glen A. Larson is going to keep one of his resurrected 80s ideas on the teevee, he needs to work quick! I doubt this will ever be as incredibly awesome as the new Battlestar, but it was a very good backdoor pilot movie (which is rare) and they could certainly do some really cool story arcs, given time.
Watch it! Rent it! Download it! Whatever! Let's get this thing turned into a series.