The question above is one that I ask myself on a regular basis. Obviously, there will always be a market for science fiction. Heck, SyFy is still bringing in high numbers regularly, and its original programing is quite good. Other cable networks, like TNT, have one or two sci-fi shows packaged into their lineup, while the big stations like Fox and NBC usually have one new sci-fi show a cycle. ABC’s Once Upon a Time is kicking butt right now, and is putting up good numbers despite currently fighting Sunday Night Football for ratings.
However, I consider Once Upon a Time to be an exception, and I worry for its future, particularly since the “Big Four” networks, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, all seem pretty disinterested in sci-fi and fantasy programing.
The last major sci-fi television boom was in the mid 1990s. The Next Generation just finished seven strong seasons, Deep Space Nine was just starting the Dominion War arc,and Highlander, Hercules, and Xena were putting up strong numbers in syndication. Around this time, SyFy was created, then called simply “The Sci-Fi Channel.” The WB Network and UPN were looking to create a brand for themselves, and were using Sci-Fi/Fantasy to do that.
The problem with this boom? Except for picking up shows on syndication, The Big Four had minor roles in the game.
Fast forward to present day. WB and UPN are gone and replaced by the CW Network. While Supernatural is going strong, the show is wrapping up. Also, sadly, we’re still a good bit away from the S.H.I.E.L.D television show jumping on television.
I also don’t trust some of the executives for The Big Four, particularly NBC’s higher-ups. The Event came and went, and their new show Revolution, while promising, seems to be just J.J. Abrams combining Lost with Falling Skies. I’d love to be wrong, though. On top of that, I thoroughly blame NBC for taking an amazing first season of Heroes and following it up with bad. So much bad.
The other worry I have is silly, but somewhat heavy on my mind; has science fiction and fantasy told all the stories? Are there any new stories to tell? We’re on the tail-end of the vampire kick. What’s next? Any ideas? Or will it be just a rehash of the old stories that were once popular, but told in a poor way.
Really, I do think science fiction and fantasy can have a new boom, but they need to get new blood into the system. Someone needs to come up with an idea that lights a fire under the writing community. Maybe Once Upon a Time will do that. Maybe S.H.I.E.L.D will. Maybe once Jersey Shore is done, people will start watching more intelligently-written shows. Unless Jersey Shore is secretly about eight aliens pretending to be humans a la Mork and Mindy.
Wishful thinking, I guess.
Maybe science fiction and fantasy will come back soon. Only time will tell.