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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Firefly It is official. Fox has cancelled Firefly, even though it had higher ratings than Buffy or Angel. The last three episodes are in the can, but they will not be shown. Its replacement is so repulsive I will not describe it. It will probably be a major hit.

January also offers some bittersweet pleasures for Farscape fans, as the final four episodes air. Enterprise continues to chug along on all six cylinders. Dinotopia and Odyssey 5 are also cancelled. What to watch in January follows, but first, some thoughts on the two televisions.

I've noted before that the top twenty TV shows are all either very smart or very dumb. I think we can explain this by dividing the television watching public into two groups, those who sometimes turn their televisions off and those who don't. I'm going to assume that you and I are in the first group. We keep The West Wing, Friends, and Law & Order in the top twenty. A few of us also watch science fiction, but most discriminating TV viewers do not -- and with good reason. Most TV SF is really bad. For SF, we turn to film -- of the top twenty money making movies of all time, seventeen are fantasy or science fiction.

Those of us who are selective in our TV viewing watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and The X-Files. Those shows were on long enough for the word to get out that they were good. Not enough of us watched Firefly -- but we would have, if Fox had told us about it.

Now, how about the other group, the people who live in homes where the television is never turned off? These are, I think, the people who keep Survivor: Thailand and Fear Factor in the top twenty. Watching too much television does bad things to your brain. This isn't just prejudice. It has been well-documented, in Scientific American, for example. You become anxious, paranoid, and feel a strong compulsion to shop, even for stuff you don't really want. You become nervous if the television is not on.

You also get good at not thinking. Your brain is receiving a constant stream of input. To avoid overloading, it has to shut down some of its internal software, such as judgment and conscious thought. One of the many problems facing teachers today is a class full of students for whom an unending babel is a way of life, students who are expert at tuning out everything you say.

FIREFLY People like this do not keep the channel tuned to Firefly for very long. Firefly could only be enjoyed by people who are actually paying attention. They will love Firefly's replacement.

What to watch in January.

Friday, January 3
Farscape, reruns of three episodes back to back: "A Perfect Murder", "Coup by Clam", and "Unrealized Reality".
Wednesday, January 8
Enterprise, "Dawn" by John Shiban
Friday, January 10
Farscape, "Kansas" by Justin Monjo
Friday, January 17
Farscape, "Terre Firma" by Richard Manning
Friday, January 24
Farscape, "Twice Shy"
Friday, January 31
Farscape, "Mental as Anything", series conclusion.


The next three Enterprise episodes have not yet been assigned air dates, but will probably be shown Wednesdays in January. They are:
"Stigma" by B&B
"Cease Fire" by Chris Black
"Crash Landing" by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong

And that leaves us with not much to look forward to. Will UPN pick up Firefly? Will Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica ever be produced? When will the new season of Jeremiah air? Will the unaired Firefly episodes ever come out on DVD?

News at 11.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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