Broadcast Fall 2011: Fantasy Over Sci-Fi

The broadcast networks have announced their new season line-ups, and with a few exceptions, they’re full of genre shows that seem more like fantasy and supernatural stories as opposed to hard science fiction. Let’s dig in, shall we?

ABC:

“Once Upon a Time” is another genre show that’s wrapped up in supernatural/fairy tale tropes rather than science fiction. But it’s got Robert Carlysle in it, so it can’t be all bad. Right? Initial comments on ABC’s message board don’t look too encouraging. It seems the alphabet network has pulled the plug on too many genre shows to have track record of supporting their product (“Flash Forward”, “Pushing Daisies”, “V”, “Eastwick”, “The Gates”, etc.)

From the ABC web site:

From the inventive minds of Lost executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis comes a bold new imagining of the world, where fairy tales and the modern-day are about to collide.

And they all lived happily ever after – or so everyone was led to believe. Emma Swan (STAR TREK’s Jennifer Morrison) knows how to take care of herself. She’s a 28-year-old bail bonds collector who’s been on her own ever since she was abandoned as a baby. But when the son she gave up years ago finds her, everything starts to change. Henry (Jared Gilmore) is now 10 years old and in desperate need of Emma’s help. He believes that Emma actually comes from an alternate world and is Snow White and Prince Charming’s missing daughter. According to his book of fairytales, they sent her away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse, which trapped the fairytale world forever, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world. Of course Emma doesn’t believe a word, but when she brings Henry back to Storybrooke, she finds herself drawn to this unusual boy and his strange New England town. Concerned for Henry, she decides to stay for a while, but she soon suspects that Storybrooke is more than it seems. It’s a place where magic has been forgotten, but is still powerfully close… where fairytale characters are alive, even though they don’t remember who they once were. The epic battle for the future of all worlds is beginning, but for good to win, Emma will have to accept her destiny and fight like hell.

◊◊◊◊

CBS:

The eyeball network is hoping to get eyeballs on these shows:

Official Synopsis:

PERSON OF INTEREST stars Jim Caviezel, Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson and Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson in a crime thriller about a presumed dead former-CIA agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes by using their own brand of vigilante justice. Reese’s (Caviezel) special training in covert operations appeals to Finch (Emerson), a software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes.

Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law using Reese’s adept skills and Finch’s unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the person of interest and stop the crime before it happens. Reese’s actions catch the attention of the NYPD, including homicide detective Carter (Henson), and Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a cop who Reese uses to his advantage. With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything. Emmy Award winners J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk (“Lost”), Academy Award nominee Jonathan Nolan (“Memento”), David Semel (“Heroes”) and Greg Plageman (“Cold Case”) are the executive producers for Warner Bros. Television.

No official trailer for this one, but the preview gives you some idea. This seems to be “Ghost Whisperer” blended with a hospital procedural. Maybe.

Official Synopsis:

A GIFTED MAN is a drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the “hereafter.” Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is an exceptional doctor who lives a materialistic life of luxury thanks to his work-obsessed career and powerful and wealthy patients; however, Michael’s ordered world is rocked when his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), an idealistic free-clinic doctor and the love of his life, mysteriously appears to him. Michael’s off-beat sister, Christina (Julie Benz), a single mom to her teenaged son, Milo (Liam Aiken), is thrilled that Anna’s back in her brother’s life, even as an “illusion,” because Michael was always a better person with her. Curious about Michael’s sudden change in behavior is his efficient assistant, Rita (Margo Martindale). When Anna asks Michael to go to her clinic to help keep it running, he meets Autumn (Afton Williamson), a volunteer carrying on Anna’s work with the underprivileged. Touched by those in need and accepting of Anna’s compassionate “presence,” Michael’s attitude toward serving the rich and poor is turned upside down, and he begins to see that there’s room in his life for everyone. Academy Award nominee Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”), Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”), Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly and Neal Baer (“ER”) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.

◊◊◊◊

CW:

The little network that could is bringing back “Supernatural” and “The Vampire Diaries”, along with “Nikita” (which technically isn’t genre, but it’s Maggie Q…) The only new genre-ish show will be “The Secret Circle”, another supernatural-themed show. Not technically science fiction, but it’s genre.

Official Synopsis:

Cassie Blake was a happy, normal teenage girl – until her mother Amelia dies in what appears to be a tragic accidental fire. Orphaned and deeply saddened, Cassie moves in with her warm and loving grandmother Jane in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington – the town her mother left so many years before – where the residents seem to know more about Cassie than she does about herself. As Cassie gets to know her high school classmates, including sweet-natured Diana and her handsome boyfriend Adam, brooding loner Nick, mean-girl Faye and her sidekick Melissa, strange and frightening things begin to happen. When her new friends explain that they are all descended from powerful witches, and they’ve been waiting for Cassie to join them and complete a new generation of the Secret Circle, Cassie refuses to believe them – until Adam shows her how to unlock her incredible magical powers. But it’s not until Cassie discovers a message from her mother in an old leather-bound book of spells hidden in her mother’s childhood bedroom, that she understands her true and dangerous destiny. What Cassie and the others don’t yet know is that darker powers are at play, powers that might be linked to the adults in the town, including Diana’s father and Faye’s mother – and that Cassie’s mother’s death might not have been an accident.

