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TV to get excited about – new season preview 26 August 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in TV news.
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Traditionally the autumn/winter months sees a break in the American football season in the States, and with it a whole raft of new and returning sci-fi shows premiering their new series on the goggle box. In terms of high quality genre TV, the 2000s has seen its fair share of hits and misses with some cancelled in their prime (Firefly) and others drawn out way beyond their expected lifespan (Smallville), but one thing’s for sure – with production values that outstrip many Hollywood efforts and intelligent, gripping storytelling, viewers have rarely had it better.

Unfortunately to make room for all these new shows those which are seen to be underperforming or (as in the case of Battlestar Gallactica) which reach the end of their planned arcs are cancelled. As well as Battlestar Gallactica this year saw the planned conclusion to Stargate Atlantis (to make room for Stargate Universe – more later) and the premature deaths of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Pushing Daises, Reaper, Eleventh Hour, Eli Stone, the ill-advised Knight Rider re-boot, Kyle XY, the US Life on Mars and Primeval in the UK. While most were understandable and welcome cancellations The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Pushing Daisies were a particular blow to genre fans as, despite ‘low’ ratings, both were critically well received and ended on mesmerizing cliffhangers that begged for another series.

But what have we got to look forward to over the coming year? In terms of returning shows there was the surprise renewal of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse despite having the lowest viewing figures ever for a renewed programme, Fox perhaps showing faith in Whedon after the Firefly debacle and a noticeable improvement in quality from season one’s mid-point. There’s also big hitters Lost and Heroes (the former reaching the end of its planned six season arc and the latter presumably on its last legs), A Town Called Eureka, Fringe, Chuck making a surprise return, Smallville looking darker than ever, Supernatural bringing the plight of the Winchester brothers to a dramatic conclusion, True Blood which is enjoying considerable success in the States and of course new episodes of Doctor Who.

New properties on the cards however look to be a mixed bag. Ronald D. Moore’s promising looking spaceship drama Virtuality looks like it won’t make it past the pilot, but Battlestar Gallactica prequel Caprica has been given a full season to expand after its feature-length backdoor pilot debuted to critical acclaim earlier this year. It’s good to see at least one intelligent sci-fi show left on the box in a season of largely consisting of gimmick driven action shows. The small screen re-make of 80s classic V is one to look out for, however, starring Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell and Firefly’s Morena Baccarin in the tale of alien visitors whose friendly exteriors mask a terrible secret. The remake machine isn’t limited to old TV shows either with Eastwick being an adaptation of the Jack Nicholson film from the 80s, but with a worrying whiff of Charmed about it.

I’ll be surprised if Day One makes it to day two as yet another post-apocalypse set series so soon after Jericho’s failure to pick up viewers looks unlikely to become a sleeper hit. Human Target is probably the most low key of the new season’s shows with nary a dollar spent on publicity despite starring Rorscach and Freddy Kruger himself Jackie Earle Haley. The premise also sounds disappointingly flat – body guard assumes the identity of his clients to protect them – to arouse much interest.

Most promising looking new properties have to go to Warehouse 13, Flash Forward and Stargate Universe. Warehouse 13 is enjoying record breaking viewing figures on the Syfy channel in the states, but time will tell if this blend of the X Files and Supernatural will live beyond its Raiders of the Lost Arc inspired premise. Flash Forward has a high concept starting point (everyone in the world simultaneously sees six months into their own future for two and a half minutes) that gives little indication of what the series has in store, but with a cast including Brit Joseph Fiennes and co-created by Blade scribe David S. Goyer I have high hopes. Stargate Universe on the other hand looks like the dark, character driven re-boot the series was crying out for, abandoning the shiny military bases for a bleak space ship setting and throwing Begbie into the mix for good measure (hopefully with random acts of psychopatic violence).

Not a bad line up I’m sure you’ll agree but with networks more ruthless than ever when it comes to renewals is it worth investing your time in so many new shows? It can be devastating to have a programme you have an emotional investment in cut-off prematurely but I’m sure you’ll agree even 14 episodes of Firefly were better than none.

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