Minority Report Report

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Meagan Good and Stark Sands

The Sept. 21 premiere of Minority Report on Fox proves, once again, that putting the Steven Spielberg label on a product is no guarantee of top quality contents.

Joining such lackluster Spielberg small screen science fiction offerings as Under the Dome, Extant and Falling Skies, this series focuses on the lives of three precognitive siblings a decade after the controversial Precrime Program featured in the 2002 film of the same name has ended.

The 2065 society depicted in the television series has decided that arresting people for crimes they were only contemplating might somehow be a violation of their rights. This realization did not free those imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, which one might guess should be the next logical legal step. That decision works from a plot standpoint for the opener, giving the writers a seething pool of injustice from which to draw villains.

One of the precogs, Dash (Stark Sands) has left the remote island home the government had provided to insulate the siblings from society and has come to Washington, D.C. Back among murderous humankind, he is again getting visions of future killings. Given only a few minutes to act, he is not getting enough information to get to the scene in time to prevent the crime.

Details of the murders reside in the mind of his twin brother, Arthur (Nick Zano). The missing piece of Dash’s mind, Arthur had left the island refuge years earlier, but the pair are not currently on speaking terms over what appears to be lifestyle issues.

Dash’s visions are apparently painful, as Sands convincingly conveys. His impression of a man having a seizure beats even that of the late, great John Belushi.

Enter homicide detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good). As she investigates the murder of a nurse thrown from an apartment window, Vega quickly marks Dash as a person of interest. Once she realizes that he is one of the never publicly identified precogs, she just as quickly — perhaps too quickly — accepts him as a partner.

Good’s lines come across as a bit wooden. Maybe she’s just watched a few too many episodes of Law and Order. Her character does seem to soften a little toward the end of the premiere.

The saving grace of this show may be the setting. Fox did not skimp on the special effects eye candy.

Unlike so many science fiction television offerings, including 12 Monkeys and The 100, the world depicted here is not dystopian. Much of what is seen only extrapolates from what we’re seeing today.

We see an aerial view of maglev trains speeding down tracks, making precision track changes, detaching and reattaching cars on the fly, missing collisions by millimeters and microseconds. I don’t see Amtrak evolving into anything that in my lifetime.

A wristband camera transforms into a quadcopter for taking selfies. No cell phone on a stick for these kids.

The unpolitically correct Washington Reskins have become the Washington Redclouds. The new name undoubtedly still strikes fear into the hearts of the opponents they meet in the gridiron field of battle. Certainly beats the Washington Milktoasts.

A fast food robocook, complete with a hat, looks like the love child of Will Robinson’s best friend and a runaway jukebox. No need to cry “danger,” however, because, as Lara observes, french fries are no longer unhealthy, thanks to the “genetic revolution.”

In Lara’s apartment, a video screen advertises “The Simpsons Season 75 Spectacular.” It’s good to know that Fox has made a 50-year commitment to keep airing its greatest achievement.

Lara totes what seems to be a gun that substitutes sonic waves for bullets. This shootin’ iron can knock a suspect clear across a room and, in one case, render one quite deceased. Did she forgot to set the gun on “stun?”

Advertising is all-invasive. Dash looks out a maglev window and is assailed by a video telling him he looks stressed and should try some baked goods. A booze bottle features an animated video label. OK, maybe this aspect of 2065 qualifies as dystopian.

Minority Report falls somewhere between Battle Star Galactica (the remake) great and last season of Falling Skies terrible. It’s exact location within that quality spectrum remains to be seen. I am willing to devote at least another 40 minutes and a bag of Cheetos to finding out.

Science Fiction Television Experiencing Renaissance?

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Is the sun rising on a new era in television science fiction programming? Yes. Yes it is.

Renaissance might be too strong, but it does seems like science fiction offerings on the small screen are increasing in quantity, if not always quality.

Long, long ago, in the primitive years before cable (B.C.), television science fiction was doled out in small doses by the Big Three broadcast networks. Its artistic merits were not an issue. Good or bad, like it or not, if you were a science fiction fan, you watched what was available — and you were grateful.

Fast forward to 2015 A.D. (after digital). Science fiction offerings are so plentiful that you can actually pick and choose what you will watch. Quality and personal taste have come into play.

Take the barrage of programs you got this summer. Some, including Killjoys (Syfy) and Humans (AMC/Channel 4)have been gems. Others, like Dark Matter (Syfy) and Extant (CBS), have been just so-so. Still others, including Zoo (CBS) and The Whispers (ABC), have been abysmal.

