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But is it really a genre show?

November 4, 2012

In trading emails with Kevin Bachelder I was reminded of a topic that I have wanted to talk about for awhile now.  It’s actually one of those things that borders on a pet peeve of mine when it comes to genre shows.  This is the genre show that is only considered a genre show because it’s set-up/premise invokes a genre element.  Otherwise, the show is largely just a standard police procedural or any other sort of standard drama series.  My two go to examples of this are Quantum Leap and Tru Calling.  I never really got into QL as a result of this.  The show is basically an anthology drama series where Sam ends up helping people each episode.  The genre element of the series, in this case the failed experiment, gets Sam from one setting to the next but, after that, there is little to no discussion of the genre element itself.  Similarly, Tru Calling has Tru with the, as far as I know, never really explained ability to go back in time which allows her to prevent someone from dying.  Tru Calling I found enjoyable enough to watch a number of the episodes but, I still would question whether I would truely label it a genre show myself.  I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying this necessarily lessens the value of a series, in case I’m coming across that way.  Like I said, I did like Tru Calling and I am totally into Person of Interest which is totally guilty of being just a police procedural series once you get past the Finch’s machine gimmick.  Another example for me is a show where the genre elements, once introduced, are not only never explained but, just handwaved away at the conclusion of the series.  Specifically, I have Lost in mind here.  I let Diane sucker me into this one because, being a scientist professionally and a science fiction fan in general, I think she wanted to be able to question me about certain aspects of the show.  My answer to this was that my knowledge there was somewhat valueless as the writers can do whatever they damn well please which will trump scientific theory.  To not throw Lost completely under the bus here, I thought the first season was pretty outstanding and is definitely worth viewing.  At that point, I would say that if you are more into character development than story you should continue with the series.  If your interests are more in the story side of things, send me an email and I’ll save you a lot of time and frustration by telling you all that you need to know about the series resolution.  That resolution, however, is why I personally don’t consider Lost a genre show and, yes I am saying that the ending did lessen the value of this series for me.  I really don’t want to think about how many hours that I would really like to get back or else I may not be able to finish this post without having to buy a new keyboard.  To get back on topic an older series that I have heard good recommendations about is a show called The Immortal from 1969.  It was a one season wonder about a guy who due to some unique genetic mutation will live forever baring any sort of overwhelming traumatic accident.  Some rich corporate head learns this about the guy and starts trying to capture him to see if he can become immortal as well and, then we’re off and running into The Fugitive territory.  Apart from this not being readily available from strictly legal sources, the other reason I have never really followed up on it to date is that it definitely has the look and feel of one of these pseudo-genre series.  Now that I think about it, my recollection of the original Bionic Woman series was mostly like this as well although I do recall one specific episode that would count as a genre story with a mad computer and all.  So, does anyone have any other examples of these pseudo-genre shows that they can think of?

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From → Random Thoughts

3 Comments
  1. “The Bionic Woman” had several episodes that were definitely sci-fi. She fought alongside Steve Austin against fembots, bigfoot, and space aliens. However, it was definitely more based in reality than “The Six Million Dollar Man”, which could easily explain why it only lasted 3 seasons compared the “TSMDM’s” 5. I would agree with you on “Lost”. How about “Flash Forward”? The sci-fi elements were secondary to the international intrigue.

    • Yes, Flash Forward is another good example that totally slipped my mind. I liked that series enough to buy it on DVD. It’s one of the few hard-science SF series out there and, it really gets the feel of scientific research right (think slow and steady wins the race). Unfortunately, that apparently doesn’t make for exciting enough television viewing. Another series that is similar here is The Event but, that had a little bit more of the genre stuff in it than Flash Forward.

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