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Twilight Zone Marathon Showcases ‘80s Episodes By J. Michael Straczynski And Harlan Ellison

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ZoneWhile Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is rightly considered a genre classic, and indeed one of the most influential TV series of all time, the brand has been resurrected several times over the years. Unsurprisingly, neither the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie nor the short-lived 2002 UPN version lived up to Serling’s admittedly high bar. But one version came closer to being a worth successor of the original series than any other: the underrated TV relaunch that ran for three seasons beginning in 1985. If that was before your time, or you’ve simply never seen the ‘80s version, Chiller TV will be airing a marathon of episodes tomorrow, and it’s definitely worth setting your DVR.

There’s a reason the ‘80s incarnations of The Twilight Zone stacks up so well against the competition: it was absolutely jam-packed with talented people who went on to do great things. I’m talking J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape, Defiance), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Harlan Ellison (Harlan Freakin’ Ellison). The original Zone succeeded so well for many reasons, but incredible writing was one of the most crucial, and it’s here that the 1985 Zone truly honors Serling’s iconic series.

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Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski Reveals The Real Reason Michael O’Hare Left The Show

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OHareThis past weekend was a huge one for Babylon 5. The show is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and show creator J. Michael Straczynski reunited onstage with most of the surviving main cast at Phoenix Comicon, joining together to fondly remember the show, and honor the friends they’ve lost over the years, including actors Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, and Jeff Conaway. Indeed, Babylon 5 has been marred by tragedy many times over the years since it wrapped up its run, but it turns out there was one sad tale even the most devoted fans didn’t know…until now.

Longtime B5 fans such as myself have always wondered if we new all the facts about Michael O’Hare’s departure from the show. He played Commander Jeffrey Sinclair during the show’s first season, but was replaced for season two and beyond by Bruce Boxleitner, in the role of Captain John Sheridan. There were rumors that Warner Bros. wanted a bigger star for the show, or that O’Hare wasn’t comfortable in the role, but it always seemed like we weren’t getting the whole story, that something was being held back.

The secret, kept by Straczynski for two decades and only revealed now after O’Hare’s 2012 death, is simply this: O’Hare was fighting a serious battle with mental illness, including delusions and paranoia. Because he loved the show, and the fans, he didn’t want his troubles to potentially derail the show just as it was finding its legs. So he soldiered on, made it through the end of the season, and moved on to get the help he needed. He asked Joe to keep that secret until, someday, he had passed away. And that’s precisely what Straczynski did.

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Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski On Why TV Sci-Fi Is A Tricky Beast

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J. Michael StraczynskiJ. Michael Straczynski knows a thing or two about making quality, televised science fiction. When Babylon 5 aired its pilot in February 1993, JMS was working uphill against a TV landscape that assumed space-based science fiction shows would only work if they were Star Trek spinoffs. Against the odds, B5 managed to survive for its full five-year arc, although it switched to an entirely different network (TNT) for its fifth season. Twenty years later, Babylon 5 is rightly considered a genre classic, but it’s still hard to get the networks to take a chance on a science fiction series. During a recent Q&A session for Slashdot, Straczynski sounded off on the trouble with TV sci-fi.

One reader asked JMS to comment on the dearth of quality TV sci-fi, and whether fans could use things like crowdfunding to help generate/support more of it. Here’s Joe:

The problem is that the networks still don’t take SF seriously, or even feel threatened by it. I’ve had executives say that a space-show doesn’t work because people don’t care about what happens to characters in space, it has to be on earth or nobody’ll be interested. I’ve had them say “you can do whatever you want, it’s scifi, it doesn’t have to make sense.” Because it’s SF they always think that somehow or other The Fate Of The World has to be at stake. If you’re doing a drama, no one suggests that solving the relationship problems of the murder has to save the world, but they feel that it has to be that way if you’re writing SF, which is why it’s also so often the rule in SF movies. It’s absolutely crazy-making. 2001, one of the most classic SF motion pictures of all time, could never get made today. Not a chance. Too cerebral, they’d say. Not enough action. All the crowdsourcing in the world won’t rewire the neurons engaged in that kind of thinking.

I keep waiting for a paradigm shift to happen that will let network and studio execs see that SF is the same as any other genre in terms of how you approach it – logically, character based, with challenging ideas and forward thinking – but I worry that it might never happen in my lifetime.

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The Wachowskis And J. Michael Straczynski Team Up For Netflix Series Sense8

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WachZynski

When Netflix got into the original series game with the crime drama Lilyhammer and the political drama House of Cards, it opened up a strange avenue for programming at a time when audiences are still slowly growing accustomed to high-quality cable series. Some of Netflix’s attention has been spent bringing cancelled series back to life, like the comedic pinnacle of Arrested Development and the…whatever people liked about The Killing, but it hasn’t closed the door on other shows.

For instance, Netflix has just sealed the deal on a 10-episode order of Sense8, a new sci-fi project from the Wachowskis, which marks the siblings’ first entry into televised storytelling. Instead of wondering how the duo can possibly get into TV when Jupiter Ascending is still in whatever mode of production it’s currently in, take comfort in knowing they’ll be joined on Sense8 by Babylon 5 creator and all-around talented guy J. Michael Straczynski, whose Studio JMS will be one of several production companies involved. These are three of the more important filmmakers in the genre, so chances are it’s going to be really great to some, terrible to others, and misunderstood by the rest. Just like everything else.

Sense8 is described as a “gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted,” which doesn’t really explain a whole lot, as is the case with the Wachowskis’ explanation for their inspiration for the project. The siblings explain that “Several years ago, we had a late-night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us, and out of that paradox Sense8 was born.”

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Babylon 5 Creator Serves Up Trailer For His New Comic 10 Grand

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As a long-time Babylon 5 fan, it’s been great in recent years to see the career of the show’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski, really taking off oh big Hollywood films such as Changeling and Thor. Last year he founded a new media company, Studio JMS, to house many of his projects under one banner. One such project is the return of Joe’s Comics, an imprint that previously published titles such as Delicate Creatures and Midnight Nation (incidentally, that last one is my favorite thing JMS has ever done). Now we can check get a look at the first title out of the resurrected Joe’s Comics imprint: a horror series called 10 Grand.

The “supernatural noir” teams Straczynski with acclaimed artist Ben Templesmith, whose work you might recognize from past projects such as 30 Days of Night with Steve Niles and Fell with Warren Ellis. His style really lends itself to supernatural or horror content, so this should be a great match. You can check out the new trailer for JMS’ 10 Grand below.

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Seven Directors Who Should Helm Star Trek 3 If J.J. Abrams Doesn’t

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With the jaw-dropping news that J.J. Abrams would soon be holding the reigns of not one, but both of the biggest science fiction franchises of all time, most of the discussion has centered around what an Abrams-directed Star Wars film will look like. But what about Star Trek 3?

Realistically, if Abrams decides to only produce Trek 3, but not direct it, it’s likely that the gig will go to one of his collaborators: Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, or Roberto Orci. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the least interesting possible outcome. Like it or not, Abrams has set the status quo for Trek, at least for the immediate future. While another reboot can’t be considered impossible, a more likely scenario — and potentially a very good one — would be to bring in another strong creative vision who could build on Abrams’ foundation, shore up his weaknesses, and evolve Trek to the next level, whatever that may be. With that in mind, we’ve chosen seven directors we think could make Trek 3 amazing.

Engage…

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