Last year, NBC Programming took a risk - a really BIG risk. Who would have thought that a show about seemingly normal people finding their super powers and trying to save the world would actually take off on a major broadcast network? I sure didn't, which is why my husband and I didn't quite see it until the marathon on SciFi. Oops. We'll blame this one on having a new baby - only so much we can process on TV these days.
Enter the 2007-2008 season and what do we have? An entire season of "Heros" on every network. Where's the daring to be different? Where's the searching for the next good thing rather than the next sure thing? I mean, come on! One show that is on a sci fi/fantasy bent on a channel is ok, but to create several nights of programming around that genre? That's what the SciFi channel, which NBC owns btw, is for! Oh, and lets not forget Fox, ABC and the CW following suit. That's four networks running to the darkside. Note - I have yet to see any of the shows I am talking about. I have only read their premises in various places like the CNN article above. (Click the title.)
Don't get me wrong. I love SciFi. In fact, I was the producer for AOL's SciFi area for about two years. I got to meet some of my favorite authors and actors and spend some time with them. This was back when SciFi was still fighting for conference rooms at nice hotels for conventions, about 12 years ago. I am also not opposed to having SciFi on national broadcast networks. In fact I say "Bring it on!" My biggest issue is that where "Heros" was incredibly, incredibly original and fresh, the shows coming to a small screen near you this fall all seem to have a distinct taste of the past.
Let's talk NBC's show "Journeyman" about a newspaper reporter who suddenly starts shuttling back and forth in time. Can we say "Quantum Leap" and "Sliders?" Then CBS has a show called "Moonlight" about a PI who is actually a vampire that doesn't eat people but rather helps them avoid being eaten by all manner of nighttime ugly. Hmmmm - "Angel" anyone? Then there's "The Bionic Woman." No guesses needed for what show that is copying, only this time the people who gave Jamie Sommers her new legs are actually evil so it isn't EXACTLY the same.
There do seem to be one or two shows who's premise seems to be unique and extremely creative in this gaggle of SciFi shows. In particular, Fox's "New Amsterdam" about a NY City Detective who was there when New Amsterdam was formed, New Amsterdam being the original settlement that eventually became New York City. So, he took immortality as long as he never falls in love. Enter 2007 - whoops, meets the love of his life. Now we have a story.
I understand why it is so easy for networks to gravitate towards the same types of shows. I was there - it is easier to follow in something groundbreaking than actually break the ground yourself, and this many SciFi shows on broadcast networks in a season is groundbreaking. I just wish the programming directors and the marketing rooms had felt that they could be a little more creative rather than jump to shows that seem on the surface to be shows we have seen before.
One good thought, it worked for "Battlestar Galactica," maybe it will work again. I hope.