The series stars Britt Robertson as Cassie Blake, Thomas Dekker as Adam Conant, Gale Harold as Charles Meade, Phoebe Tonkin as Fay Chamberlain, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Melissa, Shelley Hennig as Diana Meade, Louis Hunter as Nick, Ashley Crow as Jane Blake and Natasha Henstridge as Dawn Chamberlain. Based upon the book series by L.J. Smith (author of “The Vampire Diaries” book series), THE SECRET CIRCLE is from Outerbanks Entertainment and Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios with executive producers Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Scream,” “Dawson’s Creek”), Andrew Miller (“Imaginary Bitches”), Leslie Morgenstein (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Gossip Girl”) and Gina Girolamo. Elizabeth Craft (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Lie to Me”) & Sarah Fain (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Lie to Me”) were executive producers on the pilot which was directed by Liz Friedlander (“The Vampire Diaries,” “90210”).

◊◊◊◊

FOX:

Fox is another network that has left a bad taste in the mouths of genre fans, leaving the bodies of “Dollhouse”, “Firefly”, and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” gathering worms before fans were ready to see them go.

“Alcatraz” has the Bad Robot pedigree, which doesn’t always mean television gold. “Fringe” has had a rocky track.

Official synopsis:

From executive producer J.J. Abrams (FRINGE, “Lost,” Star Trek and the upcoming Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Super 8) and writer and executive producer Elizabeth Sarnoff (“Lost,” “Deadwood”) comes ALCATRAZ, the chilling new thriller centered on America’s most infamous prison and one-time home to the nation’s most notorious murderers, rapists, kidnappers and thieves.

When San Francisco Police Department DET. REBECCA MADSEN (Sarah Jones, “Sons of Anarchy”) is assigned to a grisly homicide case, a fingerprint leads her to a shocking suspect: JACK SYLVANE (guest star Jeffrey Pierce, “The Nine”), a former Alcatraz inmate who died decades ago. Given her family history – both her grandfather and surrogate uncle, RAY ARCHER (Robert Forster, “Jackie Brown”), were guards at the prison – Madsen’s interest is immediately piqued, and once the enigmatic, knows-everything-but-tells-nothing government agent EMERSON HAUSER (Sam Neill, “Jurassic Park”) tries to impede her investigation, she’s doggedly committed. Madsen turns to Alcatraz expert and comic book enthusiast, DR. DIEGO “DOC” SOTO (Jorge Garcia, “Lost”), to piece together the inexplicable sequence of events. The twosome discovers that Sylvane is not only alive, but he’s loose on the streets of San Francisco, leaving bodies in his wake. And strangely, he hasn’t aged a day since he was in Alcatraz, when the prison was ruled by the iron-fisted WARDEN EDWIN JAMES (Jonny Coyne, “Undercovers”) and the merciless ASSOCIATE WARDEN E.B. TILLER (Jason Butler Harner, “The Changeling”).

ALCATRAZ is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television. The series is executive-produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk (FRINGE) and Elizabeth Sarnoff. Steven Lilien (“Kyle XY”) & Bryan Wynbrandt (“Kyle XY”) and Sarnoff wrote the pilot, and Danny Cannon (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami”) directed and executive-produced the pilot.

And then there’s what looks to be the most expensive genre show that’s actually science fiction. If you’re into all that wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff:

Official synopsis:

From executive producers Steven Spielberg, Peter Chernin, René Echevarria and Brannon Braga comes an epic family adventure 85 million years in the making.

TERRA NOVA follows an ordinary family on an incredible journey back in time to prehistoric Earth as a small part of a daring experiment to save the human race. In the year 2149, the world is dying. The planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded, with the majority of plant and animal life extinct. The future of mankind is in jeopardy, and its only hope for survival is in the distant past.

Even more threatening than what lies outside the protective walls of the colony is the chilling possibility that something sinister is happening inside Terra Nova. The Shannons will come to suspect that not everyone on this mission has the same idea of how to best save mankind; in fact, there may be forces intent on destroying this new world before it even begins.

TERRA NOVA is produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Chernin Entertainment, DreamWorks Television and Kapital Entertainment. Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan), Peter Chernin, René Echevarria (“Castle”), Brannon Braga (“24”), Jon Cassar (“24”), Aaron Kaplan, Katherine Pope, Justin Falvey (“United States of Tara”), Darryl Frank (“The Borgias”), Craig Silverstein (“Nikita”) and Kelly Marcel serve as executive producers. Alex Graves (FRINGE) directed and served as executive producer of the series premiere.

