[ New messages · Members · Forum rules · Search · RSS ]
Page 1 of 3123»
Summer-Glau.com Forum » Filmography » Other movies/shows » Terra Nova and other sci-fi shows try to be family dramas
Terra Nova and other sci-fi shows try to be family dramas
chrisdvanneDate: Friday, 30 Sep 2011, 12:08 | Message # 1
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
I just watched high-hyped Terra Nova (and enjoyed it btw) but what striked me is that the show has a tendency to emphasize on the family drama aspects.
From my experience as a sci-fi watcher, this is a pattern in recent sci-fi history and this has not proved its efficiency in terms of what the audience is looking for imo.

As you may know the airing of the show has been postponed several times (for post-production reasons in particular) but i also read that the finale release of the pilot has been changed so that it insisted more on the Shannon family and it shows clearly when you watch the pilot.

Terra Nova has three legs : first the building of a new civilization in a hostile environment (dinosaures!!!), then the adventures of the Shannon family and then the overarching mithology (ala Lost).

Of course the pilot has barely scratched the first and third points and we will discover more in the following episodes but we have already a pretty good draw of the family plots around the Shannon family : here is the mom, who is the center of the family, the dad with a tendency for punching, the older emo teen boy, the genius teen daughter and the little kid.



If you look back at the sci-fi shows of the sixties, seventies or even heighties, they didn't have to rely on the family tension to work; think to Twillight Zone, Star Trek, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Millions Dollar Man, Cosmos 1999, Quantum Leap, Stargate SG-1 or Knight Rider. Of course it was easier for in space series to avoid the family drama because aliens and space battles are a strong point by themselves but even earth-based series like Quantum Leap did not use that string. The writers and the networks considered the sci-fi element was at the center of the show even if there was an emotional story on each episode (most of them were procedurials).

The weight of the family drama element in sci-fi shows is something relatively new but it's a strong pattern these days; Battlestar Galactica (new edition) is a example of this evolution if you compared it to the original serie who has less family tension but i would rather characterise it as character development and not family drama bacause the show had a military enviromment that avoid the family tension to go in every direction.

A typical element of the family, in science fiction series, that seems to focalise all the criticism is the emo rebellious teenage boy, played by Josh in Terra Nova; this character is usually boring, not well played most of the time and mostly bad written.
A few other examples in recent sci-fi show are Kyle in The 4400, Jeremy in The Vampire Diares, or Tyler in V.



But why do the audience dislike them and want them dead from the first episode of the show? Because the writers are representing them in the exact same (bad) way, aka an emo teenager with exaggerated rebellious feelings towards his mother or father. This characterisation is not the fruit of a character development, it is thrown to the face of the audience who immediately feels the disproportion and the lack of credibility of these scenes. They act like annoying jerks like in Terra Nova when Josh
blame his father for not being with them for seven years.

What is the common trait of teenagers and why do writers like them so much? Because what teenagers do best are mistakes and then the adults have no other solution but to repair the mistakes they made, hence the rescue scenes against slahers in Terra Nova. But this is lazy writing and Terra Nova should not abuse of it; alas i guess we we'll hear a lot of "Where is Zoe?" or "Have you seen Zoe?" in the next episodes. Is Zoe the ultimate second name in sci-fi these days btw? Think to Zoe Graystone in Caprica, Zoe Adams (Skylar's daughter) in Alphas or Zoe Shannon in the case of Terra Nova. And no, Zoe deschanel doesn't count.
More, the writers thought it was not enough to have the heros son lost in the hostile jungle, they had to throw in Tasha, daughter of the Security chief to add tension, which was completely unnecessary and illustrates my fears of seing the family drama take precedence over the adventures or the mythology.
Terra Nova's executives producers have said there will be dinos on each episodes but you know my personal number one rule by heart now : don't believe them!

Featuring an entire family and all the problems that goes with it leads to a lot of exposition and Terra Nova's pilot was full of it, compared to Lost pilot for example. I have lost the count of the times the Shannons pronounced the word 'family' at 57 which is pretty much, even for a two hour pilot.

