Here’s more proof that, despite all its successes, science fiction still isn’t mainstream. HBO is developing a new show about robots. But they refuse to call it science fiction, even though it definitely is.
Deadline says their new fictional series is called China Doll and it will involve a California subcontractor, his Asian-American professor wife… and a robot. What role does the robot play in their life? Is it a babysitter? A maid? A freaky sex toy? They aren’t saying. The show’s producers describe it this way: “It is about China, Chinese Americans, robots, the effect of technology on our lives and the China moment in American consciousness.”
Clear as mud. All we really know is that the show will have robots, and that HBO definitely doesn’t want anyone to think even for a second that this might be some sort of show for sci-fi geeks, apparently. They say, “this is not a sci-fi show.” But it’s about robots isn’t it? They clarify, “It is ambitious but is set in the present day.” Except, of course, science fiction can be set in the present day. Presumably it’s not about present day robots though (which are boring), but rather about some sort of robotic innovation (which is the only thing which makes sense here)… which indeed makes it science fiction.
So why are they so adamant about distancing themselves from the genre they are almost certainly a part of, whether they like it or not? For the same reason Hollywood almost never calls any of its big movies science fiction, even when they are. Ask Michael Bay if Transformers is science fiction and he’ll tell you it isn’t. Ask the makers of the upcoming Jon Carter if they’re doing a sci-fi movie and they’ll give you some speech about how their film is really about the human spirit… or something.
Nobody wants to admit they’re making science fiction because they know that sci-fi fans will show up no matter what they call it, but the average dude who still thinks science fiction is for nerds… will not. Pretend it isn’t sci-fi and those people will still be able to feel good about themselves for not being dorks, even though you and I will really know what’s up. Live dork proud.
The good news here is that no matter what they categorize it as, China Doll stands a chance of being really good. It’s being made by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, whose previous series Big Love was must watch television.