2014 may be in the rearview, but all around it was a damn good year for science fiction. We got fantastic movies big and small, new and interesting additions to the literary side of the genre, and we’ve even got three, soon to be four, Doctor Who comic books. There was also a ton of great stuff to watch from the comfort of our very own couch and tune into week after week on ye olde boob tube. There are some definite gaps in my viewing for the year, but here are some of my favorite sci-fi shows of the past 12 months. In retrospect, this is actually kind of a sad list, as multiple entries have already been cancelled or are definitively on their way out.
As sci-fi fans, we all know that unless an awards ceremony is specifically centered on science fiction, genre programming doesn’t stand much of a chance against the plethora of mainstream media out there. That said, the nominations for the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced this morning, and science and sci-fi programming actually made a strong appearance, thanks in large part to Fox’s Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey. The biggest story of the announcement was actually what didn’t make the list—they will rue their ignorance of Orphan Black’s dramatic superiority—but that’s for another story. For now, we celebrate.
The Neil deGrasse Tyson-hosted Cosmos was the definite standout, though it obviously didn’t get recognized in the Outstanding Lead Actor category or anything like that. Some of the infotainment series’ more notable and deserving noms were for Outstanding or Documentary Series, Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction, and Outstanding Special and Visual Effects, while the show’s art direction, music, main titles, and sound editing were also recognized. With twelve total nominations, it tied with acclaimed narrative series like True Detective and Orange is the New Black. (Breaking Bad earned 16 nominations.)
Howdy, members of the 1992 Olympic stream team. With the summer blockbuster season in full effect, steaming websites have been a little lax on giving sci-fi fans what we want: namely, something to do besides sweat and deal with teenagers roaming the streets. Stay off of my lawn! Go inside! Sit down! Watch TV! Ahem. On with the list!
The More Recent
The Leftovers (HBO Go)
While HBO’s new drama The Leftovers isn’t strictly speaking science fiction, it’s a high-concept project conceived by the novel’s author Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, co-creator and co-writer of things like Lost, Star Trek Into Darkness, and World War Z. In The Leftovers, two percent of the world is gone due to some unexplainable event, and the town of Mapleton is coping like many others: with public remembrances and silent, chain-smoking cults. The first episode debuted last night and it didn’t really give away a lot of where this plot is going, other than that Justin Theroux’s police chief Kevin Garvey has a lot to deal with.
If, like me, you’re a fan of Almost Human still stinging from the show’s recent cancellation, you might want to send Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly a fruit basket. Why, you might ask? Because he’s losing — or leaving, depending on whether you believe the party line — his job as of June. Sure, that probably doesn’t mean a thing to you, but consider that, before getting shown the door, he had tried to renew Almost Human for a second season, before getting vetoed by other Fox Powers That Be.
That revelation comes from a Vulture article examining Reilly’s upcoming separation from Fox, and the direction in which he had tried to take the ratings-challenged network. Reilly had been at Fox since 2007, and he was the guy who did away with the notion of “pilot season” at the network, instead opting for a model that didn’t limit development and pitching to one particular slice of the year. That’s the sort of outside-the-box thinking that could make any stodgy executive nervous, but Reilly also championed two shows that Fox nonetheless wound up cancelling: Almost Human and the military sitcom Enlisted.
Almost Human isn’t the first young science fiction show I fell in love with, only to see it canceled all too soon. It’s definitely isn’t the first one canceled by Fox: Joss Whedon’s Firefly is by far the most predominant, but it’s just one in a long, long line of Fox sci-fi casualties. And sure, it’s kind of unfair to hate Fox outright. After all, they gave these shows a shot they might not have had otherwise. But as much as I’m trying to be evenhanded about the whole Almost Human thing, Fox sure isn’t making it easy by releasing the above retrospective video, which is the audiovisual equivalent of packing salt into the wound.
Listen, Fox, it’s great to know you apparently recognized that Almost Human was a good show. Kudos to you for recognizing how much fun it was to watch Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) banter but still have each other’s back when the shit hit the fan. I’m in the midst of rewatching Almost Human right now for an upcoming article, and this little retrospective does highlight a lot of the things I love about the show.
The five major broadcast networks are set to deliver their “upfronts” in New York this week, an annual event where the networks get to show off their new fall and mid-season series to advertisers and press. We get to find out which shows will survive another season, which won’t, and what new things we’ll be watching later this year. And because we here at GFR love making your life easier, we’ve broken down the genre-related canceled/renewed/brand new announcements by network. If you need a sign to protest the death of Almost Human, you can have some of our posterboard.
While GFR’s primary focus is on science fiction, we’re including news about a few noteworthy shows that don’t fit within that genre, but which will likely be of interest to many of you. Let’s get to it!