Around the midpoint of the last decade, broadcast television was seriously geeking out. The gradual success (and massive DVD sales) of 24 proved that viewers were interested in complicated story lines; the breakout success of Lost proved that viewers were even more interested in complicated story lines with some kind of sci-fi-fantasy twist. Respectable broadcast networks were suddenly greenlighting TV shows that sound like bad Image comic books from the ’90s: Does anyone actually remember Threshold, Surface, or Journeyman?
As the end of Lost loomed, a few brave shows sought to take its place in the zeitgeist. But FlashForward could never recover from a constricting concept, the rebooted V quickly descended into self-parody, and The Event was possibly the best-acted catastrophe since Laurence Olivier, James Mason, and Gregory Peck starred in The Boys From Brazil. Also, Terra Nova happened, remember that?
You could argue that the era of the broadcast-network genre show is already over. In the last few years, the big genre hits have all been on cable: HBO’s True Blood and Game of Thrones, AMC’s The Walking Dead, FX’s American Horror Story. Still, the big networks haven’t given up on sci-fi-fantasy TV. In the next few months, four major new shows with fantasy elements will debut. Will they be any good? And will the audience even notice? Check out my roundup of the midseason geekbait TV shows, and remember to check out the series premiere of Alcatraz tonight, if only so you can join in on the debate about whether it’s trying and failing to be Lost…or trying and failing to be Fringe.
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