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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
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.

Stargate Universe Stargate Universe, debuts in October. I've never taken to Stargate, but it must have something going for it, since it is the first sf series since Star Trek to have such a long life, and so many different incarnations. The number of people who watch Stargate is miniscule compared to the number who watched Star Trek, but still I wish Stargate Universe success, because the rest of the Fall shows have not been very good.

The high point of my tv watching in September was a few seconds at the end of the teaser for the season premiere of Smallville. I got goose bumps when I saw Clark Kent in a black trench coat with a big black S on his chest. Sadly, it was all downhill from there, with the symbol overused and the plot a hodgepodge of ingredients that failed to make a stew. Only about two and a half million people were watching.

I gave FlashForward a try, but it has a problem and a meta-problem. The problem is that if everyone sees what is going to happen on a particular day and time six months in the future, they are not going to see themselves going about their daily routine. They are going to see themselves gathered in churches, or with family or close friends, waiting for the big moment to happen. The meta-problem is that anyone who wants to know the secret behind FlashForward can just read the book. FlashForward had good ratings for sf, but didn't break into the top twenty.

Fringe I watched the finale of last season's Fringe, mainly to see Leonard Nimoy, so I though I would give the premiere of the new season a try, but after about fifteen minutes, I said, "It's spinach and I say the hell with it." It got pretty good ratings, but lower than last season.

I enjoyed the premiere of Heroes. The carnival characters are fun. I wonder if they have an invisible manager in a trailer. And in episode two, there was a beautiful scene involving a deaf musician. But I'm tired of them using Hiro for comic relief. And after you save the world, twice, what do you do for an encore.

My favorite show is Dollhouse, I guess. But even there I have trouble working up much enthusiasm, because we know, from watching the first season DVD, what is going to happen next. The Dollhouse madam is beginning to drink on the sly, the mad scientist is getting madder every day, I have no idea what the ex-FBI agent thinks he's doing. But even with charming actors and Joss Whedon at the helm, there doesn't seem to be much fun to be found in watching the world slowly descend into chaos. Only about two and a half million people watched, and what those who didn't buy the DVD made of it, I can't imagine.

The real trouble with all of these tv shows is that they are so complicated they'd give A.E. Van Vogt nightmares. Even the shows where I've seen every previous episode confuse me. There is no way a newbie can get anything out of them, so the already low ratings can only go down. Also, all involve either time travel or parallel universes or multiple personalities or all three, so anything we see may be written over at any time. It makes it hard to care what happens.

SF on TV in October 2009

Dollhouse Thursday, October 1
FlashForward "White to Play" by David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim
Supernatural "The End" by Ben Edlund
Fringe "Fracture" by David Wilcox

Friday, October 2
Stargate Universe "Air (I)", by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Smallville "Metallo" by Holly Henderson and Don Whitehead
Dollhouse "Instinct" by Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas

Monday, October 5
Heroes "Acceptance"

Thursday, October 8
FlashForward "137 Sekunden" by Marc Guggenheim and David S. Goyer
Supernatural "Fallen Idol" by Julie Siege
Fringe "Momentum Deferred" by Ashley Edward Miller and Zach Stentz

Smallville Friday, October 9
Stargate Universe "Air (II)" by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Smallville "Rabid" by Jordan Hawley
Dollhouse "Belle Chose" by Tim Minear

Monday, October 12
Heroes "Hysterical Blindness"

Thursday, October 15
FlashForward "Black Swan" by Lisa Zwerling and Scott M. Gimple
Supernatural "I Believe the Children Ate Our Future" by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin
Fringe "TBA" by Josh Singer

Friday, October 16
Stargate Universe "Air (III)" by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Smallville "Echo" by Brian Q. Miller
Dollhouse "Belonging" by Maurissa Tancharoen and Joss Whedon

Heroes Monday, October 19
Heroes "Tabula Rasa"

Thursday, October 22
FlashForward "Give Me Some Truth"
Supernatural "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester" Sera Gamble
Fringe "Earthling" by Jeffrey Vlaming and J. H. Wyman

Friday, October 23
Stargate Universe "Darkness (I)" by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Smallville "Roulette"Dollhouse, "The Public Eye" by Andrew Chambliss

Monday, October 26
Heroes "Strange Attractors"

FlashForward Thursday, October 29
FlashForward "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps"
Supernatural "Where the Hell are You, Dam God?"
Fringe "Of Human Action" by Robert Chiapetta and Glen Whitman

Friday, October 30
Stargate Universe "Light (II)" by Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Smallville "Crossfire"
Dollhouse "The Left Hand"

The remake of the series V, about the aliens with elevated pinky fingers, will debut in November, but seems to have already been canceled before it even appears.

Copyright © 2009 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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