Friday, February 24, 2006

More, New, Sci-Fi TV headed our way

Hot off the wire from yesterday’s issue of Hollywood Reporter , ABC has acquired a new independently produced series called “Masters of Science Fiction” and will air the episodes this upcoming summer.

The Series will be adapting famous well known science fiction stories and novels to fit the one hour tv format. But from the article it’s somewhat unclear as to whether these episodes will actually be strictly in sixty minute slots, or if they will be two hour endeavors. Some of the works that have been listed as probable adaptations are “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed” by Ray Bradbury, “The Last Question” by Issac Asimov, “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, and “The Puppet Masters” by Robert Heinlein. Ray Bradbury is currently in negotiations to write the screenplay for one of these episodes, adapting his own novella, “Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed.”

Now how some of these novels and novella length works are going to be crunched into 40/45 minutes worth of actual story, I’m not sure. I’m particularly intrigued that “A Boy and His Dog” and “The Puppet Masters” were on the list since there have been feature film adaptations of both of those, and neither was particularly successful or well done. The 1975 version of Boy and His Dog starred Don Johnson, and is unbearably slow. The 1994 feature The Puppet Masters stars Donald Sutherland and plays like a lowest of the low B-movie horror flick.

There are a couple of other things that I find troubling in this article. The first is a quote from an IDT exec (head of the company that sold the show to ABC) who said: “ABC is the perfect venue for these interpretations of science fiction's seminal literary voices.”

It is? So just because ABC has a couple sci-fi shows on the air (Invasion, which is largely terrible, and LOST which is in a sophmore slump and is arguably a cross-genre piece) now it’s the Valhalla of all Science Fiction? Despite the tremendous ratings that ABC would allow the show to tap into, I would rather see an endeavor like this fall in the hands of the Sci Fi channel, who would be less interested in making it palatable to mass audiences, and give the projects some leeway to be as sci-fi as they like. I’m reticent to watch the influence that a mainstream machine will have on some of these more peculiar works.

This exec also confessed that “some of the content will be updated for the younger audiences while still staying faithful to the original material. Bradbury, for example, will move the setting of his book to a completely different solar system.”

The fact that the development executives already seem to be more concerned with the minutia of making it seem “hipper” and “more advanced” is worrisome. Shouldn’t they be more concerned about how they are going to fit a three hundred and fourty page novel (The Puppet Masters) into a one hour TV slot?

I think “Masters of Science Fiction” is one of those projects that has tremendous potential, but in the end will be an ultimate butchering of these classic sci-fi works. I wish I didn’t have such a pessimistic outlook, but with these circumstances I feel hard pressed to speculate otherwise. Why is it exactly that sci-fi adaptations get so easily botched? There’s not often a middle ground with these things; either they’re good, or they are wretched, there’s not even much room for mediocrity. (On a brief aside, I think I was one of the few people in the country who enjoyed I, Robot with Will Smith. While flawed, I thought it was a pretty good adaptation) Apparently the independent production company did a “Masters of Horror” series which they aired for one season on Showtime, and they are subsequently are doing a second season. I had never even heard of this series prior to reading about it here, so can not comment on the quality of it one way or another.

After a while, it gets painful to watch such good material be mishandled, and so I await “Masters of Science Fiction” with a measured amound of anxious anticipation.

4 Comments:

Blogger DoorFrame said...

I haven't read any of those. Am I bad sci-fi fan?

11:46 AM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

I haven't read all of them myself, a lot of this stuff is sort of "before our time", and some very hard to find and/or out of print. So therefore you are not a bad sci fi fan.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Daddy Background said...

I try to imagine the new Battlestar Gallactica as done on ABC and tremble.

10:18 AM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

your insistance that "Lost" is somehow not as good this season is a lot like everything Bush says: just repeating it constantly doesn't make it true.

12:33 PM  

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