Back again for another highly opinionated — some might even say downright cranky — look at the week in fantasy. You’ve been warned!
IS IT THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF FANTASY TELEVISION?
Things are suddenly looking pretty good out there on the fantasy television front, aren’t they?
- HBO has picked up A Game of Thrones, the series based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books. Meanwhile, they set channel records with the second season of True Blood.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand is an unqualified hit for Starz, the channel that this week picked up a mini-series based on the medieval cathedral-building novel The Pillars of the Earth.
- Supernatural and (especially) The Vampire Diaries are both hits for The CW, as is Smallville, which the network announced yesterday will be returning for an astounding tenth season.
- Warehouse 13, which set ratings records for SyFy last summer and fall, will be returning with new episodes this July.
Meanwhile, the disappointing or disastrous ratings for strictly sci-fi shows like V, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Dollhouse, Stargate: Atlantis, Flash Forward, and Fringe have some people questioning whether this all signals the “end” of TV science fiction (apart from “niche” channels like SyFy).
The networks themselves seem to be leaning that direction, with not a single strictly “science fiction” pilot even being developed for the fall season.
So are things different for fantasy? Do the above shows mean we’ve entered an era of “fantasy” TV dominance?
First, I think it’s unquestionably true the the success of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings has made fantasy more palatable to the masses. I also think the massive sales of fantasy books, especially in comparison to science-fiction, indicates that we have entered an age where fantasy-themed entertainment, long sci-fi’s “ugly stepsister,” will at least be more on parity with science fiction, if not soon surpass it.
But the fact is, all of the above fantasy shows are either syndicated, on cable, or on The CW — all outlets with much lower viewership that the broadcast networks that are broadcasting V, Flash Forward, and Fringe.
And except for NBC’s The Cape and ABC’s No Ordinary Family, both about would-be superheros, there are no fantasy or fantasy-esque pilots in development for the broadcast networks either.
In short, except for Lost, no TV genre show, science fiction or fantasy, is drawing massive, crossover ratings.
And the fantasy genre has seen its share of recent TV bombs, from Eastwick to Reaper to Merlin. At press time, word was just breaking that the syndicated fantasy show Legend of the Seeker would probably not be renewed for a third season.
Still, success on television is all about meeting, or exceeding, expectations, and while I’m disappointed by the loss of some solid sci-fi, I’m encouraged that the above-mentioned fantasy shows have found such vibrant, enthusiastic (if relatively small) audiences.
And I’m cautiously optimistic about future shows, both science fiction and fantasy, including Steven Spielberg’s unnamed Noah Wylie alien invasion project and Terra Nova, his dinosaur project, not to mention American remakes of the British shows Being Human and Torchwood.
THE IDIOT BOX
We may be back from the Olympics, but most fantasy-esque shows are still on hiatus.
Still, tonight brings a new episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, basically about Spartacus having to come to terms with the death of his wife in the last ep: does he give up, or does he finally really commit himself to his new life as a gladiator? After the intensity of last week, this is one is a little mellower — a little mellower, there are still a couple of shocking developments. But don’t get too comfortable; I’ve seen through episode nine, and there are some truly shocking things to come! (10 PM, Starz).
No new Legend of the Seeker this weekend, and nothing new on the Thursday night “fantasy/sci-fi TV death match” either.
Well, this week’s flame has sputtered out, but join me again next week when I promise I won’t be nearly so cranky.
Oh, who am I kidding?!
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