Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mostly Me Just Rambling About TV But I Swear There Is Point To Be Made

This is going to be one of those you have been warned.

So I just finished Ascension and feel annoyed. Not because it's bad but because by the end of it it's really really clear that is essentially a really good, really well produced pilot that's didn't get picked up.

And that frustrates the hell out of me. It's good and would have been great only if they weren't holding out for series status and had been paced like a miniseries.

Syfy eghhh... has been accused of hitting the science-fiction ghetto and Ascension was supposed to be it's thrown bone to all the fanboys who wouldn't shut up about the glory days. ...

So let me vent about the glory days.

And a brief aside.
Look as much as it bugs me I very much understand why cable networks (Cartoon Network, MTV, Sci-fi, Tech, Tv-G4, History, The Learning Channel) tried to expand thier brands at tail-end of the oughts. The internet coming into its own, especially with online video had started cutting into their audiences and revenue models and so they needed to get more eyes for the ad guys.

I get it.


The part of me that is not made up of Vulcans thinks that those networks for a long time had a good thing going and is sad that it all had to end.  Well at least we had a good run.

Now Back to the Show
There isn't a subtle way to say this. The Golden Child of the network was Stargate.

Okay let me back up. Sci-fi made a name for itself mostly by playing reruns of classic  series or other more recent science fiction shows that couldn't standout on larger networks.

If a show was good enough they might pull an Adult Swim and order another season of it leading to.

The killer app. The Anchor Show. Cartoon Network had Dragon Ball Z and Sci-fi had Stargate.

You know. In the current nostalgia-fest that is the internet I am vexed at why more people don't reference Stargate. I mean it had a 10 season run. And its one of those series that's overall pretty consistent.

It meets my Southpark test of consistent longevity. If I wanted to (and I have) I could watch an episode every day and by the time I run through all the ones I like it would have been long enough that I could repeat the process forever.

By the way thats what in my mind separates a good show, from a classic show worth examination, from a bonifide pop culture institution that even the grand kids will recognize.

Good lord, I watch too much TV.

Anyway, Stargate was the network's flagship by which all its other programming was judged. Kind of light but with a certain amount of genre savvy.

Then the middle of the oughts saw a resurgence in high concept television science fiction. Seriously compare Heroes, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica to what was coming out in the 90's especially the early 90's and its night and day. Not that those other shows were bad but a lot of them didn't take themselves or their own premises all that seriously. And all of a sudden shows did.

Speaking of which. BSG.

Battlestar Galactica became and for the most part still kind of is the model for television science fiction. For a long time everybody (except Eureka) was trying to be Battlestar Galactica and a lot of shows still are, in tone and pacing at least.

BSG was an epic. It had ambition. It wasn't a show just trying to give you your weakly dose of hi-jinks. It wanted to make you think about stuff.

And it mostly worked.

Thus leading to the current landscape of high concept television sci-fi.

Left Turn
Normally this is the part about how Sci-fi network diluted it's brand and abandoned its fans except I won't for a couple of reasons. First off that's mostly an exaggeration ...that they had coming because the executives said and did a lot of stupid stuff.

But if I really think about it I can't think of a period of time when the network truly had nothing to offer O.G. science-fiction nerds.

I think it's really audiences dealing with something that has had network execs in panic mode for over a decade.

With streaming, and time shifted television watching it matters less where a show airs and more so who bankrolled and produced it in terms of branding. Think Williams Street/AdultSwim, Comedy Central, HBO, and all those anime studios.

If you're a cable network who's old branding was mostly based off of syndicating shows (or music videos) so they wouldn't go out of rotation you were basically a curator and current technology allows for people to be their own curators or at least have a bot point them in the direction of stuff they might be interested in.

By the way FX gets points for actually making the transition.  Seriously that network doesn't get enough credit for putting out a consistent stream of entertaining content. Since Oz in the 90's  HBO has been doing the cinematic television thing. And AMC only really had a handful of consistently good stuff but FX has been the workhorse of the TV revolution and considering in the 90's it was mostly a network of syndication on cut for cable movies that's kind of a miracle.

But back to my point. In an era where few and fewer people are watching via the cable box who gets the credit for show aren't the guys that aired it but the guys that made it, and the guys who bankrolled it.

And that puts a lot of the networks in a precarious position if they can't crank out original programming they can slap their name on.

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