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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

Fall Preview Issue
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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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.

Every September my heart beats a little faster looking forward to the Fall Preview Issue of TV Guide. I remember how excited I was about Star Trek: The Next Generation. I taped it with Betamax and absolutely loved Dr. McCoy's cameo. And so, down the years, I've always had something new to look forward to each Fall. Two years ago I had Enterprise, last year Firefly. This year -- Tarzan?!?

By all accounts the new Fall season will be the most dismal ever. If you read their web pages, the networks are all in love with the word "edgy". If you read the descriptions of their new shows, you see a soggy mess of old ideas served up cold: Joe Millionaire II, How to Date a Movie Star, more drama about cops, politicians, and lawyers, more "heartwarming" comedy -- the nets love "heartwarming" almost as much as "edgy". The most pathetic new show, an object lesson in trickle down economics, has people willing to humiliate themselves in front of suits in the hope of winning a minimum wage job.

Unless you count shows in which people with miraculous powers help other people or shows in which cops are infected by nanites there is no new SF at all.

Here is how it looks day by day. There is nothing worth watching on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.

Andromeda Andromeda, Season Four, starts locally on October 29. As a syndicated show, it may start on a different night where you are. The first new episode is "Answers Given to Questions Never Asked", a clumsy attempt at a Babylon 5-style episode title.

Smallville WB has moved Smallville opposite Enterprise. With so little SF on TV, you would think they would put Smallville opposite, say, Joe Millionaire II, a sure fire flop if there ever was one. But for some reason TV executives like to schedule crime dramas opposite crime dramas, comedy opposite comedy, SF opposite SF. By scheduling Smallville opposite Enterprise, WB guarantees that both shows will loose viewers. I wish somebody who is privy to the ways of TV executives would explain to me why this is a good thing.

Enterprise Enterprise gets a head start on Smallville by beginning Season Three on September 10 with "The Xindi II" by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. The bad news is that Enterprise has been lumbered with a couple more minutes of commercials, so the episodes will be just a few minutes more than a half hour in length. The executives who decide how much entertainment the public will get in an hour are the same people who order restaurant managers to see to it that you don't get more than five croutons in your salad.

Smallville, Season Three, begins on October 1 with "Exile" by Alfred Gough and Miles Miller. Clark moves to Metropolis and meets Morgan Edge.

Angel Angel, Season Five, follows Smallville on October 1 with "Conviction" by Joss Whedon. I was glad to see Joss win a Hugo, sorry it was for Buffy rather than for Firefly.

Jeremiah Friday:
Jeremiah, Season Two, begins on Showtime on October 10 at 10 P.M. with "Letters from the Other Side" by J. Michael Straczynski. There are only 16 episodes in Season Two, and Straczynski swears he will not work on a Season Three, since the suits at MGM, who have never written a professional word in their lives, love to tell writers how to write. This is not quite as bad as the situation at NASA, where astronauts die because the suits try to tell rocket scientists how to do rocket science. But it's bad.

Stargate SG-1, on the Sci Fi Channel, still has several unaired Season Seven episodes, with no air date announced. Season Eight is in the works, which will make Stargate SG-1 second only to The X-Files in longevity.

Tarzan Tarzan premieres on October 5. WB says they will bring in elements of the Tarzan legend. Keeping ideas from the Superman legend has made Smallville modestly successful. I'm looking forward to Tarzan. It may be as good as Smallville or as bad as The Lone Ranger. But it can't be as bad as Wolf Larson.

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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