Friday, March 14, 2014


'COSMOS': Ship of the Imagination hovers over Earth
Science, science fiction and the paranormal all continue to fascinate on the small screen as we enter another “mini-season” this spring.  And, though the producers of shows like THE 100, still don’t understand SF is not just for teenagers, there are enough new ideas being floated to be encouraging to SF/SFR fans.

The biggest thrill this season will not come from any fictional speculation on our place in the galaxy, though.  For those of us with a jones for anything space, the premiere of the magnificently reimagined COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY on Fox, FX and National Geographic networks is far more exciting than any other new show.  This new take on Carl Sagan’s classic ‘80’s journey through the universe is directed by STAR TREK’s Brannon Braga, produced by Seth McFarlane (!) and  hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a scientist with a style and reputation all his own.  

The first episode certainly lived up to the expectations generated by the COSMOS creative team, with eye-catching visuals and Tyson’s charismatic presence guiding us through the space-and-timeline we’ll be investigating.  There was even a touching personal tribute to Carl Sagan from Tyson, who met him as a teenager. With state-of-the-art graphics and 30 years of new science to play with, the rest of this 13-week series is guaranteed to blow our minds—and to inspire a whole new generation of young science nerds!

The other new show clearly aimed at science (fiction) fans this spring is THE 100, scheduled to debut March 19 on, of course, The CW.  Based on Kass Morgan’s novel of the same name, the show follows a band of juvenile delinquents sent down from an orbiting space station to “explore” an Earth devastated by nuclear holocaust in advance of a recolonization attempt.  Think Lord of the Flies meets, I don’t know, Red Mars.  Of course, according to TV Guide, the action will include the perquisite “parolees battl[ing] one another, hormones and unnamed horrors” on the Earth’s surface, while above in the space station manipulating adults scheme to rule the reclaimed world.  Really.  I’m bored already.  

But, okay, I haven’t seen it yet, and I’ve been surprised before.  See my comments below on the eyebrow-raising turns taken by REVOLUTION and Syfy’s HELIX.
The other two shows of interest this spring —BELIEVE and RESURRECTION—seem to land more squarely on the paranormal side of the continuum, though they may both end up offering a more “rational” explanation for what’s going on.  Both tend in a more spiritual direction and both focus attention in the beginning on young children, but that’s where the similarities end. 

In BELIEVE (Mondays on NBC), a young girl is identified (and tracked from birth by both good guys and bad guys) because of her powers of telekinesis, empathy/telepathy, and possibly more.  In the first episode, the good guys spring a man from death row to be her protector.  At first it seems a classic case of an odd-couple pairing, and the chemistry between the two actors (Johnny Sequoya as the girl, Jake McLaughlin as the inmate) supports their alternately squabbling-and-intrigued relationship.  But there is a reason they are brought together (isn’t there always?), and it’s deeper than the nonstop action implies.

 J.J. Abrams and Alphonso Cuaron are behind this show; it’s worth a watch just to see what two of the most creative minds working onscreen today will do with this premise.

RESURRECTION (Sundays on ABC) offers a slower pace and a more reflective tone, clearly asking questions of a spiritual nature.  When an eight-year-old American boy awakens in a rice paddy in China, he sets in motion a series of events that disrupts the lives of everyone he comes in contact with, including those in his hometown of Arcadia, Missouri.  The boy (Landon Jimenez) is identified as Jacob Langston.  The only problem:  Jacob Langston of Arcadia, Missouri, drowned more than 30 years ago.

Producer Aaron Zelman (DAMAGES) says the resolution of this story will take a while to play out, but that this is not a science fiction story.  “It’s about healing, grief and loss.  Human things.”  (Apparently, Mr. Zelman hasn’t heard that SF can also address these human emotions.)  Okay, so it’s not about alien abduction.  I forgive him.  The pilot was worth watching, and I’ll keep watching for a while.

Meanwhile, several SF shows are continuing along satisfactory courses.  ALMOST HUMAN, although not living up to its initial promise, continues to entertain, thanks mostly to the chemistry between Karl Urban and Michael Ealy.  The tech is still cool, but the plots rarely rise above your basic police procedural, despite the futuristic setting.  I hope the show survives to find its footing.

REVOLUTION started out with a distinctly young-adult skew, but quickly discovered SF is for grown-ups and focused more of its story on the adults in the ensemble.  The plot’s zigs and zags have kept me tuning in for more, and the testy romance between Miles and Elisabeth has been both well-written and convincingly acted.  If you haven’t been following this show, time to Netflix.

Finally, the first episodes of a limited series on Syfy, HELIX, were laughably awful, but somehow the show gained traction around the third episode and has been worth watching ever since.  Thank God for DVR, or I would have dismissed this show out of hand.  I had several episodes backed up and nothing much else to do, so I watched, gradually becoming more engrossed in a story with more and more twisty plot turns. Good guys turned slightly bad; bad guys suddenly started looking good as new, more evil villains appeared (and ain’t that the way of the world!).  What looked like your typical zombies meet THE THING plot has become something much better. Now I don’t know what those things are! Bravo for creator Cameron Porsandeh, who seems to have made something out of nothing.

That’s the report from my TV—what have you been watching?

Cheers, Donna

1 comment:

  1. Not only is it Sci-Fi, it's Carl Sagan-based Sci-Fi! Haven't even seen it yet and I think I'm in love!

    Thanks for the fantastic review, Donna.


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