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February 03 2005

Networks Try to Scare Up New 'X-Files'. "The success ABC has had with its spooky thriller "Lost" has helped whet the appetite among network buyers for genre-based shows, insiders say."

Sorry but am I going mad because wasn't it this time last year that the networks were announcing genre (thiller/sci-fi/horror) based programming was dead or about to die off. Ok anyone else feeling a yo-yo effect here besides me.

On the other hand bringing back 'Night Stalker' with Alexis Denisof as the lead would work for me, with the right writing team ofcourse.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-02-03 17:30 ]
My heart goes out to Miracles fans.
Yeah studios should have thought that before Angel was kicked off the air. I mean it was the best show by far.
RavenU, you're right, AD would be great in the Night Stalker. And I was thinking pinball rather than yo-yo -- but either way, one could get whiplash from the speed by which the studios change their minds about the direction TV is going. I really do wish Lost had begun last year (although I doubt it would have been greenlighted then), so that this new direction would have been determined before Angel's cancellation.
Miracles. That broke my heart. Maybe even more than the cancellation of Angel. It is unbelieveable to me that NOW everyone wants another sci-fi show. The problem I see is that new sci-fi shows might go for the lowest common denominator, and the last thing I want to see is a sci-fi show with a writing staff inept at making literary and pop-culture funnies. Perhaps we could request that all networks submit all sci-fi pilots to Mutant Enemy for review?
How about a SPIKE show........
Maybe this is a good time to remind the Networks about this writer named Joss Whedon. I hear he makes great Sci Fi/Fantasy type shows.
This just proves to me how little the networks know about anything that isn't placed right in front of them and explained in the simplest terms possible so that even a child could understand. Basically they haven't got a clue about forward thinking.

To me, a good network exec knows that you need diversity to guarantee success. Personally i cannot stand reality television for the most part but i can accept that it has it's place in the network schedules. Some people like that kind of thing and so they should be catered for. However this shouldn't extend to saturating your network in that one kind of programming. As much as i love genre series i would never expect Fox, NBC or ABC to completely devote their schedules to fantasy and science fiction programs. That wouldn't be any fairer to certain people than the networks have recently been to we genre fans.

The key is to find the right balance of everything. To produce quality series within each category and by doing so satisfy everyone, or at least as many people as is realistically possible. Why the network execs can't understand this and instead choose to always go too far in any one direction i will never understand.

And Jonas, i'm definately all for a Spike show! ;)
I'm up for a Spike show too.
And am steaming about Miracles, I mean they are describing a new show there that has a premise very similar to it!
I can already smell the badly written Lost wannabes in the air.
Aw man! Denisof as NightStalker! The problem with some science fiction television shows of the past is that they focus more on scifi and less on the human factor. I think it was Heinlein or Hemingway or one of those fellas who once said take away all the robots and the spaceships and if the story still holds up as a human drama that could happen in present day, you got yourself a science fiction tale that will hold up the test of time. Some of the better writers of the original Star Trek series had that grokked. However, the recent writers of Enterprise did not. What pisses me off is that ST Enterprise got cancelled after four years, and the original series was cancelled after only three. My analysis of this anomaly indicates that network suits, then and now, don't accumulatively have enough grey matter in their heads to fill up a tablespoon.

Y'know what I want to see though? Anthony Stewart Head as Number Six in The Prisoner opposite Patrick McGoohan as Number Two. Now THAT would be great television, or perhaps more appropriately a motion picture. But the suits in Hollywood will probably hire Tom Cruise as 6 and John Travolta as 2, because they lost their tablespoon some years ago.
Argh, why must television do this? Anytime one show/concept makes it there are automatically a million (horribly done) clones by next season. Reality TV, anyone? I'm with eddy, next season will be filled with oodles of poor Desperate Housewives and Lost copy-cats, just you wait.

Do these networks really believe television viewers want certain ideas and concepts jammed down their throats all at once? The reason Lost and Desperate Housewives are so popular is because they are completely original concepts (for the most part), they have excellent writing, and are just a breathe of fresh air.

