I love science fiction, this can never be denied. Some of it is pretty outlandish whilst some is on the cusp of reality. But they all share the idea that this is all possible as our understanding of how to manipulate the laws of the universe increases. It’s a kind of aspirational fiction for people who may not have it all, but wonder just how the future will unfold. People who were born early in the 20th century would never have dreamed of the kinds of technological advancement made in their lifetimes.
There was a period in Australian television when there were good science fiction shows were on, even during prime time. Stargate SG-1 and The X-Files were great sources of weekly entertainment. Even fantasy shows like Buffy were shown during prime time. It was awesome! Then, something happened. All of these shows started to go to late night time slots, then not even scheduled regularly and finally were shown out of sequence irregularly. For those of us who were actually watching the shows, this as you can guess was an unmitigated disaster. I think this kind of behaviour from the free-to-air stations really contributed to me turning off the television and relying more on the internet for entertainment.
The strange thing is that science fiction as a genre is strong in literature and the movies and there’s even a dedicated channel on pay TV! I don’t know what is is about free-to-air television these days and why some genres have made way for shows that have no genre and are basically a set of badly cut narrations by a suitably attractive voice about mundane tasks or conversations between people. Seriously, television has now made us obsessed with watching people cook dinner, run on treadmills or talking about how their day was inside the house they are being forced to live in. Are peoples’ lives that mundane or that terrible that we have to watch other people exercise?
It’s not like there’s a dearth of good science fiction or even fantasy shows. Look at Game of Thrones. The fact that it’s a pay TV exclusive effectively shuts a lot of people out of the show and encourages pirating in Australia. At least it’s now easier to get it on the iTunes store. The most recent hyped science fiction show, Defiance has an interesting premise and some great characters but tacky graphics and costuming really detracted from the otherwise good acting. Why a show made in 2013 could have worse computer graphics than one made ten years ago really astounded me.
At the end of the day, it just seems like mainstream television is becoming more and more banal. The attraction of becoming an instant celebrity is more attractive than a good story that gets us thinking about the future of the world. Instead, there’s just an unquestioning downward slope of boring people watching other boring people do boring things.