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Sci-Fi Cancellation Watch: What’s Alive, What’s Dead, And What’s Brand New

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upfronts-2014The 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!

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First Contact’s James Crowell Turns 74: Today In Science & Science Fiction

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CromwellActor James Cromwell already had a long and respectable Hollywood career when Star Trek: First Contact released in 1996, but that film assured him a place in the Geek Pantheon by casting him as Zefram Cochrane, the first human to invent warp drive. In First Contact, the Next Gen crew crosses paths with Cochrane after some shenanigans involving time travel and the Borg, and the film’s conclusion has Cochrane completing his first warp flight and in the process attracting the attention of the Vulcans, thus leading to the first contact of the title.

Cromwell is actually the second actor to play Cochrane within Trek’s long history. Glenn Corbett played the role in the 1967 Original Series episode “Metamorphosis.” Cromwell has him beat by one appearance, though, having also played Cochrane briefly in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot “Broken Bow.” And with all due respect to Corbett, Cromwell will always be Zefram to me. (Or, alternately, the devious Dudley Smith from L.A. Confidential.)

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Intelligence Channels The Six-Million-Dollar Man: Today In Science & Science Fiction

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IntelligenceCBS is a network that is almost never on our radar. It’s pretty much an unbroken sea of cop procedurals, which is great if you love cop procedurals but not wonderful if you prefer your entertainment a bit heavier on the aliens and spaceships. The one exception to this is Person of Interest, which has evolved from a standard procedural with a sci-fi twist into a more interesting exploration of artificial intelligence. Tonight another potential gem joins CBS’ primetime line-up…but it could just as easily be a dud.

Intelligence stars Lost’s Josh Holloway in a story that basically sounds like a less silly version of Chuck. The Man Who Was Sawyer is a highly trained intelligence operative named Gabriel Vaughan who is given a further advantage over the nation’s enemies via a microchip implanted in his brain. Naturally, this lets him connect his noggin directly to the interwebs, and it’s a credit to Vaughan’s professionalism that he doesn’t just spend all the time watching porn when he’s supposed to be overthrowing ruthless dictators or assassinating terrorists.

It’s a concept that could really go either way, but they’ll get our eyeballs for the premiere episode tonight, if nothing else. Intelligence premieres tonight at 9/8c on CBS.

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2014 Midseason TV Premiere Guide: What’s Coming Back When?

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AhumanWe’re in the midst of the holiday doldrums when it comes to TV, so unless you’ve had a serious craving for Christmas specials or the odd marathon, your choices have been limited. (Then again, I’m sure a lot of you have been like me — using the barren TV landscape as an excuse to binge-watch stuff on Netflix.) Thankfully, the winter break is about to be broken, with shows returning or premiering beginning next week. So settle into the comfy chair and pull up that DVR menu, it’s time to schedule the next few months of TV sci-fi.

Thursday, January 2

Community (NBC, 8/7c)
Okay, okay, so Community isn’t really science fiction. But it is hilarious, and since creator Dan Harmon has returned to the show, we can now recommend it again in good conscience. Besides, it’s delved into alternate realities and was nominated for a Hugo, so that puts it right inside our wheelhouse.

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Neanderthal Gravesite Suggests They Were Capable Of More Complex Cognition Than Previously Thought

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Neanderthal GraveFor being long extinct, Neanderthals have been making a lot of news lately. Some people out there support the idea of cloning and reintroducing them into our society. I envision a nmber of complications with that idea, although there’s also potential hilarity, have we forgotten Encino Man already? One question that persists, whether Neanderthals will remain in the past or also be part of the future, is just how cognitively advanced they were. I think Homo sapiens tend to believe, or like to believe, that the major leaps in cognition came after we evolved from the early hominids, but a recent re-analysis of a Neanderthal grave site suggests that their cognition may have been much more complex than previously thought.

The gravesite pictured above is from La Chapelle-aux Saints, France. In 1908, archaeologists found a Neanderthal skeleton there, laid to rest some 60,000 years ago. At the time, the skeleton was a major find—one that led to the conclusion that Neanderthals weren’t all that bright, given their rather oafish appearance, even though later examinations revealed that the skeleton found there was from an old, likely arthritic pre-man. Upon re-inspection, the site itself provides valuable clues to the cognitive abilities of our predecessors.

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CBS’ Intelligence Casts A Shirtless Josh Holloway As The Vitruvian Man

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Intelligence
Even though it used to air shows like The Twilight Zone and Lost in Space, CBS is a network that has never been one to fully embrace the science fiction genre. Its most recent attempt — the Stephen King adaptation Under the Dome, barely delved into the actual sci-fi, preferring instead to focus on terrible plotting and childlike performances. So when they first unveiled their upcoming series Intelligence, I was skeptical at best and completely uninterested at worst. But a month away from its premiere, I find myself eagerly anticipating it in a way that I usually reserve for any network other than CBS. And while the poster above isn’t exactly the most exciting, at least the reference it makes is brainier than the average shot of the cast standing around looking smugly pensive.