But hey, what do I know? Maybe networks making an effort to make more Lost-esque genre shows could turn out to be a good thing. *Snort* Sorry, couldn't keep a straight face.
This "Briar & Graves" that Fox are doing sounds like "Strange" that the BBC did a year or so ago. Richard Coyle was the defrocked priest and Samantha Janus was a nurse. I liked it and thought at the time that it was as if the BBC were trying to do Ripper without Joss.
If they flood the networks with stuff that's in the same vein as Lost (I doubt we'll see any obvious copies of Lost, since it's already kind of appealing to anyone who ever liked reality-TV show Survivor and any other fictional series that's been sorta similar, ie The Lost World), then viewers will grow sick of that particular brand of genre programming and look elsewhere very quickly. Why do networks not seem to see this? None of those O.C. clones are doing very well (The Mountain, North Shore--though I hear that one was tentatively renewed--etc). Television only really needs one well-made cop, medical, and lawyer drama at one time. The same can be said for every kind of genre show you can imagine, yet they flood the networks year after year with new series of those three popular "real-world" genres that're so similar and/or unremarkable compared to the shows within those categories that're currently holding strong, and what survives? The mainstays like ER and NYPD Blue. I don't watch either regularly, so I can't speak for the possible quality or lack thereof (I don't like them from what I've seen, though I did stick with ER for a season or two early on), but there's something to be said for being the first and starting strong...or the first in a successful revival of the genre--I realize cop shows were around long before NYPD Blue.

There's always room for innovation (FX's The Shield is an excellent cop show that I do watch that's very different from the tone and focus of NYPD Blue, and has arguably better acting and dialogue overall. Much of its audience is made up of viewers who normally aren't interested in your run-of-the-mill network cop drama). But if I could speak to every writer and showrunner in Hollywood, I'd tell them to just not even bother if they're going to waste our time and waste schedule space with unoriginal crap that's trying to ride on the coattails of the successful stuff. If you're just gonna give us another CSI, go back to the drawing board and come up with something new, become better writers, or quit your jobs and find something more suited to you. I realize TV's a business and just as a rule, if someone sees someone else making major money off of an innovation, chances are they'll copy it and try to either leech off of or directly compete with that closely related product...but you can't attack film and television from that same perspective. It's not about brands of dish soap outdoing eachother. Until more of the people in showbiz see this (and they never will, there'll always be stupid ignorant suits), television will always be flooded with an overwhelming amount of crap crowding the few gems.
Batman said it about the criminal element, but the saying applies to TV executives as well: they are a cowardly and superstitious lot, who look upon the task of programming with fear and a desperate need to abdicate responsibility.

If someone succeeds with reality programming, then it's safe for a TV exec to recommend a clone, because that first shining example proves reality programming works. It's a safe bet. Does the profusion of clones eventually saturate the market and kill off the goose that laid the golden egg? Of course. But it's difficult for a programming exec to get the blame for killing off a trend. He (or she) is much more vulnerable if the decision is to BUCK a trend. A head is really on the block for that one--which is why so few programmers buck a trend.

Ah, show business.
KnightFire you took the words right outtta my mouth !
Whats that old saying "You dont know what you got till its gone."
I'm sorry but I just really wish people wouldn't want a Spike spin-off. Spike died off as a character to me in ''Chosen" dying for the woman he loved. He should've stayed dead there. Yes, I know he was a big part of the reason we got Angel Season 5, BUT, his character barely had any sorta of importance to that season.

I also think the only reason alot of Buffy fans think Spike is still so cool is because James Marsters is OH SO hot. Which is true, but that does not merit a Spike Spin-off.

Faith, Giles, or Illyria. Give one of those or all three a spin-off, they would be far far far more entertaining than watching James age EVEN more as a character that's not suppose to age. Sorry people. Spike just doesn't deserve a spin-off in my books.

Oh, and on these so called new genre shows. None of them, sound that great. It worries me when something hits it big like Lost did or The O.C. did. You almost automatically can detect that clones will start ringing in. Though, I do believe Lost clones wil be a bit more intelligent than the O.C. ones have been so far. (Summerland and North Shore, anyone?) Didn't think so.