◊◊◊◊

NBC:

“Chuck” fans need to make a note that the show is coming back on FRIDAY as a lead-in to “Grimm”. And it’s very likely this will be the last season for Project Bartowski. So make it count.

What’s going to happen now that ________________ has the Intersect and the ____________ has gone ________?

[What? You think I’m going to get spoilery on you?]

And “Grimm” is the show that beat out Ronald D. Moore’s mini-BSG reunion project “17th Precinct”, a police procedural set in a world where science and magic co-exist (no, not Asgard…)

Official synopsis:

“Grimm” is a new drama series inspired by the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Remember the fairy tales your parents used to tell you before bedtime? Those weren’t stories — they were warnings. Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli “Turn The Beat Around”) thought he prepared himself for the realities of working as a homicide detective until he started seeing things he couldn’t quite explain. When his ailing Aunt Marie (guest star Kate Burton, “Grey’s Anatomy”) arrives, Nick’s life turns upside down when she reveals they are descendants of an elite group of hunters, also known as “Grimms,” who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world. As Nick digs deeper into her past, he realizes that he will have to shoulder the responsibility of his ancestors — and contend with a larger-than-life mythology of the Brothers Grimm that is now all too real. Russell Hornsby (“Lincoln Heights”), Bitsie Tulloch (“Quarterlife”), Silas Weir Mitchell (“Prison Break”), Reggie Lee (“Persons Unknown”) and Sasha Roiz (“Caprica”) also star.

“Grimm” is a production of Universal Media Studios and Hazy Mills Productions. Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner (“Hot in Cleveland”) serve as executive producers, Jim Kouf (“National Treasure,” “Angel”) and David Greenwalt (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”) are the creators/executive producers and Marc Buckland (“My Name Is Earl”) is the director.

“Awake” is currently slated for mid-season. It’s an intriguing concept, perhaps one of the more original items on the menu. What would you do if you had to split your time between the two people you love in different planes of existence?

Official synopsis:

“Awake” is an intriguing drama about a detective (Jason Isaacs, “Harry Potter,” “Brotherhood”) who finds he is leading an arduous double life that defies reality. When Detective Michael Britten (Isaacs) regains consciousness following his family’s car accident, he is told that his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, “Terriers”) perished but that his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, “Saving Grace”), has survived. As he tries to put the pieces of his life back together, he awakens again in a parallel reality in which his wife is very much alive — but his son Rex died in the accident. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive at one time, he begins living two dueling realities in parallel worlds, which churns up confusion — in one moment, Michael and his wife debate about having another child to replace their son, while in the other reality, he is attracted to his son’s tennis coach, Tara (Michaela McManus, “The Vampire Diaries”), to fill the void from the loss of his wife. Trying to regain some normalcy, Michael returns to police work and solves crimes in both worlds with the help of two different partners — Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris, “The Practice”) and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, “That ’70s Show”). Also starring are Emmy Award winner Cherry Jones (“24”) and BD Wong (NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) as therapists in each respective world.

The series is produced by 20th Century Fox Television. Kyle Killen (“Lone Star”) and Howard Gordon (“24”) are executive producers. David Slade (“Twilight: Eclipse,” “30 Days of Night”) also serves as executive producer and directed the pilot written by Killen.

And we all know NBC passed on the David E. Kelley train-wreck-to-be that he was calling *cough* “Wonder Woman” *cough*

‘scuze me. Something in my throat.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella “The Hero At the End Of His Rope”. His short film “Species Felis Dominarus” was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel’s 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “Broadcast Fall 2011: Fantasy Over Sci-Fi

  • May 20, 2011 at 12:24 am
    Permalink

    Awake sounds like the best of the lot.
    Because, well regardless of how good/bad PERSON OF INTEREST or ALCATRAZ is, I’ll watch anything by Abrahms, especially when one’s got a Nolan involved.

    And Robert Carlysle is all I need for the Fairy Tale stuff. I’m down for a Sci-Fi Jurassic Park. The rest… eh.

    But Awake… damn. I just hope it doesn’t take a while to grow and get’s canceled either 6 episodes in or after the first season.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2011 at 11:31 am
      Permalink

      The challenge “Awake” will have is keeping the audience straight as to which “reality” they’re watching, especially as it seems like those two are going to start overlapping at some point. If the audience isn’t fully invested in these characters enough to stick with it and pay attention, the show could lose numbers quickly.

      It’s interesting how most of these “genre” shows are staying away from the hard science fiction that’s been part of shows like “The Event” and “V”. Maybe the suits think no one wants to watch aliens and spaceships. They tend to miss our need for good writing.

      Reply

Hailing Frequencies Open...

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
%d bloggers like this: