Science Fiction Television Experiencing Renaissance?

scifisunrise
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.

Adventures in Writing: Part 7 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.

Simple? Maybe not.

Old
Old is such a relative term. I don’t mean that in terms of Great Aunt Lucy or Grandpa Zachary, although that’s how I thought when I was a kid. Old is those people you see once or twice a year at a birthday party or on a holiday — the people who tell you how big, not how old, you’ve gotten.

sweetagelofdeathI don’t know at what point in life I crossed into old. The milestone number has been continually pushed forward.

When I was a teenager, they were saying “never trust anyone over 30.” When I hit 30, I didn’t feel particularly untrustworthy; but I was more than a little suspicious of the 50-something crowd. Now well over 50, I have accepted the remote possibility that I might very well be old — or am I just a Baby Boomer?

A lot of wiser (and maybe even younger) people have had their say on old. Let’s take a look.

I don’t know but I’ve been told, if you keep on dancing you’ll never grow old.
Steve Miller, I’ve got to say, this just doesn’t play right in my world. First, if you literally keep on dancing, you’ll soon be exhausted. Exhaustion, numerous scientific studies have shown, does not contribute to longevity. Second, if you grow old when you’re not dancing, I should have been pushing up daisies decades ago.

The only time I dance is when my wife drags me away from the bar at a wedding reception. Even then, the understanding is “slow dances only.” No point in getting too lively.

You’re only as old as you feel.
I don’t know who came up with this saying, but he or she clearly has never gotten up in the morning with my right foot. The damn thing goes missing nearly every night.

By day, it snaps, crackles and pops; it twitches, throbs and burns. I once thought I spotted wisps of smoke coming from the offending appendage, but I have since dismissed that as an agony-induced hallucination.

The foot eventually begins to function, but never without a long start-up process.

The doctor told me my arch has collapsed, and a tendon is about ready to let loose. Now, I’m wearing arch supports and experiencing a whole new kind of pain. It’s the kind of pain I might expect to experience if two red-hot marbles were parked in my shoes directly under my arches — if I had arches.

My feet have always been so flat they could be mistaken for unleavened bread, but the foot situation only kicked in a year or two ago. Nothing but advancing age can account for that deterioration.

You’re only as old as your weakest body part feels. In my case, that makes me about 95. I’m at that awkward ambulatory age: too old to walk without a limp; too young to need a walker.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.
Leave it to a poet, in this case Robert Browning, to take a merry view of aging. If I may be so bold, allow me to add a few lines of my own about becoming old.

I’m freakin’ full of glee. If only I could see.
The words have grown so small, I cannot read at all.
I’m grateful still to hear, but now sounds must be near.
I’ve kept my sense of feel, although it hurts to kneel.
No, Bob, you must be wrong! The best has come and gone.

Youth is wasted on the young.
George Bernard Shaw left a sizable legacy of quotable quotes. While this one may be pithily clever, it’s really just another way of saying “If only I could be (insert much younger age here) again and know what I know now.”

While both expressions ring true, you can’t accomplish much by condemning everything you did when you still had a little spring in your step. Let’s say, just for fun, that you could travel back in time to give your 20-year-old self the benefit of all you’ve learned.

I know your failing memory may be a problem here, but I’ll wager that your more youthful self totally ignored any sage advice given by your parents as well as anyone else in that age bracket. What would make you treat counseling from your future self any differently? Beyond that, you probably would be hard-pressed to recognize the you-to-be, much less accept the whole time travel explanation.

Nope, as much of a disadvantage as it is, we all seem to have a universal need to learn things for ourselves.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and it’s the youngest you’ll ever be again.
Thank Eleanor Roosevelt (and Google) for this variation on “today is the first day in the rest of your life.”

This is just more wishful messing with the concept of time. Sure, it puts a positive spin on getting older; but like most spins, the best you’re going to get from it is a cheap, temporary high.

This may have given you the impression that I don’t find a lot of value in the sayings of others. You’re right.

I am getting better, though. Back in my younger days, I thought of each birthday as being another year closer to death. Now I see these annual anniversaries as another year of staying one step ahead of the Grim Reaper.

Call me Old Man Optimism.