[ edited by BurkleFreak on 2005-02-03 23:56 ]
beg to differ

I found the Spike Angel dynamic fascinating . I loved the truths that were told in Destiny. I was enthralled by the whole " we were innocent victims once upon a time" idea and by the concept that neither Vamp believed that they could avoid hell. I wouldn't have missed season five for the world... not for the hotness of James but for the insights we gained into a shared past and an uncertain future.
I also think the only reason alot of Buffy fans think Spike is still so cool is because James Marsters is OH SO hot. Which is true, but that does not merit a Spike Spin-off.

I've seen this stated on various fanboards all the time and I find it a bit condescending. It's like saying Spike fans are superficial.

No doubt, I bet most Spike fans thinks James Marsters is hot. I'm willing to bet the same is true for Alexis Denisof, Chistian Kane, David Boreanaz. However, when it comes to those actors, I never see other fans complaining that their fans only want to see them in a movie or spin-off because they're hot. Why are Spike fans so often singled out for these types of comments?

I think James Marsters is such an amazing actor and could easily come back as Spike and use his talents to convey a compelling story using Joss or another ME writers words.

I also agree with debw regarding Spike on AtS.
There's an upside to this; they'll create a bunch of genre shows, and most will be crap, and a couple will be good, and if the wind is blowing in the right direction, enough folks will watch and the numbers will come in and the good ones won't get killed off early. The downside is, I'm gnashing my teeth that that wind didn't change direction in time to save Firefly or Miracles or Wonderfalls, or bring back Angel.

I love Spike, but I can't imagine he can carry a show on his own. (The character, not the actor. James Marsters is a marvel.)
Not dogging James acting abilities either. He totally can act his pants off. Pretend I didn't say pants off and James in the same sentence. It's more so the character that worries me. James could hold his own show, but Spike no. Spike's a dying character.

Spike has in my book very little stories left to tell about him. Besides, the Buffy/Angel/Spike triangle I can't think of a single reason to keep Spike around in the Buffyverse much longer. As much as I love Spike and think he's a great character and is acted very well done by James Marsters, the character is dying people. It'd take a miracle to see a good Spike spin-off work.
You could say the same thing about Angel after season 4, that we knew his history and no more stories to tell, which was way wrong.

The character of Spike, a rebel(vampire) without a cause, there is so much that could have been done. Throw in a sidekick, like Andrew, where they could bounce jokes off each other and still maintain focus. You think Joss wouldnt have stories left??? Spike was a lost soul and decided to join Angel cause thats where the good fight was, now that that fight is over i would have loved to see Spike a lost soul trying to find his way and Andrew helping him. Thats just me though.
Sorry BurkleFreak but i really cannot agree with you on the statement that Spike is a "dying character", other than the fact he is a character that has died of course. :)

In my opinion it is really short sighted to assume that the character of Spike has reached some sort of conclusion. Why is that the case? In real life do you assume that when a person has gone through a specific phase of their life, and that phase is coming to an end, that therefore they no longer have any reason to go on? Of course you don't. Because they will go on to a new phase of their life and their character will change and grow along with the new circumstances. The same goes for Spike.

There is no limit to what they could do with him in a new environment. It's the same as what they did with Angel for his own series. Back when it was first announced that Angel was going to get his own show i can remember many fan comments saying that it would never work, that he was just Buffy's boyfriend and that he wasn't going to be able to hold his own show. However they were wrong. They took Angel and placed him in a whole new setting, gave him new allies and a new mission. Eventually he became a totally different person to what we had seen before, new aspects of his personality appeared. Hell, he even started to show he had a real sense of humour and wasn't just Captain Brood all the time.

Again, the same goes for Spike. Take him away from what has gone before and put him into his own show with all new characters and settings and you will see him continue to grow as a character. Between the Mutant Enemy writers and James himself i'm certain that Spike could become one hell of a lead character, given the chance.
I would trust Joss to come up with abundant new stories for any of the still-living (or, erm, "moving-dead" characters), certainly including Spike.

