by Rick Norwood
Summer time, and the viewing is easy. Nothing good on but reruns and Crusade gives me lots of time to read real books -- my favorite form of entertainment. I just finished Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars, and started The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I know it isn't science fiction, but it is even better than I remember from reading it as a child. My memory had been clouded by the various movie incarnations of Tom Sawyer, any one of whom Twain's Tom Sawyer would have beaten to a bloody pulp on general principles.
I did want to warn you that, after airing all of the original Star Trek episodes uncut -- but not uninterrupted -- the SciFi channel has cut about ten minutes from each of them, in order to make room for more commercials.
From time to time, I try to watch some of what passes for SF on television outside of the "big four", soon to be the "big two": the two Treks, B5/Crusade, and The X-Files. Thinking there must be something else on, I tried watching the new SF series that has gotten the most buzz, and after five minutes, I couldn't stand it any more. I don't have to put up with this! In the sixties, I watched more bad television that you'll watch in your entire lifetime! I've paid my dues!
Bad SF on television and in the movies is usually bad in three ways.
First, utterly unoriginal. The writers of these shows seem to ask themselves, at each twist of the plot, at each exchange of dialogue, "Now, let's see, what cliché comes next?" And they dutifully write down whatever they've learned is supposed to come next.
Second, mind numbingly dumb. No human being talks or acts the way people on television talk and act. The plots contradict themselves. And the science -- don't ask.
Third, dull. The writers seem to say to themselves, "Now, we want to introduce this alien. And he's from another planet. And, get this, this is the really neat part, he has really big ears. Now, I know that's a really original idea, and is going to be hard for the rubes in the audience to understand, so we need to spend the first twenty minutes of the program establishing that this alien is supposed to be from another planet, and that he is supposed to have really big ears. Get it? Get it?"
So, instead of reviewing a show I couldn't stand to sit through, I thought I would share with you my five top clichés of bad SF TV.
Cliché #5: Really big corridors
Cliché #4: Interspecies reproduction
Cliché #3: The planet Southern California
Cliché #2: Humanoid aliens
Cliché #1: Fuzzy pink explosions
So, off to the beach with a good book. Fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high. It's summertime.
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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