Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Time-Traveling Clock Teasers

I'm sitting here, basking in another satisfying Lost afterglow, trying to blog about something else entirely, watching yet another, horrible episode of The Unusuals, wondering who the hell! thought this show could've possibly been a good idea. OK, I've always liked Harold Perrineau, and Adam Goldberg is the Hebrew Hammer; I'm still trying to figure out if Amber Tamblyn's cute or not, but Monique Gabriela Curnen most definitely is (though she could really use a catchier name). Anyway, I don't want to waste too many electrons on this crap show. It's going to be canceled soon enough. What really upsets me is that they canceled a perfectly functioning show in order to put this high-definition dung on the air.

Yes. I know I was probably 1/10 of Life on Mars' fan base, but it was a good show. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but with the dearth of good, hour-long programming on the networks, I don't understand why they just didn't give it a shot.

For those who don't know, Life on Mars was an American remake of a successful, 16-episode British series. In the ABC version, Jason O'Mara plays a modern-day cop who gets hit by a car and is mysteriously transported to the early '70s New York Police Department. O'Mara suffers through the usual time-traveling culture shock (you know, police brutality, sexism, drinking on the job were all cool in the '70s--of course, throw in killing unarmed black folks and you've got Giuliani's NYPD) while trying to get back home to the present. I was willing to ignore my usual disdain for Harvey Keitel (who hasn't been cool since Taxi Driver) as O'Mara's lieutenant because Michael Imperioli was absolutely brilliant as an anti-PC po-lice.

As I said, I wouldn't say LoM was brilliant, but it was fun. Even Gretchen Moll as the lone Angie Dickinson was growing on me, and it was a good complementary follow-up to Lost. But ABC wouldn't even let the damned thing last an entire season. One week I'm watching the show, going, "Ooh, that was a good episode," only to watch an advertisement a minute later, imploring me to watch the Series Finale!

Of course, I don't know why I was in the least bit surprised. I mean, ABC is the same network that contracted the 13-episode mini-series, Day Break, to spell lost for a couple months, and canceled the damned thing seven episodes in to flood the airways with more piss-poor episodes of Life According to Jim.

I'm still trying to figure out what was wrong with Day Break. It was a highly-stylized murder-mystery-meets-Groundhog-Day with a jam sexy cast. No, seriously, look at 'em! Moon Bloodgood, Meta Golding, Victoria Pratt! We all know the sistas love them some Taye Diggs, and even I've got to admit that Ramon Rodriguez is ... well ... pretty.

Now, I realize that Jim Belushi must give good noggin. I mean, how else could you explain how According to Jim has lasted this long? But what money shot was worth re-running his abysmal show instead of just letting this clever show run its course? Like 13 episodes ever hurt anyone.

Of course, ABC is not the only network to disappoint me--or Moon Bloodgood--with their abortive flirtations with science fiction and time travel. In '07 they premiered and abruptly canceled Journeyman. Kevin McKidd played a journalist whose life is turned upside down when he starts time traveling for absolutely no reason. Moon Bloodgood was an ex-girlfriend and guide who tried to help him figure out the mystery.

This one was looking like it was going to be a good one. It took about three episodes for my wife and I to get hooked. Then, on the thirteenth episode, my wife and I were getting this weird feeling. At the end, I turned to her, and said, "I think that might've been the finale." We went online to find out that they'd just canceled the show with barely any warning.

Look, I understand, Americans don't like science fiction. After a century of Buck Rogers and 40 years of the Star Trek/Star Wars paradigm, most people think of SF as space opera claptrap that appeals only to the pubescent mind. Adults, serious adults with brains of their own, who can think and reason, can never go in for that kids' stuff. If it's science fiction, they know they don't like it. And if they do like it (like Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife or a bunch of Margaret Atwood--who will cut you if you dare even suggest any of her work is science fiction), then it simply can't be science fiction. Or, as one of my co-workers put it to me once, "Oh, but it's so much more."

(We all know none of you Lost fans would ever consider that show SF.)

And, before thou doth protest too much, remember, I wrote a science fiction novel. I know of what I speak. I've seen the contempt firsthand. On tour, when people would ask me what kind of novel Sunshine Patriots was and I'd reply, "Science fiction," folks would turn up their noses and screw up their faces as though I'd said, "But wait! There's more! I've also brought along my genital fungus!!!"

So yeah, I get it. You don't like science fiction. You don't like time travel. I don't understand why the major networks don't understand. I don't understand why they even have to try to air shows like Life on Mars and Journey Man. I don't understand why they just don't let those shows have a chance on cable. Why do they have to give my cable-less ass hope? Why do they keep teasing me? Why do they insist on dry-humping me with the likes of Day Break only to cut me off short just when it's starting to get good?

Why, David? Why, Dexter? Why???

The Big 3 Networks keep complaining about losing viewers (maybe "Big" groups should stop coming in threes). So, if nobody's watching them, why not give some of these shows--even if they're science fiction--a little time to see if you can actually grow an audience? Pop culture has become a casino over the years, and everybody wants to hit the jackpot. These networks forget that both Bob Newhart and Cheers were absolute flops their first seasons, and they're still making money off of those shows.

So, why not give the next Journey Man or Life on Mars a shot? Ride it out a season or two. See how it goes. Maybe you'll ultimately have a gen-you-wine, boney-fide hit on your hands. Or at least I can stop having to take cold showers and sit around waiting for the DVD in order to finally be satisfied.


RonStrelecki said...

How do you have time to watch TV, raise a daughter, write, and read 50 books a week? I think YOU are the one with a time machine!

Sue Jacquette said...

I know, I can't believe they canceled life on mars either. Lost was great last night, though!