The television industry is right in the middle of its "upfronts" period,
where the major broadcast and cable networks unveil their fall schedules and set
their advertising rates. The schedules allow TV reporters to see what shows have
been canceled, which ones have been renewed and what new pilots have been
ordered into series production -- all of which allows for some fairly
unscientific speculation about what is trending on TV as we head into the
On the genre side of things, we think we see a curious phenomenon happening:
Fantasy and horror shows seem to be getting the upper hand on science fiction.
The latter has been a reliable staple over the years, with fantasy and horror
not nearly as successful. Horror has fared especially poorly since "Buffy the Vampire
Slayer" ended its run, with only "Supernatural" carrying
the torch. But cable hits such as HBO's "True Blood" and AMC's
"The Walking Dead" have
given small-screen horror a new lease on (un)life, spilling over into the next
tier of cable channels with efforts like FX's wildly successful "American Horror Story"
and NBC's "The Vampire
Fantasy has had an even tougher time, but that's changed dramatically in just
the last year or two. "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time," both
shows about fantasy beings disguised as "normal" humans (but other than that,
very different shows), have both managed to earn a second season. "Once Upon a
Time," which centers around fairy-tale characters who live, unwittingly trapped,
in the cursed town of Storybrooke with no memory of their previous lives, was a
solid hit for ABC on Sunday nights. "Grimm," meanwhile, which uses the police
procedural format to follow a back-and-forth battle between human guardians (or
"Grimms") and various mythological creatures, has struggled a bit more in the
ratings but will also return. The season finale of "Once Upon a Time" aired this
past Sunday (May 13), while "Grimm" closes out its first season on Friday (May
The success of both has been mirrored on cable by the phenomenal arrival of
HBO's "Game of Thrones," which
has taken a decidedly darker, more graphic, sex-and-violence kind of mature
fantasy and turned it into must-see television. The complex plotlines, allusions
to dragons and other races of supernatural beings, and intense, often lurid
violence has not turned off audiences at all, but attracted viewers not inclined
to pick up the thick novels on which the series is based. Season 2 has been even
more labyrinthine and complicated than the first, yet the audience has stayed
and HBO has already commissioned a third set of shows for 2013.
Science fiction, on the other hand, has had a rougher time. "Fringe," widely
regarded as the best sci-fi show in recent memory, is winding down with a
13-episode fifth season, although the show lasted far longer than the ratings
would have usually allowed. But other shows, like "V," "FlashForward" and "The Event," have all
bit the dust, and this past season was marked by three high-profile flops:
First, "Terra Nova," the
enormously expensive and troubled dinosaur/time-travel show executive produced
by Steven Spielberg, collapsed under its own weight, with an unfocused premise,
irritating cast and shaky visual effects all contributing to its doom after one
season. It was unreasonable to assume that FOX would keep something so bloated
on the air.
"Awake," about a cop
shuffling between two different universes, also took a ratings beating after a
strong debut, and its 13th segment will be its last. Even more surprising,
however, was the death of "Alcatraz," the new
series from producing/directing/creating powerhouse J.J. Abrams' production
company Bad Robot, after just 13 episodes. Whether it was the unwieldy concept
(prisoners who vanished from the famous prison 50 years ago start turning up in
the present) or the rather pedestrian "been there, done that" handling and feel
of the show, audiences did not tune in. Could the invincible Abrams hit machine
be grinding to a halt?
Well, maybe, but one of the new shows selected to premiere this fall is
Abrams' ambitious "Revolution," which
takes place in a future America where there is no more electrical power. Once
again, it sounds like an interesting premise, but good writing and casting will
be needed to make this one into a "Lost"-sized hit instead
of a "one and done" like "Alcatraz." As always, we'll be watching ...
Geeking Out On...J.J. Abrams Directing 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars'
J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' is set to open this week, then begins the task of directing a new 'Star Wars' film for 2015. Check out this episode where Kurt argues why he's the man for the job and how it's enough already about the lens flares. Also, a few other "double dippers" in the dueling franchises as well as a few others.