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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
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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.

"Must see" shows in May are the season finales of Enterprise and Angel, and the series finale of Buffy, all except Enterprise (which is by B&B) by top writers. Details below. But first this.

Ratings on both Enterprise and Buffy are up, in anticipation of major events in their story lines. Just to give you some idea of how ratings work, The West Wing has about 12 million viewers a week. All of the top rated "SF" shows are on CBS, NBC, or ABC, which means, except for Futurama, they are watered down for mass audiences and not anything people who read SF Site would enjoy. There are about four of these, each with about eight million viewers a week. Then there is a big drop in ratings before you get to the four most watched SF shows on the minor networks: Smallville, Buffy, Angel, and Enterprise, each with about four million viewers a week. Then another big drop, and a bunch of shows that only have about a million viewers a week, and are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

One thing that ratings don't take into account is whether anyone is actually looking at the TV screen. I'll bet most of the four million viewers of Enterprise are actually watching the show, while many of the eight million "viewers" of the major networks are dozing or doing the dishes.

TV Reviews

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Empty Places" (**) by Drew Z. Greenberg
Part two of the five part series conclusion is disappointing. The First is billed as the origin of all evil, but I got tired of watching Buffy getting beat up. Still, the ending promises better things to come. Of the five parts, only the last is written by Joss Whedon.

Enterprise Enterprise, "Horizon" (**) by Andre Bormanis
The creators of Enterprise finally noticed a Black actor standing around for eighteen months with nothing to do, and wrote a show about Travis Mayweather. "Excuse me, Captain Archer, but do you mind taking the Enterprise ten hours out of your way so I can visit my folks on the cargo ship E.C.S. Horizon." "Not at all, Ensign, happy to oblige." Now, imagine that conversation taking place between the captain and an ensign on the US Navy's aircraft carrier Enterprise. "Sure, I'll turn the ship around and sail ten hours out of our way just so you can visit your folks, ensign. By the way, how long have you been serving under me? I don't believe I've noticed you before." Still, not a bad episode. Bormanis's best effort to date.

Enterprise Enterprise, "The Breach" (**) story by Daniel McCartny, teleplay by John Shiban and Chris Black
Another allegory about Jews and Arabs, or Blacks and Whites, with the estimable moral, "Why can't we be friends?" Meanwhile, Travis Mayweather proves to be an expert on spelunking. Everyone knows about all the spelunking opportunities growing up on a cargo ship.

The West Wing, "Evidence of Things Not Seen" (****) by Aaron Sorkin
Good news! Aaron Sorkin is back on drugs! Well, I don't know that, but his writing on the most recent West Wing is the best we've seen since he went into rehab. There is a new book out, Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser, that details just how conflicted Americans are about sex, drugs, and foreigners. We want foreigners to pick our crops, but we don't want them to stick around after work. We want all the sex and drugs we can get, but we want anybody else who enjoys sex and drugs to be locked up. And so we allow an aptly named Criminal Justice System to put people in prison for twenty years for smoking a weed that the president of the United States admits to having smoked, a weed that is American's number one cash crop. It is a serious problem, and not one to be solved in a paragraph. Sex and drugs cause a lot of real pain, but at least they're fun. Laws against sex and drugs cause at least an equal amount of pain and are no fun for anybody. The question I always ask is, if you could go back in time and take away all of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's drugs, would you do it? The West Wing in question is the one with the egg. Yes, I know it's not SF.

What to watch in May:
Tuesday, May 6
Buffy, "Touched" (part III of V) by Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Wednesday, May 7
Enterprise, "Regeneration" by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong. Borg!
Wednesday, May 7
Angel, "Home" by Tim Minear. Season finale by the Firefly writer.
Tuesday, May 13
Buffy, "End of Days" (Part IV of V) by Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie
Wednesday, May 14
Enterprise, "First Flight" by Chris Black and John Shiban
Wednesday, May 14
Enterprise, "Bounty", story by B&B, teleplay by Sussman & Strong plus Hans Tobeason. (Two episodes back to back.)
Tuesday, May 20
Buffy, "Chosen" (part V of V) by Joss Whedon. Series finale.
Wednesday, May 21
Enterprise, "The Expanse" by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, season finale.

And Will Smith has been cast as Dr. Susan Calvin in the film I, Robot. Just kidding. Judging by the press releases, the film will have nothing to do with the classic Asimov stories upon which it is theoretically based.

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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