Science fiction often rakes in money at the big screen box office, but aside from the Syfy channel and the occasional hit series, science fiction is often poorly represented in television series. One cannot help but wonder why this is. There is obviously an audience for it considering the numbers for such films as Avatar, Terminator, the Matrix, and Star Trek. So why don’t we have more sci-fi shows to choose from?
The point can be made that there have been plenty of great sci-fi shows over the years. One only need point to the new Battlestar Galactica, the X-Files, Dr. Who, Quantum Leap, Star Trek and the Next Generation, or Sliders to say that science fiction is well represented and accepted for television audiences. But what of shows that have failed or been canceled mid-season, shows that could have been potentially great. Shows like Firefly, Heroes, the Nowhere Man, the Invisible Man, Flash Forward, Journeyman, or 7 Days. Even James Cameron himself was run away from television after Dark Angel failed. Most people know about Heroes and Firefly (I’m sure there are a number of loyal Browncoats out there reading this) was eventually turned into a successful movie, but could not make it on television. But what of those shows you probably haven’t heard of?
Numerous factors play into science fiction on television, the biggest being budget. Of the successful sci-fi series that have made it for longer than 1-2 seasons, most do not require a lot of intensive special effects. The X-files usually depended on make-up and story. Lost was built around an increasingly difficult-to-follow storyline and very few special effects. Quantum Leap was pure story with minimal effects that could often be reused and that one solid catch phrase spoken at the end of each episode.
A second considerable factor of whether a show succeeds or not is that of the network that airs it. It used to be that networks would air a season of a show, then have a break, usually in the summer, and return with a new season. Now networks have mini-seasons where viewers get season 1 followed by season 1.5 after a few weeks of winter break. Because of this gap in viewing, a lot of shows audiences do not have time to get invested in a character or story. This was the case for Flash Forward, a great time travel show that started strong and faltered after returning from the winter hiatus. The same is true for Journeyman, another time travel show that was well done and came on strong and then left its fans with more questions than answers when NBC failed to order more shows when ratings started to drop.
Science fiction fans are not bandwagon followers. They get invested in the shows, characters, and stories and need time to do so. Very true fans of the genre would ever say that they love a show because a network showed a few commercials or hyped it up. Go ahead. Find a fan and ask them why they watch a certain show. I guarantee you the answer will be because of one of the above.
For Raleigh Area scheduling see Time Warner Cable’s channel line-up. Also, NC is now offering incentives to film makers. Go visit the North Carolina Film Office to see what they have going on.