A Spike-led spin-off would never be my first choice, but that's a YMMV-issue . . . gimme Giles or Willow, or better yet, an entirely new troupe of people, with our beloved characters cameoing in from time to time to mentor and give us fan shout-outs.
A Spike and Illyria show! I know, I'm a broken record...
I'm up for ANY spin off right now!!!
However, there is that whole thing with the Shan Shui (sp?) prophesy.
Did Angel have the right to wipe it out??
Could Spike have been the real recpient?
Just a thought.
I doubt that even the SP had the power to stop a prophecy from happening. Maybe the Black Thorn's only intention was to see just how loyal Angel was to them and if he could be trusted?
I'm disguisted at TV networks. The only reason we are getting all these sci-fi pilots is because Lost did so well. I know in my heart of hearts that if Angel had been on a big network like ABC it would have had at least half as good of ratings as Lost. All these so called "sci-fi" shows are going to saturate the market. Sure we will see a sudden surge in sci-fi viewership, and that's great. My only fear is that all these new sci-fi viewers will see it as just a fad and forget about it much like people are doing with reality TV. TV executives are jackasses. :) Whew.... Goodnight fellow whedonesquers. Is that a word? :)
Yea shotgun wes, that was my concern too.
Also with the lateness of Serenity coming out, ppl maybe all fed up with sci fi movies and see it as a cash in because of Star Wars Episode 3??
Obviously stupid ppl.

Oh and Christopher, yes of course it was just a loyalty thing.
Guess we'll never really find out who gets it.
One day maybe, I hope.
I must rant. I'm finally watching Firefly, having received the DVD set as a gift today. FOX executives are a bunch of dim witted, moronic, jackasses who should not be allowed to procreate.

I watched a few episodes of Firefly when the aired and liked them, but something felt off, and I was out a lot on Fridays. I obviously have long since learned that they showed them out of order, but I never did see the two-part pilot, which I just finished watching, that was fucking amazing. That was the single best pilot ep I've ever seen. It's a lot easier to truly care about these characters when they are introduced properly!

I realize I jumped on this train late, but having just watched it, I had to pitch a little fit. *deep breaths*
I really don't see that the shows being proposed in this article are genuinely "sci-fi/fantasy" shows. They might have the flavor of sci-fi or fantasy, like a chop or steak that's been rubbed with that special spice mixture some of us love, but underneath we're basically still talking about a generic piece of meat.

To my mind, a true genre sci-fi/fantasy show is all about creating a different world altogether where the immersion is complete. If I want reality, I'll go outside my front door, y'know? It's out there every day, waiting to ambush me. I need more than that -- escape, engagement, and the thrill of watching creative teams of actors and artists conjure something out of thin air that's never existed before.

Taking a police procedural, or what have you, and slapping on some weird or occult trappings is just a commercial cop-out. The networks cancelled Angel because of low ratings? Well, we all know sci-fi and fantasy shows are never going to get high ratings on the broadcast networks because historically the mainstream tends to be pretty timid in what it's willing to sample. But that leaves the rest of us who are adventurous, intelligent, and mostly bored out of our skulls by what passes for TV entertainment in general, out in the cold. Some fans, myself included, are only ever going to be deeply engaged by a hard-core immersion in another world, and something set here on Earth with a few odd people or unexplained phenomenon going on isn't going to satisfy that jones.

While it's true that networks buying into the trend of sci-fi/fantasy might get some of these shows on the air, and some of them might even turn out to be decent, I just don't feel in my heart that any of them are going to touch me the way Joss's shows have. I'm happy for TV that the anti-reality message seems to be sinking in at last, but I'm sad that it's too late for Angel, Wonderfalls, Firefly and all the other great genre series that were cut down before their time.

The march of years will sift away the chaff, and these too-smart-for-their-own-good series will remain as others trawling in their wakes are swept away. That's consolation of a sort, but it's not much comfort on the nights when I flip around the channels, looking for something unique that sucks me in and really connects, and come up empty-handed.

Some viewers will be perfectly content with watered-down genre. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be one of them.

