Least year was my best reading year ever.  An insane number of books.  This year…not so much.  Blame it on the fact that I was in production.  Or juggling multiple development projects.  But, really, you can chalk it up to the fact that I’ve been watching a lot more, catching up on film & television.  Yes, I’ve been watching a lot -but, surprisingly, enjoying very little.  Or maybe it’s not all that surprising.

Among the shows I’ve watched over the past few months and enjoyed:



The Good Place (seasons 1-2)

The Boys


And then roughly four times that number of shows I started and abandoned. Finding a good genre show has been especially tough.  Why?  Well –


Yes, yes.  BIG ASS budget.  Yes, yes.  Stellar casting.  Yes, yes plenty of buzz.  But is it any good?  Do I LOVE THE CHARACTERS?  More often than not – no.

In all fairness, there are plenty of sci-fi shows I’ve yet to watch – the new Star Treks namely.  And, like most, I am particularly looking forward to checking out the new Picard series.  But, really, given the number of new genre shows that get released on a monthly basis, you’d think the batting average would be somewhat better.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Every show will have its fans and your mileage may vary. I’m just coming at it from the point of view of someone who has produced 350+ hours of genre television, written 100+, showrun 100+, but, more importantly, has been a HUGE sci-fi/fantasy/horror fan all of my life.  And, interestingly enough, it would seem that I’m not the only one who has grown tired of the recent wave of dark, dreary, mean-spirited entertainment.  Certainly audiences, but not the decision-makers.  Not yet anyway.  

Which strikes me as altogether bizarre.  As new shows crash and burn and executives scramble to figure out how to produce the next big hit, I’d suggest looking at what has already been a hit – and why – then reverse-engineer.  Take Supernatural for example, a series that has run a mind-boggling 15 seasons. What’s the secret of its success?  Is it its supernatural underpinnings?  Its monster-hunting premise?  Or, perhaps, could it be the brotherly bond at the heart of the show?  

Stargate: SG-1 ran for 10 seasons.  Why?  Was it the cool wormhole effect?  The creepy alien villains?  Or, maybe, could it have been the camaraderie at the core of every episode?

What about Star Trek?  What do its various incarnations have in common besides spectacular visual effects and awesome spaceships?  Well, there are the various crews at the center of each series that feel very much like a family.

Oh, come to think of its, there’s one more like variable.  All of the afore-mentioned are also a lot of fun.

Hmmmm.  A fun genre show.  Imagine?  That couldn’t possibly work outside of the shows mentioned (Supernatural, Stargate: SG-1 and Star Trek).  And Star Trek: Atlantis, Farscape, Doctor Who, The X-Files, Firefly, The Orville, Stranger Things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all those DC Universe shows.

Yep, the secret of successful television will remain a mystery.

To some.

19 thoughts on “August 13, 2019: Watching a lot – Enjoying a little!

  1. I haven’t enjoyed any sci fi since Dark Matter and SGU.
    Star trek discovery is an abomination.
    But a big thank you for putting me on to The Boys.
    Now that is sensational.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. So many recent sci-fi shows are dark, dreary, and just not really fun to watch. And if it’s no fun, and I’m forcing myself through it, why bother? They keep trying though, I guess believing that finally, at long last, this one will stick. But it never does. What is that old definition of insanity – To keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

    I also like three dimensional characters – I want my heroes to have at least one terrible flaw, and my villains to have at least one redeeming feature that makes you not want to hate them. Those are just far more interesting.

  3. And another question, why do they want me to pay for,, like the all access stuff, I pay a lot for just cable. So I have not seen the new Star Trek Discovery. And The Orville is going to Hulu? I was enjoying it, Seth has the right idea about sci-fi fun. I love seeing the Stargate reruns on ELREY, cable. Stargate Atlantis also.(plus my video collection) I am looking forward to your new projects..

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said.

    My guess is movies and tv shows are usually a reflection of the way people are feeling in society at that given period in time. Obviously things arent looking so great these days and the future looks to be pretty bleak to most people.
    But I would argue shows like those you’ve listed are needed more than ever to pull audiences out of their depression. It’s sad that the “powers that be” can’t see this. Urgh.

  5. I agree with everything you said!

    During a recent 5-day Internet outage I pulled out my SG-1 DVDs and started a rewatch. Man, season 1 was SOLID! And season 2 is even better!

    I tried to watch “Another Life” on Netflix recently. I stopped after the first episode. I can tolerate a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo (Stargate is full of it!) but this show pushed me over the edge. “We’re going too slow so we need to slingshot around this nearby start to speed up. Oops, we missed the slingshot window because we were wasting time arguing with each other. We’ll just orbit the start and try again.” THAT’S NOT HOW GRAVITY ASSISTS WORK!!!1

    But the worst thing about the show, and the reason I stopped watching, was the totally dysfunctional crew of the ship. There’s no way a sane person would assemble this bunch of idiots to crew Earth’s last best hope against an unknown alien threat. There is not a single member of this crew that is likeable, trustworthy or competent. So why should I care about them?

    Another example is the recent remake of “Lost In Space”. Too many secrets and agendas detracted from what could have been an awesome sci-fi survival story.

    Sure, it might work with a show like “Survivor” where the bickering between people IS the show but I don’t find that entertaining. If I want to sit around watching people who hate each other constantly arguing then I’ll go home for Christmas! 🙂

    I agree with George Bernard Shaw that without conflict there is no drama but I feel the conflict should come from a source external to your protagonists. That’s where shows like SG-1, Atlantis and the various Star Treks (Discovery notwithstanding) get it right. They’re about a tight knit team of competent people who work together to defeat insurmountable odds.

    Exhibit A: “Avengers: Endgame” a movie about a tight knit team of heroes working together to defeat insurmountable odds. Box Office: US$2.8 BILLION!!!!!

    You’ll notice I didn’t include “Stargate Universe” in there. Even though I mostly enjoyed it I think it was let down by the internal squabbling amongst the protagonists.

    “Dark Matter” mostly got it right. Even though there was some distrust amongst the crew they would come together as a team when the situation needed it. You cared about most of the characters and the bulk of the conflict came from external events.

    It seems bloody obvious to me. I don’t understand why the TV and film studios don’t get it. Maybe because their day-jobs are so adversarial and conflict ridden that they think that’s what people enjoy?

  6. Yep. That’s exactly the point I was making under yesterdays entry.
    Most of the shows on my summer watch list didn’t offer characters I felt much of anything for.
    Also, most of the shows were all too predictable and boring in their story and not much fun.

    Which is why I went wandering in search of new a horizon
    and discovered ‘Sneaky Pete’.
    Its not a comedy, per se,
    but it’s worth my not so easily offered recommendation
    just the same.
    I wasn’t too sure of whether it was worth binging at first.
    I have become much more difficult to please over the years.
    I thought I knew how the story would progress and wasn’t particularly
    a previous fan of the actors in the main cast.
    Albeit, before too long I found myself rooting for Marius, the career criminal,
    to finally be accepted by this loving but screwed up family even after they discover
    he’s not really their long lost grandson Pete and for him to accept them.
    And yes. It was fun to watch what happens next and how each member of the family
    surprisingly managed to get themselves unstuck from seemingly inescapable spiders web situations.
    It was often hard to determine the good guys from the bad guys
    and each main characters truer intentions.

    Albeit, if attachment to the characters with a sense of family at the core
    and an element of fun in the story telling is all it takes for a show to be a success….
    Why do broadcast execs keep cutting short wonderful shows like DM, Sneaky Pete and others I’ve enjoyed???

    By The way: Does anyone here remember the 2007-2008 dark comedy called Dirt?
    Tell me you you didnt feel the Schizophrenic photographer Don wasnt the most likable adorable
    character of them all? Or. That you didn’t root for the seemingly corrupt to the core Lucy to win in her endeavors? And yet… their story was cut short as well.
    But these are the type of surprising characters and stories
    I want to see more of. Good guys who may not be any better than the villains
    and villains you come to like so much – you root for them, despite their criminal intentions.

  7. Great post! I do watch Supernatural solely because of the relationship between the brothers.

  8. Totally agree about new series and connection. I loved and binge watched series 1&2 of The Good Place. The twist killed it. Another Place I can’t connect with, but I’m loving Manifesto..

  9. What disappoints me the most in any TV series is if the show is otherwise good and entertaining but the ‘good guys’ – even the main protagonist – are unlikeable dicks. How could I hope them to win?

    Perhaps there is a wide audience who wants to root for arrogant and tough protagonists, or maybe being an arsehole is the only thing many writers can think of when they hear the words ‘three-dimensional character with flaws’.

    But if I just want the hero to get punched in the face, no matter how just their cause is, there might be something wrong with the series.

  10. I miss the good old days of sci-fi when it was about something and writers were not afraid to ask difficult questions and step on people’s toes. These days it’s all cheap thrills and not offending anybody.

  11. Be careful saying anything negative about Supernatural. Those fans are nuts! I tried watching an episode but it’s not my cup of tea.

    The new Star Trek is interesting but it’s not Star Trek. The old show had a lot of comradery and humor mixed into interesting plots. This new version is all angst and they kill off anybody with a relationship. Which was a major bummer for me. The special effects are stunning and the cast is good. If you take it as a different franchise, it’s watchable. It’s not Star Trek.

    Also, how bad was the new Lost in Space? They re-wrote the laws of physics for that one. My hubby couldn’t make it past the first episode. I was desperate for any Sci-fi and stuck it out. I was cringing at some of the plots but still, it was sort of Sci-fi-y.

    I tried Black Mirror and liked a few of them. The one with the killer bees was my favorite, so far.

    I didn’t meant to have a bitch-fest. I realize that we all have different tastes and some of the shows I mentioned will appeal to others. I apologize to all the fans that found these shows good. I didn’t but “to each his own”.

  12. Sci-Fi shows are my favorite. But after DM, I haven’t been able to find much shows these days that I want to continue watching after episode 1 … except Star Trek Discovery and Killjoys I think,
    I also enjoy the DC shows though .. The Flash, Supergirl, Arrows, Legends of Tomorrow …

  13. Hi Joe, I was wondering if it would be possible to campaign again for a Dark Matter Revival to Amazon… Considering they picked up The Expanse (I read your entry about it) and the fact two of their good shows (Fleabag and Good Omens) ended. With the viewership increasing on Prime Video thanks to these shows (and The Boys and upcoming Carnival Row hype) I’ve heard Prime Video is trying to search for more series as well. Or atleast we could just try

    We could just get Jeff Bezos to atleast watch DM and thinks for a while

  14. I agree with you. I usually watch trailer or not even that and categorize the movie as either the effects movie or the story movie. Never watched these superheroes leagues, but absolutely loved much cheaper series that settle on good writing instead of expensive effects.

    You absolutely got me by this line: “Yep, the secret of successful television will remain a mystery. To some.”

    I am not entirely sure if you meant that mystery to be a mystery but if it is the case, I think I understand its importance too and trying to sneak it into my work. If the story is about saving the world, you usually know how it ends. If its about survival of combat-uncapable mutants that usually rather take a firearm to the fight as their abilities are too weak, it can go sideways. They can even lose. And then, it becomes interesting when entirely new obstacles appear in front of them.

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