I usually give each new series several episodes to win my heart before I decide if they stay on my DVR recording schedule. Getting a feel for the settings and characters often takes a bit.

I have given some shows extended opportunities to convince me that they are watchable. I so badly wanted to like Defiance (Syfy) that I stuck with it for the first half-season. I could not bring myself to like any of the characters, and the show suffered from alien overload.

I watched and enjoyed Continuum (Syfy) for its first full season. I had to bail midway though season 2 when the time travel paradoxes became too mind-boggling.

I didn’t quite make it to the opening season halfway mark of 12 Monkeys (Syfy version of the Bruce Willis movie) for the same reason. Time travel is an entertaining concept, but it really needs some basic rules. I suppose that if I were able to turn off my brain’s logic function, I might enjoy it more. I can’t, so I don’t.

On occasion, a show has gotten the ax before my first episode viewing has ended. The show which most recently got that reaction was Syfy’s Z Nation, which is such an obvious cheap rip-off of The Walking Dead (AMC) that it is a global insult to zombie fans — and zombies.

Some shows have such a dumb-ass premise that I don’t give them a shot. These have included Under the Dome (CBS), an up-sized version of Big Brother (CBS – coincidentally?). Let’s trap a bunch of people in an mysterious forcefield and see what happens. Frustration? Personality conflicts? Drama, drama, drama? Oh, my!

Another that went into this category was Revolution (NBC). The world suddenly loses its electricity, and nobody knows why? The trailers for this offering did their best to jump on the Hunger Games blockbuster film bandwagon, but I was not tempted.

Regretfully, I made an exception for Zoo (CBS). Animals organizing to rid the world of planet-destroying humans, as appealing as that premise may have been to animal rights groups, was a dumb human trick the show could not perform.

I’ll try anything featuring zombies, my favorite showbiz monster; but I have little interest in shows featuring vampires or werewolves. I tried True Blood (HBO) after it was recommended by a friend, but I just couldn’t get into a supernatural soap opera romanticizing blood-sucking killers.

One exception was the wittily comical Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB/UPN), but even that show eventually fell prey to a soap opera element. Sorry, Sarah Michelle Gellar, your schoolgirl crush on David Boreanaz was the low point of an otherwise stellar show, although that star-crossed love had tough competition from Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green as cutest witch and werewolf couple  — ever.

So much for grousing over the past. Several promising new series are on, or just over, the horizon.

The Syfy will continue to churn out bona fide science fiction offerings in the next few months. These include Childhood’s End (http://tinyurl.com/ChildhoodsEndTrailer), a mini series slated to launch in December. With a great book author source in Arthur C. Clarke and a cast which includes Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation), fans could be in for a super-sweet sci-fi treat.

The Expanse (http://tinyurl.com/TheExpanseTrailer), another series with potential, is also scheduled by Syfy in December. Based on the works of a pair of best-selling sci-fi authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franc, jointly writing as James S.A. Corey, this series might fulfill the promise of Ascension, had that Syfy mini-series ever gotten off the ground.

AMC will add Into the Badlands (http://tinyurl.com/BadlandsTrailer) to its high-quality program schedule in November. Think Mad Max meets Bruce Lee. Well-choreographed martial arts scenes are always entertaining, and AMC has an admirable habit of doing everything well.

HBO plans to present Westworld (http://tinyurl.com/WestworldTrailer), a remake of the 1973 film thriller, “coming in 2016.” Alas, this will be more than 30 years too late for the late great Yul Brynner to make a cameo appearance. Maybe through the miracle of CGI?

Broadcast networks are also bellying-up to the sci-fi happy hour bar via the film rehash route.

Fox will begin airing its series reincarnation of 2002’s Minority Report (http://tinyurl.com/MReportTrailer), set for launch, Monday, Sept. 21. Can the network that killed Firefly and Almost Human, after running episodes of both shows out of order, redeem itself? I won’t be holding my breath.

CBS will take another shot at sci-fi with 2011’s Limitless (http://tinyurl.com/LmtlssTrailer), scheduled to debut on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Something tells me that Bradley Cooper’s screen time in this series will be somewhat less than limitless.

Other new shows in the fall channel lineup include Heroes Reborn (NBC. Sept. 24) and Supergirl (CBS October). No doubt I have missed some, but a quick Google search should unearth any additions for die-hard couch potatoes who thinks they need more shows to fill their time.

Think of this season as a sci-fi potluck dinner. Everybody is going to bring something to put on the table, but not all of these dishes are going to bring you back for second helpings.