Recently, shows like V or No Ordinary Family or The Cape suffered from an abundance of angst teen and family dramas; i'm not saying it was the cause of their cancellation but it sure did not help. One sure thing is that the family drama were not correctly handled by the writers. Though they're not the only ones to blame because the ones who calls for more family drama are not necesaary the writers but the networks executives who are chasing a chimera : they expect to have a sci-fi tv show who can be seen by the whole family at home, from the teenager to the grandma. I remember the pathetic attempt of The Cape's creator Tom Wheeler who tried to sell The Cape as a program likely to interest the whole family when he realised the comics fans were not hooked to the concept.
Never forget that creativity and intelligent writing will always be secondary elements compared to the capacity of a show to attract a targeted audience, that the network could then sell to advertisers.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
BlaziusDate: Saturday, 01 Oct 2011, 01:41 | Message # 2
Group: Friends
Messages: 1200
Status: Offline
This pretty much sums up why I prefer the old sci-fi shows to the newer ones. I hate the family drama, it bores me to death. I'm watching sci-fi because I want to step into a new world, explore it, see interesting, epic stories unfold etc. I hate whiney emo kid and his issues( Anakin in SW is the movie version BTW and didn't help the reputation of the prequel trilogies), I have no idea who this kind of character could entertain anyone. Old sci-fis didn't have things like this.

Star Trek TNG had Wesley for a time but disappeared quickly because most viewers wanted him to be gutted by a Klingon or whatever. Most of the time those shows focused on crews or marines, they weren't even a family. They developed the interesting universe and the plot instead.

Its not helping that nowadays sci-fi is based on Earth in our own era. Its even harder this way to create something unique and interesting, the writers have to be really good to do that and many times they aren't that good IMO.

TSCC done it right, thats my favorite Earth-based sci-fi to date. However even that were plagued by Riley and John turning into emo-kid in the second season.

Its not that they have to eliminate character development. There were many good character driven but space based sci-fis too like Babylon 5( its an ingenious show BTW and a must see if you missed that, said to be Losts ancestor and even superior to Lost).

It'd definitely be better if they reverted back to the old formula IMO. They won't attract non-scifi fans this way but will lose many fans in turn.

And the old sci-fis were pretty sellable that time BTW.


Summer Glau is so awesome, it isn't even funny!
Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!
 
FordStaffDate: Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 04:25 | Message # 3
Group: Friends
Messages: 507
Status: Offline
Quote

Recently, shows like V or No Ordinary Family or The Cape suffered from an abundance of angst teen and family dramas; i'm not saying it was the cause of their cancellation but it sure did not help. One sure thing is that the family drama were not correctly handled by the writers. Though they're not the only ones to blame because the ones who calls for more family drama are not necesaary the writers but the networks executives who are chasing a chimera : they expect to have a sci-fi tv show who can be seen by the whole family at home, from the teenager to the grandma.


Even if family drama is handled well it should not be the focus in a Science Fiction show. Trying to attract non Science Fiction fans to the genre through this tactic is just alienating the SF fans that are already entrenched. At the very least angst in Science Fiction should be related to the story (ex. - the experimentation on River in Firefly). I believe this is far more acceptable to the SF audience based on my experience.

Quote
I'm watching sci-fi because I want to step into a new world, explore it, see interesting, epic stories unfold etc. I hate whiney emo kid and his issues( Anakin in SW is the movie version BTW and didn't help the reputation of the prequel trilogies), I have no idea who this kind of character could entertain anyone. Old sci-fis didn't have things like this.


I think the vast majority of SF fans are so for the exact same reasons. While good characters (not that a whiny teen is a good character) and character development can make a good science fiction show great, it is not the main characteristic of the SF genre. Science Fiction shows should not be focusing on creating drama between the characters if that detracts from the exploration of it's universe. The drama should flow naturally from the story.


Keep Flying - Not much, but it's enough.

Message edited by FordStaff - Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 04:28
 
chrisdvanneDate: Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 12:26 | Message # 4
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
The four main broadcast networks cannot afford to have a niche sci-fi tv show on their schedule because the ratings are not high enough to insure the ads revenue necessary to their survival; it seems that Lost and Heroes were the only sci-fi series that attracted a lot of viewers in recent tv history and the networks are desesperately trying to replace them, without much success so far (see Flashward or The Event).

Terra Nova had all the ingredients to be big by itself, without adding too much family tension, and still the producers filled the show with it. More, the two-hour pilot was promising but it was followed by two boring stand-alone episodes that could have been shown in every other serie, thus completely missing the originality of Terra Nova as well as the serialized elements unveiled in the pilot. Talk about loosing the momentum! Whereas a new serie must hit big right from the start to hook an audience. That doesn't bode well for the future of the show.

The audience for sci-fi series on television is still there imo, waiting for a good serie to show up. You just have to take a look at the box office of the sci-fi movies to prove it; yet it seems the movie-goers are ready to watch a two hour movie packed with action and adventure but they're not willing to put a lot of themselves into a serie that you have to follow every week. That's a trend i deplore and tv writers/producers have not found a suitable solution.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
chrisdvanneDate: Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 14:19 | Message # 5
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
Even US cable channel HBO seem to be prejudiced toward sci-fi shows because they insisted that their new drama, China Doll, about, “a successful California construction subcontractor, his Asian American wife who is a university professor, and an humanoid robot as they straddle both sides of the Pacific with extended families on two continents” is not a sci-fi show.

