Tag Archives: Fringe

Guest Star of the Month?

Often, when we are watching the myriad shows we follow, you end up spotting the same faces over and over again.  Most of the time this goes in cycles and a few faces will crop up in everything for a time, then they’ll be replaced by a new crop of faces.  So it goes in the Hollywood system.

These people are the guest stars who have the goods.

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Sci-fi and Fantasy TV update…


After a few posts about the state of TV Sci-fi and Fantasy shows, I thought I’d do a brief update on where they’re currently at…

This has had a relatively good start, with the first season showing some likeable characters and the usual dose of conspiracy and subterfuge thrown in.  It has come across as an ‘A-Team’ with powers, which hasn’t always worked, but has shown enough promise in these episodes to give it a chance. A grittier angle, if chosen could definitely help proceedings.

Once Upon a Time:
The first of the ‘fairy tale’ shows, this has proven to be solid in the ratings and will definitely see out a full season; this may be due to the overriding ‘frothiness’ of the show, which plays on charm and lightness, lacking any real menace or darkness in its scenarios. Robert Carlyle and Jennifer Morrison are as watchable as ever, but you do get the feeling that the actors are not being stretched, or allowed to express themselves as much as you’d like; Lana Parrilla, for instance,  is clearly better than currently represented.

Much darker than Once Upon a Time, Grimm is angled much more towards the bloody nature of fairy tales and throws in some conspiracy/politics for good measure. This will no doubt have more depth that OUaT in the long run, but needs to find its feet. The main characters have still to gel properly and how each character interacts with David Giuntoli’s main character Nick, has yet to be settled. In some cases it really doesn’t seem to be working, but in others, such as when paired with Silas Weir Mitchell (Eddy) it really does work well. More time is needed, but should come good.

Warehouse 13:
Still strong, this has retained its playful feel, but added in some more depth; unfortunately this comes in the form of the usual conspiracy angle, but it has been handled quite well. The charm of the main cast and ‘steampunk’ technology continues to be exploited well and so far they have avoided all the main hokum pitfalls that could have arisen. The traditional Syfy channel Christmas special was quite successful and had a good balance between fan ‘nods’ and story.

A very good season with Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton guest starring for a large portion, this has been a bittersweet period, with the news that the next season will be the last. Still quite goofy in tone, but the almost Acme  style science still has its charm. The Christmas special was very hit and miss however, with much of it being animated, but the script and story was poor. While the animation worked well and allowed for various jokes, the underlying story was poorly constructed and had far too many ‘life lessons’ for key characters, which came over as saccharine,  preachy and forced.

They’ve managed to move this along quite well, while retaining the central core of the idea, and not forcibly maintaining a status quo; this has allowed the depth to come into the characters and it seems they are allowing it to naturally develop. Some slight hiccups in the season arc, with certain characters and plotlines not working 100%, with the writers putting themselves in a awkward place, which they then failed to get out of satisfactorily.

Well, another JJ Abrams related show has changed it all up again, as he tends to do after every couple of seasons. (e.g. Alias etc..) this time however, it has worked quite well and Fringe continues to be one of the best shows on TV. Solid performances all round and an engaging storyline have kept this from going stale. The change this season has raised some new ideas and fresh perspective, so creatively much is possible. I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode after the Christmas hiatus!

Terra Nova:
Still far too much standard storytelling with this one and every episode I am reminded once more of Earth2. The setting is almost irrelevant and not enough is being made of either the sci-fi elements or the pre-historic landscape elements. So much more could be done with the resources of the show, let alone with the concept, that is disappointing that the scope has been so formulaic and standard fare. Must do better!

While this hasn’t been the strongest or most consistent season storywise so far, it has still been good quality and remains a good show. It has yet to be seen whether the introduction of the Leviathans will be seen as weak or not, but so far their overall arc seems to be too far in the background compared to the brother soap opera. The lack of Castiel has been a loss to this half of the season, so hopefully this will change in the second half. Potential for Sheriff Mills to be a bigger part is quite encouraging if they take that route.

Other stuff I couldn’t give a monkeys about:
Vampire Diaries (whatever…)
The Secret Circle (90210 with Witches)

Where is all the TV Sci-fi?

Preface/Caveat: It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so this might be nonsense…

Every so often I get excited as a new sci-fi show gets announced and there is the possibility that the genre will be well catered for once again.  What normally happens though, is that the show is either a huge disappointment immediately (Flash Gordon(2007), Space Precinct – not even Simone Bendix could save that one), becomes a sucking wound of pish after early promising form (Sliders, Heroes, Lost), drifts along in a ‘nearly state’ of unfulfilled potential (Doctor Who), or gets cancelled after one or two seasons despite being either amazing or growing. (Firefly, Dollhouse, Caprica, Stargate: Universe)

There are exceptions to this, such as the continuing to be great show that is Fringe, or the shows that start shakily and then grow to be powerhouses. (ST: TNG)

Most of the time however, Sci-fi isn’t as well catered for as other genres and the lack of hard Sci-fi is especially notable.

Generally, of the non-standard cop shows and other procedurals, it is the Fantasy shows that survive the TV culling, and somehow they survive in great number, whether they are light or heavy in tone.  Some of these are excellent, such as True Blood or Game of Thrones, but others are just execrable (Vampire Diaries).

When it comes to Sci-fi however, the ‘fluffier’, softer variety is what tends to hold onto its place in the schedule and it is from these shows we have to glean our weekly Sci-fi fix…

So with the last year or so seeing shows such as Caprica, No Ordinary Family, Stargate: Universe, FlashForward, Dollhouse, Heroes, Lost, The Event, Defying Gravity and V all cancelled/ended, what actually is there that survives to be watched at the moment?

Falling Skies – A new show, focussing on a group of survivors after an alien invasion, which is actually more about the people, than the Sci-fi environment.  That the people are the main focus is quite common in Sci-fi, but it is especially true in this case that the format would work with any invading army, not just an extraterrestrial one.  It’s early days, but has a good cast and could well develop nicely; or it could just go up itself… we shall have to see.

Fringe – One of the best shows on TV, regardless of genre, and has more hard Sci-fi elements than most.  Quality is kept up throughout and it cannot be recommended enough.  Has a serious tone, but doesn’t lack for humour, where appropriate, or even where it is a little subversive.  Started out a bit like an X-Files rip off, which concerned at first, but has now eased ahead of the X-Files in my preferences.

Doctor Who – Where to start?  I think I ultimately like Doctor Who, but always feel that it could be so much better.  I suspect that I watch each week, hoping it will be spectacular and then am sadly let down.  Too often the plot and characterisation is weak, with poor denouements and laughable dialogue.  One day this will be great!  Flashes of brilliance and solid acting keep me coming back, hopeful for a great episode…

Torchwood – Despite being a Doctor Who spin off, it began as a complete disaster, but has now grown in strength to a point where it has a reasonable reputation.  Consensus appears to be that Season 3 is the current high point, with the soon to start Season 4, relocated to LA and with US funding, being much stronger.  Aimed at an older audience than the core Doctor Who following, it in theory has more potential to develop in some interesting and more challenging directions.

Primeval – Not too bad an effort, all things considered.  This has been better than expected, but does suffer from the UK problem of trying to do big adventure stuff with FX and not quite pulling it off like US TV.  In addition, the short series length limits character arcs, making it lack depth in each character; a common problem for UK shows.  It also suffers from shaky narrative/plot problems like Doctor Who.  I gave up with this after Season 2 (? – maybe part way through S3)

Eureka – The feel of this is more like a kids show, but has genuine charm.  Good cast with some geek favourites as guests.  (Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day).  The show quite often spends time doing quite silly ‘science gone wrong’ plots, but is played in such a way as to not be a problem if you just go with the flow; this isn’t hard sci-fi by any stretch!

Sanctuary – At times this has been a bit of a ‘monster of the week’ show, but over the seasons has evolved into something with more of a mythology and more depth.  Unsurprisingly, as Amanda Tapping is in it, as well as Exec. Producing, this has a bit of a Stargate feel to it, but this isn’t always a bad thing!  Lots of shots are ‘Green Screen’ CGI, mostly for financial reasons, but this doesn’t detract.  Core actors are good, but has a tendency to hire massive ‘hams’ for guest roles. (Callum Blue…)

Warehouse 13 – Oozing all the conspiracy theories and science in-jokes you can think of, with a vaguely mystical or steampunk angle, Warehouse 13 is a show that tries to mix ‘big adventure’ with conspiracy and Machiavellian agendas.  Mostly, the adventure stuff works, with the conspiracy/big agenda stuff taking a back seat or being a little more ‘clunky’.  Quite jokey and sometimes downright silly, this is generally entertaining, with a good chemistry within the ensemble of actors.  The new season starts without Joanna Kelly, so we’ll have to see how they carry that off…

So what can we conclude from this list?

It seems that hard Sci-fi is still frowned upon for series TV and that the lighter or more humorous the tone, the better, as far as the networks are concerned.  The only way more serious, harder Sci-fi will be made is if the general populace become more welcoming, but this leads us to a problem for the UK audience:  scheduling.  Quite often, US shows will be shown in the UK long after the US broadcast, and after the decision has been made whether to cancel or renew.  Therefore, the audience here is reliant on the US audience to embrace a good show for us.  It has been seen before though, that a show can find new life in DVD sales or foreign financing, bringing it back after the US market has rejected it, so the tendency to rely on the reaction of the mainstream US market alone when making decisions could be seen to be flawed in certain genres.  Need I mention Firefly?  😉

What’s coming up though?  Syfy has a new show about to start called ‘Alphas’, which could be promising and there is the upcoming ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome’.

One final thought…  Maybe the future is not on TV at all.  Several Web series have been getting plaudits, such as ‘After Judgement’ and are more likely to include harder Sci-fi elements, so are definitely an area to watch…

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