Sunday, January 13, 2008

From the "what he said!" department...

...comes an open letter to the SciFi Channel from Entertainment Weekly writer Marc Bernardin. I happen to totally agree with him.

Dearest Sci-Fi,

Why are you not way more awesome?

Don't get me wrong, when you're good—like with Battlestar Galactica or Eureka (and I'll even give you credit for Doctor who, despite that being a BBC show you just imported)—you're a phenomenal destination network. But let's be honest here, there's not a lot of "good" on your schedule. The Stargate franchise is stale, Flash Gordon (left) is a derisible, stillborn remake, and ECW Wrestling is…wrestling! (And I swore an oath never to speak of Who Wants to Be a Superhero again.)

(Wrestling? WTF?!? Braveheart was bad enough. But wrestling?!?!?)

The thing that infuriates me is that you have so much potential. We're living in the Age of the Geek, where pop culture has finally come around to our way of thinking. Where the most-watched shows on TV are geek-nip like Heroes, Lost, and Bionic Woman; where we buzz about movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Spider-Man, I Am Legend, and Iron Man. The audience could not be more primed for this material, so why are you offering them Ghost Hunters International and crappy "original movies" like Mansquito?

Why aren't you adapting more classic sci-fi texts—like you did with Dune—into miniseries events? (Ones that, hopefully, will fare better than Tin Man.) Where's the Foundation saga, or Ender's Game, or Footfall, or The Man in the High Castle, or The Forever War?

Why aren't you engaging today's premiere purveyors of genre material and giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I'd watch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, Neal Stephenson, or China Mieville. The names alone would attract viewers by the truckload. And even if what they produced were failures, they'd be interesting failures—marked by reaching too far, instead of not far enough.

Why don't you try a daily sci-fi soap opera? Airing late at night, so people could actually be home to watch it—or DVR it. Why can't the same kind of serial storytelling that's worked for 50 years on shows like General Hospital be marshaled to create compelling science fiction? (Actually, I've got to give Evan Narcisse a tip of the hat for this one. Because I'm just that kind of bloke.)

Mark Harris was right when he said that science fiction needed to ditch the nostalgia if it's going to reclaim its integrity. Lucky for those of us who love sci-fi that there's a whole network devoted to it. I just want them to fulfill their mandate.

Imagine that. (No, seriously. Get to work imagining.)

If the network did stuff like this, I could even forgive them for canceling "Farscape." Personally, I think you can never have too much good, well-written space opera. The only such series on the air now is "Battlestar Galactica," and it's about to begin its last season.

Personally, I think CJ Cherryh's Alliance-Union books would be a great basis for a series (mini or otherwise), as would the Morgaine series.

How about David Brin's Uplift books? I know, I know, the cinematic mangling of The Postman might have scared him off. But it would still be a great premise for a miniseries.

How about anime? Why doesn't SciFi air classic anime series or films, as Cartoon Network has been doing for years? How about creating its own original animated programs? An anime version of Cherryh's Chanur books would rawk.

As it is, other networks are making the channel redundant. Me, I'm looking forward to the series premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles tonight. It's on Fox. Meanwhile, SciFi continues to air wrestling. Gah!