I didn’t want to (or couldn’t be bothered) to do a “top shows/episodes/quotes/characters/props of 2010 post. I’ve seen a number of other people’s lists and was finding that I’d actually seen very little of what they were saying was the best of the year – either because I don’t watch the shows at al or because I haven’t caught up on the latest season yet. While I’m usually quite happy to compile slightly pointless lists, this year I decided to go a bit more freeform.
Where’s my rocket pack?
It’s tough being a science fiction fan these days and it was a particularly cold Christmas following the announcement of the cancellation of Stargate Universe. I’m not going to start shouting about the unfairness of it, SyFy channel has been quite vocal recently (e.g. @syfy on Twitter) that they don’t want to cancel shows, but they can’t carry a show that’s not covering its expenses and simply put the ratings for Universe just weren’t good enough. The problem is that while the ‘ratings’ don’t give an accurate representation of how many people are watching via delayed dvr, or download (legal or otherwise), at the end of the day they are what dictates the advertising revenue and that’s all the network has to go on. There’s a similar story for Caprica and Defying Gravity (which admittedly had some poor marketing to help it along).
There’s a fair bit of the softer sci-fi out there, Fringe is having a very impressive 3rd season with its alternate reality storyline really coming together. But concept shows like The Event and Flashforward are still floundering trying to find the Lost magic. Comic book/superheroes are well represented with Smallville, No Ordinary Family and the upcoming The Cape. There’s vampires and monsters in abundance on True Blood, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, and of course The Walking Dead, but if you’re looking for the proper hard-core aliens and spaceships stuff, you’re pretty much limited to V these days (which I hated).
Is it really not possible to make sci-fi profitable these days? Is it just that the sort of audience who watch sf are exactly the sort that watch in ways that don’t generate revenue? When Universe finishes its final 10 episodes next summer it will be the first time in 24 years there has been neither a Star Trek or a Stargate on the air. That’s depressing.
Best of British
I generally watch two types of things on British television – Saturday evening family stuff (Doctor Who and Merlin) and documentaries (Universe, Inside Nature’s Giants, um… Top Gear). I still don’t watch a great deal of home-grown drama, but whenever I do I’m really surprised at how good it is. I don’t know why I’m surprised every time, I’m sure that’s a definition of stupidity, but for some reason UK TV to me means Strictly Come X-Factor and Eastenders Street. Then I’ll happen to catch something like Sherlock, or Upstairs and it’s absolutely superb. Maybe I should actually start getting the Radio Times, but I definitely want to watch more British produced stuff this year… don’t let me down!
Should old acquaintance be forgot
For someone who watches so much television and still holds a grudge against cancellations from years ago, I find myself relatively unemotional when I look over the list of cancelled shows. Most of the headline cancellations, or planned endings were actually for shows I had no emotional investment in. I never watched 24 or Scrubs, gave up on Lost and Heroes and although I enjoyed the couple of seasons of Law & Order, Numb3rs and Ugly Betty I saw… I never got round to watching more of them.
Even Dollhouse, from the god that is Joss Whedon, got a pretty good run at it. For whatever reason the show wasn’t really working and I’m grateful it got the chance to wrap the story up, but I’m not angry about it. My anger at Flashforward’s cancellation is mostly directed at the show-runners who ballsed it up, rather than the network that pulled the plug on the embarrassment. The only shows that upsets me on the list are the previously mentioned Stargate and Trauma – the little watched paramedic drama set in San Francisco which had an amazing cast of characters, was thoroughly entertaining and failed to find an audience for some reason.
In with the new
I’m not massively excited by the 2010-2011 freshman shows so far and from the number of cancellations, neither are other people. Of the ones cancelled, the only frustration is Terriers which is another Tim Minear series that failed to find an audience thanks to mis-marketing but had a lot of charm to it. There’s a couple of shows I’ll pick up when they make it the UK (Hellcats, Blue Bloods, maybe Detroit 1-8-7) but even those aren’t exactly remarkable. The Event is slowly building up on my Sky+ box and I’m just not sure I can be bothered at all.
The Walking Dead was supposed to be one of the big events of the television year, and it appeared on a few people’s Top 10s, but I found it didn’t live up to the hype. Too short, too slow, too familiar. We’ll see how it does when it returns with a longer season, but there’s going to be a long wait for that.
I think the networks have all decided to pace themselves a bit more this year, give things time to breath. So some of the biggest, most highly anticipated shows are actually premiering in January. There’s new series from some of the biggest, most reliable names in television – Shonda Rhimes (Off the Map), David E. Kelley (Harry’s Law) and Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear (The Chicago Code). Hopefully these shows will have the spark that’s been missing from a lot of the other offerings. Maybe not powerhouse names, but I’m also looking forward to Matthew Perry and Allison Janney’s new series (Mr Sunshine).
Coming back for more..
If I’m not grabbed by the new shows so far, I’ve still been finding plenty to fill my viewing hours. All my usual procedurals (CSI, Criminal Minds, Lie to Me, Bones, House) are trundling along quite merrily although a little unremarkably thus far, cable shows like Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy grab my attention for their short runs before fading away for another few months. Fringe and Supernatural both had big changes this year, but are maturing beautifully and entertainingly. And about to start on UK channels are all the guilty pleasures – Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters and Glee. It’s going to be a pretty cheesy January, and I’m looking forward to it!