"Not a sci-fi show", despite the frackin' humanoid robot!!

It looks like an intelligent, character driven serie with a sentient robot cannot be a sci-fi serie. Maybe TSCC was not sci-fi after all, it was just the fight of a diagnosed-with-cancer mother who didn't want to loose her only son to a Summer-Glau-lookalike robot.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
BlaziusDate: Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 19:42 | Message # 6
Group: Friends
Messages: 1200
Status: Offline
Quote (michelangelo)
Terra Nova had all the ingredients to be big by itself, without adding too much family tension, and still the producers filled the show with it. More, the two-hour pilot was promising but it was followed by two boring stand-alone episodes that could have been shown in every other serie, thus completely missing the originality of Terra Nova as well as the serialized elements unveiled in the pilot. Talk about loosing the momentum! Whereas a new serie must hit big right from the start to hook an audience. That doesn't bode well for the future of the show.


I feel this case repeating itself fairly often nowadays. They start a sci-fi which has a promising premise then they immediately mess up in the second episode or in subsequent episodes at least. Stargate Universe got the same critics for example( although I don't think that was entirely true to SGU) or look at the Cape for example. As if they feared to explore the world they created while ironically not exploring them should be the feared thing.


Summer Glau is so awesome, it isn't even funny!
Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!
 
FordStaffDate: Thursday, 20 Oct 2011, 20:36 | Message # 7
Group: Friends
Messages: 507
Status: Offline
Y'all seem more knowledgeable of the media than me. Is there a particular reason there are no longer any just plain old space opera type shows - Star Trek - Babylon 5 - Battle Star Galatica - etc etc.

Is the last one that was on BSG? Why is there no one willing to try this type of show when there are no others?


Keep Flying - Not much, but it's enough.
 
chrisdvanneDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 00:19 | Message # 8
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
Quote (FordStaff)
Y'all seem more knowledgeable of the media than me. Is there a particular reason there are no longer any just plain old space opera type shows - Star Trek - Babylon 5 - Battle Star Galatica - etc etc.

Is the last one that was on BSG? Why is there no one willing to try this type of show when there are no others?

Blazius keep wondering himself why is it so biggrin And honestly i have no valid answer to give.

Quote (Blazius)

I feel this case repeating itself fairly often nowadays. They start a sci-fi which has a promising premise then they immediately mess up in the second episode or in subsequent episodes at least. Stargate Universe got the same critics for example( although I don't think that was entirely true to SGU) or look at the Cape for example. As if they feared to explore the world they created while ironically not exploring them should be the feared thing.

The showrunners have a clear idea of where the show is going in the course of the season and they plan the episodes and the momentum accordingly; this model used to work when there was just four main networks but not when there is so much channels and tv shows; the audience is not willing to wait till the end of the season to learn about the mythology of the show, they want answers and character development on the following episodes. This gap is the main reason why so many tv shows, not only sci-fi, fail after a few episodes because the ratings go down very quickly.

The showrunners know that of course, though they schedule standalone episodes at the begining of a new serie and each time they say "we're going to learn more about the mythology and give answers" but each time it's a lie, they don't really give answers and keep piling other mysteries. No wonder the only ones left are the hard-core fans but the show is already doomed.

It's very frustrating for the fans because the show is cancelled before they have any answers about the plots unveiled at the begining of the show; so much so that a lot of tv watchers wait until a serie is renewed before watching it. Their reasoning is simple : "what's the point watching a serie if it will be cancelled after one season?" Which ultimately leads to even less people watching a new serie. The system is doomed to fail.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
FordStaffDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 00:47 | Message # 9
Group: Friends
Messages: 507
Status: Offline
Some people refer to this audience reaction as "The Firefly Effect" - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheFireflyEffect

People will not invest into story arc based shows even if they think it will be good, when they believe it is at a great risk of being cancelled first season. Story arc based shows (what most Science Fiction happens to be ) require considerably more investment than a mere procedural. I can certainly see why people want to avoid an investment that is likely to blow up in their face. Even if a story arc based show does take off there is the chance that when the show reaches completion the answers will not be all that great (YMMV Lost).

The science fiction genre really has the current against it television wise (movies not so much).


Keep Flying - Not much, but it's enough.
 
chrisdvanneDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:11 | Message # 10
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
Quote (FordStaff)

The science fiction genre really has the current against it television wise (movies not so much).

