In what looks to be a cost-cutting decision, NBC has decided to air Day One – a sci-fi drama from Heroes scribe Jesse Alexander – as a four-part miniseries, Variety reports. NBC had originally planned to air the high-concept show as a 13-episode series after the Winter Olympics, but will now see how the miniseries performs before opting to order more episodes. The move comes less than a week after ABC decided to air the first four episodes of V, its much-anticipated reboot of the NBC miniseries, in November and then hold off airing future installments until March. Production of the reboot, which stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Scott Wolf, has been shut down for several weeks and staff changes were made to the writers room. It will still debut Nov. 3, however.
News of the unique rollouts for Day One and V comes amid rampant speculation that the broadcast networks are starting to reconsider the viability of sci-fi dramas (in fact, one rumor making the rounds is that V characters aren’t even allowed to use the word alien to describe the visitors that arrive via spaceships, though ABC denies this). Worries about the genre are certainly warranted: Fox dramas Fringe and Dollhouse are showing double-digit drops in viewers this season and both are steeped in sci-fi lore. A network like ABC, which appeals to a broad audience with character-driven dramas like Desperate Housewives, can’t exactly afford to air a niche performer. Even the FlashForward producers are hesitant to call their drama a sci-fi; they recently hinted to EW that the global catastrophe which caused everyone to black out may have been caused by a natural occurrence. As for programming sci-fis, an ABC insider told EW, “It’s all about trying to find the right balance.”
Not everyone is convinced the Big Four nets should run scared from the sci-fi biz. “There’s not going to be a (sci-fi) show that pulls in 20 million viewers,” cautions Shari Anne Brill, a senior VP in charge of programming and audience analysis at media-buying firm Carat. “But I absolutely think there is a place for them. If there’s good mythology and good storytelling, it can be done.”