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Babylon 5’s Straczynski Directing WWII Drama The Flickering Light

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Changeling

Say what you will about geeks, but we’re a loyal crowd. When we fall in love with the worlds and characters of somebody like Joss Whedon, we’ll follow them wherever they go from there. And while he hasn’t soared into the same stratosphere as Whedon just yet, another genre talent I’ve been following for decades is Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. While many of his projects after B5 failed to connect, he’s achieved new levels of success in recent years, after Changeling, based on his original screenplay, earned several Oscar nominations. Now he’s tackling a new obstacle: he’ll be making his feature-film directorial debut with a World War II drama called The Flickering Light.

Variety reports that Straczynski will be directing from his own original screenplay, based on real events, which centers on a World War II concentration camp that exclusively imprisoned Gypsies. That’s a corner of World War II history that hasn’t been explored much on-screen, but The Flickering Light ventures into even more surreal territory. During the filming of Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl’s 1942 film Tiefland, the prisoners were pressed into service as actors. JMS tells Variety:

During the day, the prisoners were escorted to the studio by armed guard and corralled onto movie sets. They were cleaned up by the largely sympathetic Aryan crew, feasted on food unimaginable to prisoners, then dressed in period Spanish wardrobe as Riefenstahl required ‘authenticity’ on camera. Then after filming each day, returned, once more in rags, to the horror of the camp.

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The Dream Team: Six Writers Who Could Make Syfy Great

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Fans have had a love/hate relationship with Syfy — formerly the Sci-Fi Network — for two decades now. And let’s be honest, that relationship has tended toward the “hate” end of the spectrum more often than not. For every Farscape or Battlestar Galactica or Stargate, there are dozens of shows along the lines of Self-Professed Paranormal Investigators Overreacting to Random Sounds in Night Vision or Talented Cold Reader Convincing Grieving Families He Can Talk to the Dead.

But, all evidence to the contrary, I do still believe that Syfy could be saved, and could rally to become the network we all wish it was. There are a few lights in the darkness. Two of the talents responsible for some of Syfy’s greatest shows are returning with new projects: Farscape’s Rockne S. O’Bannon is back with this spring’s Defiance, and word broke just this week that Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore is working on a sci-fi thriller called Helix for the network. That’s a good start, but it got us thinking. If, through whatever unlikely sequence of events you care to imagine, we were handed the keys to Syfy tomorrow, which creative talents would we bring in to restore the Syfy name? Or rather the Sci-Fi Channel name, because the first thing we’d do is get rid of that god-awful moniker. Either way, here are our picks (and we’re not including Joss Whedon, because he’s way too obvious and his dance card is full anyway).

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J. Michael Straczynski & Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment Team For Pandemic TV Series

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Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski is returning to television, partnering with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Georgeville Television to create a new pandemic thriller drama for ABC. JMS has been keeping busy in recent years, working on the screenplays for Thor, Underworld: Awakening, and the Academy Award-nominated Changeling. Assuming the unnamed drama gets picked up, this will be one of Joe’s first gigs on a TV series since he ran Showtime’s Jeremiah.

There aren’t many details at this point, with Deadline merely describing the show as a “high-octane pandemic thriller that combines closed-ended procedural and serialized elements.” I’m guessing that’s TV speak for “it’ll have self-contained episodes, but also an ongoing arc of some sort.” Straczynski knows from serialization, having shepherded Babylon 5 through five seasons while hewing – more or less – to a pre-planned arc.

A few more possible details can be gleaned from the show’s entry on IMDb Pro. Listed under the title Epidemic, the is said to follow “a group of virus hunters working for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta as they track epidemics around the world.”

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Battlestar Galactica Alternatives

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bsgThe first half of Battlestar Galactica’s final season on television ended this past Friday. The good news is that there’s more to come. The bad news is that it’s a long way off. Battlestar Galactica won’t return to television until January of 2009, when the final 10 – 12 episodes will air and complete the series. That means if you’re one of the BSG faithful, you’ve got a long six months to fill until Starbuck, Adama, and Caprica Six come back and finish their story.

To help you make it through those long, Battlestarless months, we have a few suggestions. The existence of TV on DVD means there’s no reason to resort to awful reality shows or even more awful doctor/cop/lawyer dramas. We’ve got you covered. Head to the store, and consider trying some of these.