[Edit: Welcome to the club of FF love and FOX bitterness, Angela! :) Now you can also appreciate how screwed over Firefly was from the very beginning. I've shown the pilot to several friends who didn't "get" FF on the original run, and to a person they all said, "OH! If I'd seen that first, everything afterwards would have made so much more sense!"]

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2005-02-04 06:11 ]
Absolutely count me in Wiseblood. While the majority of my anger had always been directed at the WB over Angel, I know share my bitter rage equally amongst them and FOX. There is no logical explanation for showing them out of sequence. Having now watched Train Job also, which I did see on TV and enjoyed then, it's infinitely better with the proper foundation having been laid first. I know what I'll be doing this weekend now.
Angela, I share your rage with Fox. Their excuse to not show the pilot first was because they didn't think it set up the show good and lacked action. I was furious when it finally aired, at the end, and saw how brilliant and great it was. What a difference it could've made if they had shown it in the proper order.
Genre television is pretty much all that I'm interested in creating. I didn't climb on any bandwagon with Ragnarok: the Series... more of an in spite of move back last year when I started. And yeah, when you are building the whole damn thing from scratch and creating the pilot indie style it takes that long.

Anyway, I've really looked at what the networks where and are asking for and I've come to the conclusion that all I can do is create what interests me and that happens to be genre.

What we have to keep in mind is that these people are making decisions that put some serious dollars on the line. The least amount that the bill will work out to is in the million dollar ball park. And that is if they end up saying no. Just shooting a full presentation pilot that is never going to air will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Giving the go ahead to a six episode trial run will cost over ten million dollars.

And nobody knows if anyone is going to watch the show.

Do they pick crap to air? Yup.

Do they panic and pull a good show before it has a chance to gather an audience? You betcha. At two plus million an episode there is a lot of reason to panic.

We have to remind ourselves about their real job again (a knotted string tied to an appendage of choice may help... just make sure that it isn't too tight... don't want to cut of the circulation). Their job isn't to put quality programming on the air, their job is to get as many people to watch commercials as possible. That is their product, eyeballs... millions and millions of eyeballs.

And oh boy would I hate that job. I much prefer to be on the creative side of things complaining about how they are a bunch of idiots who wouldn't know a brilliant and original idea if I were to jump them as they were leaving The Ivy and beat them over the head with it.

Not that I would do that.

Ignore the script sitting in the corner embedded in cement... it is a piece of set decoration.

Yeah, that's it, set decoration.
I think quality programming will bring the eyeballs. No doubt, there a plenty of people who watch what I would consider crap. However, there needs to be a balance. Right now, the balance is too heavily skewed on the side of crap.
For some reason I am in a controversial mood today, so I am going to take writers comments about an advertising led TV business model and take it one step further: You always get in life what you pay for.

I don’t live in the US, but in the UK you get daily free newspapers on the train. The journalism is pretty rubbish, but to complain about it would be ridiculous. What do you expect – seriously good writing for no money at all?

It’s the same with the networks. So they go for the lowest common denominator, so they aim to please their advertisers first and foremost, so they are risk averse, so they all jump on the same bandwagon, so they produce clones, so they spew out a lot of cheap programming. So what?

You can ignore it. You have better alternatives. To me, from a distance, for example HBO and The Sundance Channel look like pretty good options, but you have to pay for it. Once you put money on the table, as a client you can demand this, that and the other. If it is for free, well sorry, but you just can’t expect the same level of quality or innovation or catering to your specific tastes. Isn’t that fair?

I agree that network TV produces too much rubbish, but we should marvel that they manage to produce anything at all that is even halfway good, given their business model: as many eyeballs as possible. As cheaply as possible.

And please don’t tell me that cheap rubbish doesn’t sell, if it is pure quantity you are after. Many more people watch soap operas or game shows than quality programming, many more tabloid newspapers are sold every day than quality broadsheets. Just a fact of life.
Many people have pay for cable in order to see the networks because otherwise they'd get no reception. Also, the networks are using a public resource - its not free to them, but its cheaper than having to build you own infrastructure like the cable companys did. So, the comparison to a free daily newspaper doesn't quite hold up.