I can't blame the people obeying to "The Firefly effect"; the satistics of sci-fi shows canceled after one year are alarming. I have lost the count of the sci-fi shows i watched that have been canceled prematurely.
Surface (2005) on NBC, Invasion (2005) on ABC, TSCC (2008) on FOX, The Cape (2011) on NBC to name a few.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
FordStaffDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:17 | Message # 11
Group: Friends
Messages: 507
Status: Offline
I too understand why people do it, but the side effect is that some of the greatest shows get cancelled or do not have a chance of even starting up to begin with. In my opinion the best most imaginative shows have actual story arcs.

Keep Flying - Not much, but it's enough.

Message edited by FordStaff - Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:21
 
chrisdvanneDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:32 | Message # 12
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
The tv showrunners and producers are aware of that, yet they continue to schedule overarching stories, punctuated by standalone episodes; Alphas on Syfy did the same and it was certainly detrimental to its audience; it's a pity because Alphas is probably the most intelligent serie on tv right now. Maybe they should plan story arcs running over 3 or 4 episodes only, allowing a real closure at the end, while the main story arc runs over the entire season.

Edit : Thomas Wheeler tried that with The Cape iirc but it was so badly done that people gave up on the show.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube

Message edited by michelangelo - Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:35
 
FordStaffDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:43 | Message # 13
Group: Friends
Messages: 507
Status: Offline
I do not think that having standalone episodes is really that much of a problem with shows that have overarching stories. It just needs to be paced well. If there are too many standalone episodes for a while people will get frustrated. If your on a darker story arc a few stand alones at the right time can keep the audience from becoming to cynical.

Much of this problem has to do with the fact the American Television pumps out tons and tons of episodes for a show. If the episode amount were far more limited and not 20+ per season, standalones could be used more sparsely or none at all. Without that limit though there is too much time and the story arcs will be convoluted if every bit of that time needs to further the arcs (unless you have a bunch of arcs but that can be a problem in itself). That is probably one of the main reasons stand alones are needed in story arc based shows.


Keep Flying - Not much, but it's enough.
 
BlaziusDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:53 | Message # 14
Group: Friends
Messages: 1200
Status: Offline
Quote (michelangelo)
Blazius keep wondering himself why is it so And honestly i have no valid answer to give.


I'm wondering because I see a possible solution to our problems. Its far easier to keep up interest in such shows even in standalone episodes too. You are on a spaceship or a space station, full of aliens with imaginary cultures as such. Even in an eventless episode you are still exploring the mithology and you can smuggle at least a short space battle into it just for visuals.

Its hard to refer to the old shows advantages if you never watched them but even the arcless, episodic Star Trek TNG could keep up interest enough to live for a whopping 7 seasons.

BTW the reason I kept "selling" B5 the last days is that its a case study how you should do a sci-fi show which relies heavily on the story arcs. The first season was much slower than the rest seasons but in every episode there was an event or clue which helped build up the consequent plots which grow bigger and better as the show progressed. Those episodes were still interesting on their own right but you had the sense that they are growing better and better with each episode while keeping consistently engaging with each episode. Not saying there werent exceptions but not enough to ruin the show. The whole thing was like watching a gigantic movie.

TNG on the other hand is the case study for doing an episodic show.

You could say nowadays scifi evolved from them yet if you watch them they are clearly missing the spirit of their ancestors.

EDIT:
Quote (michelangelo)
Edit : Thomas Wheeler tried that with The Cape iirc but it was so badly done that people gave up on the show.


He had everything to make it right but I suspect it was he himself who lacked the talent to do it. This job is just not for him it seems.


Summer Glau is so awesome, it isn't even funny!
Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!


Message edited by Blazius - Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:56
 
chrisdvanneDate: Friday, 21 Oct 2011, 01:57 | Message # 15
Group: Administrators
Messages: 12802
Status: Offline
I was talking about new shows exclusively, who needs to build an audience; to my knowledge, the only way to hook an audience is to build a momemtum and character development in the 4 or 5 first episodes of a new show. Of course i'm not talking about sitcoms or cop/lawyer/doctor procedurials but about serialized sci-fi shows.

Standalone episodes are necessary to pace the course of the season as you said, but maybe not in the very first episodes of a new show; yet that's exactly what Terra Nova did. It still remained entertaining imo but not worth puting a lot of oneself.
I remember some of the best episodes of The X-Files were standalone episodes; though it's maybe not the best example because they followed a Freak-of-the Week model with overarching arc stories.


You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube
 
Summer-Glau.com Forum » Filmography » Other movies/shows » Terra Nova and other sci-fi shows try to be family dramas
Page 1 of 3123»
Search: