We could lose science-fiction forever if the genre leaves network television, and it's almost gone.

Science-fiction used to be the staple of broadcast television. Think of classic shows like Star Trek, Twilight Zone, X-Files and Six Million Dollar Man. They all started on channels like CBS, NBC and FOX. As the new fall season starts, I can't help noticing that the number of science-fiction shows is dwindling in general, but are shrinking dramatically on network TV.

The number of television shows on network TV returning stands at about two: Chuck and Fringe. There are a handful of other shows that might be classified as sci-fi, but are more paranormal or fantasy.

The new fall season brings a few new genre shows like Grimm, Awake, Terra Nova, Once Upon a Time and Unforgettable. Really though, there are few science fiction shows in the purest sense. No space battles and rocket ships. Networks are getting scared off from science-fiction like Star Trek and going toward more audience-friendly content. In fact, networks go to great pains to emphasize that the shows are accessible to everyone.

So who cares? We've still got Doctor Who and Alphas right?

The reality is that cable and satellite television has a limited audience. Only people who pay can watch it. Some people have cable or satellite, but have to pay more to watch channels like SyFy or Starz. So we can't even count on the fact that more people have premium television services.

Cable television audiences are naturally smaller than broadcast networks. Imagine how popular Star Trek would be if only a small audience had watched its original run? It was pretty small at the time to begin with.

If science-fiction on network television disappears, the future of the genre may be in jeopardy. We may never see a space ship on television again.

What do you think? Will science-fiction die on network TV? Do you think it matters? Let us know in the comments.


AlexJCavanaugh said...

I don't think it will die, but it doesn't help when channels like SyFy decide to move away from their roots and feature non-science fiction shows.

Michael Offutt said...

God I hope not. I love my Alphas. But things seem to be awash in paranormal lately and paranormal is arguably a sub-genre of sci-fi right? I dunno...as long as there are vampires, we are safe.


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