View Full Version : USA Today: Sci-fi's TV future is looking bright

July 15th, 2004, 10:04 PM
From USA Today:



Posted 7/15/2004 8:37 PM

Sci-fi's TV future is looking bright

By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
Science fiction and cable TV are enjoying a happy niche at night.

In the past week, USA Network's The 4400, a six-hour series about abductees returned to Earth by alien captors, recorded the biggest series premiere in basic-cable history with 7.4 million viewers. And Sci Fi Channel's Stargate SG-1 last week enjoyed its most-watched original episode, 3.2 million viewers.

At the same time, the broadcast networks have become more alien territory. The highest-profile entry, UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise, barely survived for an upcoming fourth season after sluggish ratings.

Sci Fi Channel has seen prime-time ratings grow in 24 of the past 26 months. Spinoff Stargate Atlantis has a two-hour premiere tonight (9 ET/PT), and upcoming projects include Farscape and Earthsea miniseries and a Battlestar Galactica series.

Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci Fi and USA, says cable can take risks, such as making a six-hour series.

"What cable can do that the networks can't do quite as much is allow stories to breathe."

The traditionally male-skewing genre also can expand beyond standard "space opera" with productions that meld broader dramatic fare with science-fiction elements. For all its sci-fi elements, The 4400 (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET/PT) is a story "about life interrupted," executive producer Ira Steven Behr says.

"That's why The 4400 might have a chance to break free, like The X-Files, from that ghettoized aspect of science fiction and bring into the tent a somewhat more diverse audience."

On TV, sci-fi shows don't have the big-screen, special-effects punch of feature films, but their episodic nature provides advantages, says Brad Wright, executive producer of both Stargate series. "I think TV sometimes benefits in terms of better characters and stories, written out of necessity."

Hammer says the audience goes beyond the stereotypical geek to include "escapists," whose typical example is a female book reader in her early 40s.

Others say non-fans will continue to turn up their noses at the genre, which Behr says remains "a ******* child" shunned at TV awards time. But Stacey Lynn Koerner of media firm Initiative says the genre's devoted audience bodes well for the future. "What they're looking for is not necessarily a big broad audience," she says. Advertisers, and therefore programmers, "want to find the most engaged audiences."




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