Also, I acknowledge that having a lot of cheap programming is a necessary evil, nor do I expect them to be at the same level as HBO or other high-end cable broadcasts that can cater to a niche market. By the way, I don't equate cheap with crappy. Arrested Development is a quality show that isn't expensive to make. Lost is proving that quality can bring in eyeballs. All I'm saying is that there seems to be even fewer quality shows these days. They are capable of doing better and we have a right to ask better of them.
Actually, when it comes down to it, there is a fair bit of good television out there. It's just kind of buried under the deluge of the bad.

It is made easier to tune out that bad when you have a PVR that pretty much creates your own network out of the shows you get it to record. I actually have a backlog of shows to watch.

Maybe Joss spoiled us to an extent and we search in vain for a show that can live up to Buffy, Angel or Firefly. (I knew Buffy... and Charmed... you are not Buffy.)

Smallville has gotten quite good and is well worth the time (thanks in part to Steve DeKnight and Drew Greenberg).

Alias if fun to watch (thanks in part to Drew Goddard and Jeff Bell)

While Gilmore Girls isn't the kind of show that interests me, the writing is great (I'm sure in part to Jane Espenson and Rebecca Rand Kirshner)

Call the OC cheesy soap if you must but gimme some o’ that Cohen banter (thanks in part to Drew Greenberg and Jane Espenson)

And I can't say too many good things about Lost (thanks in part to David Fury, Brent Fletcher and Drew Goddard... is there a pattern here?)

This is almost turning into a "One degree of Mutant Enemy" game eh?

Well Battlestar Galactica is great and doesn't have any- oh wait, Zoic is doing the SFX so does that count?

Simpsons is still watchable

Family Guy is coming back and American Dad is starting right about now.

Arrested Development is a sitcom that is actually funny! Who’da thunk?

24 is still riveting - much to my surprise.

The Simple Life - ha! Just threw that in there to make sure you were paying attention.

Las Vegas ain’t great television but it is enjoyable. (Rebecca Rand Kirshner gets the 1 degree of ME for that one too)

Veronica Mars is decent and has been referred to as “the new Buffy”... but I see it more as the Chloe Sullivan spin off from Smallville. (and since Allison is going to be on it I guess that gets the 1 degree of ME)

I've heard good things about the following but haven't managed to carve out the time to watch them:

Boston Legal
The Shield
The West Wing

And new series in development have some promise:

Darkside is being looked at because of Lost... but I won’t hold that against it.
Motel Man
Night Stalker
Painkiller Jane
Ridley Scott’s untitled werehuman series

I left Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivale and the upcoming Rome off since they are on pay cable and this was about what the broadcast networks are airing.

So while there is a lot of quality television out there it just kind of pales compared to that one bright shining moment when there were three Mutant Enemy shows on the air.
Most of your list doesn't make it on my list. There's nothing wrong with wanting something better.
My list includes Gilmore Girls, Boston Legal, House, Monk, The Shield and the West Wing. I don't watch any of them but as a writer who really studies a show (at least one episode of each) I feel that these are quality productions. The writing, directing, acting, editing is all good... they're just not shows that I would watch.

You could take the complete cast and crew of any one of those shows and wrap them around a concept that appeals to me and I'd be glued to the television.

I try to divorce the concept of "good" television from the admittedly narrow confines of what interests me personally.
writer, your first paragraph eloquently stated why I am giving Point Pleasant a generous amount of space to grow on me: too much quality talent (in front of and behind the camera) to dismiss easily. I have a couple of episodes on the DVR that I haven't seen yet.
LOL ... those are the ones on your previous list that I agreed with you on! The rest, not so much. I don't watch all of them, but I concur that they're good even if they don't all appeal to me personally. It seems like there was a time when I used to eagerly look forward to 3-5 shows a week, now that's down to 1-2. There are more that qualify as "good," but I wouln't go out of way not to miss them. I'd like to look forward to more can't miss shows. If those in charge of programming, whether its the networks or cable, I think its reasonable to let them know what would interest me. Or at the very least, to complain about what I find to be absolutely awful.
Why does the world want to spite us

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