Mark Terry

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Defying Gravity

September 17, 2009
I don't watch much TV. I've got a few favorites. "Bones." "Burn Notice." And there are some things I'll watch sort of with one eye if it happens to be on, but my life doesn't much revolve around any particular TV shows. I tried "Royal Pains" but decided I didn't like it enough to stay up past my bedtime and watch it, although I might catch the episodes I miss on And now that I'm getting up earlier this school year, it's even less likely to happen.

So a couple months ago, intrigued by a new show on ABC (and for the record, let me assert my position that the major networks do not do a good job of bringing us interesting TV shows and then supporting them... anyway...) called DEFYING GRAVITY. I believe it might have been pitched as "Grey's Anatomy" in Space or Grey's Anatomy Meets Lost. Since I've never seen Grey's or Lost, I decided to watch DG. (I know what they're about, I've seen a few minutes here or there, but I've never watched those shows).

I'm hooked. Which is typical, because I believe its ratings are roughly equivalent to the National Furniture Refinishing Championships. They made 13 episodes and it'll probably be canceled after the 8th. Which would piss me off, but I'll get over it.

Premise? It takes place 40 years or so in the future. The International Space Organization (ISO) is planning a very ambitious space mission with an international team of 6 astronauts. They will go on a 6-year tour of the Solar System in their ship, The Antares. But there's some mysterious force, called Beta, which appears to be causing problems. Aside from the Beta stuff, and the soap opera stuff, they've tried to keep the science based on, well, science.

Which may be the least interesting thing about the show, to my mind. The show is filled with flashbacks to the training missions and how the relationships of the 6 crew have developed. Two of the crew are married, but their partners are back at Mission Control. That wasn't planned, but Beta messed around with the health of two of the members and they got pulled off the ship at the last minute and replaced. The two replacements are experienced astronauts who were on a Mars mission years before that had to abandon two of their fellow astronauts on the planet in a storm. One astronaut got pregnant during training and took a morning-after pill, which she had a negative reaction to resulting in a hysterectomy. (And the father of the child was one of the Mars astronauts, to make matters a bit more complicated). The astrophysicist is a geeky dork who should never have been allowed on the trip, but Beta wanted him there (and sometimes he's very useful). A conservative Hispanic Christian. An Israeli doctor who's a recovering alcoholic. An aggressively sexual German mission specialist, and so on.

Anyway, I like the show and go out of my way to either stay up late and watch it, or catch it on afterwards.

So, the question of the day is: any TV shows you really liked that got cancelled before they could even take off? And does the fact that shows that appeal to me most seem to have the lowest ratings suggest something about my taste?

Mark Terry


Blogger Alan Orloff said...

I've got one. A few years ago, there was a cop show starring Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson (I may have spelled their names wrong). I don't remember the name of it, but they showed the same crime from several different viewpoints, each bringing something new to the story. I thought it was pretty good, and then they went and cancelled it. Bummer.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Oh Mark, don't get me started! They keep cancelling ALL my favorites! There was one in New York with a guy who was immortal that was AWESOME. Then Dirty, Sexy Money was actually great, in spite of its title. I loved Lipstick Jungle, and I discovered Bionic Woman too late--I had no idea it was going to be good or that I would ever, in a million years, like it. They canceled the Unit, and this summer I fell in love with Mental. AWESOME show. I don't know how they could have canceled.

That's just off the top of my head. The networks are HORRIBLE at not giving shows a chance. I'm totally sick of it.

And you know what else? Seasons are SO SHORT now. Chuck isn't even starting until MARCH! Burn Notice doesn't come back on until January.

It's easy to give up TV now. Nothing is on anymore. I can track six or seven shows a year, and only spend an hour a week; seasons are that short. It's so disheartening.

And it's at a time when the writing and the acting for TV shows is the best it's ever been in my lifetime.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Josh Whedon's Firefly.

"Defying Gravity" does sound interesting... but I also must admit I probably won't try to track it down and watch it because (1) it's too much trouble to try to remember to turn on a TV and watch a show at a specific time (I watch True Blood but I use HBO On Demand to watch it when I want to watch it) not when some network scheduler decided that I should watch it... and (2) I have lost my tolerance for commercial interruptions of programs.

Eventually shows come out on DVD and if they are interesting I will get them via Netflix.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think the show you're thinking of was Boomtown.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Journeyman? I liked the pilot. I have it on my iPod.

Yeah, the networks have the same attention spans as publishers.

And yeah, seasons are short, especially on cable. They were talking about the season finale of Burn Notice and my son and I look at each other and go, "Wasn't the season premier just last month?"

And I agree with you. There's a lot of great writing and acting going on at the TV level, although there are a lot of shows that just seemed to be regurgitated leftovers.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I keep reminding myself there are some HBO, etc., shows I've wanted to watch and have never gotten around to checking out. Weeds is one; Breaking Bad is another. But like I said, I don't watch much TV. Some of our friends suggested TiVO to us and seemed shocked when we said that we used to tape shows but never got around to watching them, so we didn't think TiVo would work so well for us because we'd just never get around to watching them either.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Alan Orloff said...

Yes, Boomtown! Thanks, Mark, I've been trying to think of the title since I left the comment!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Years ago, when I watched television, I was disappointed when, as I recall, Men Into Space didn't return for a second season but I guess that was around 1960.

Sightly more recently there was a show called Strange Luck in which the hero had apparently the sort of "super power" of being lucky, which I thought was a neat concept and would have liked to have seen worked out in more detail.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm afraid I've never heard of either show. But the "lucky" thing instantly reminded me of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, both the book and the movie. In both, in Potions Class, they are told that there is a Lucky Potion, extremely difficult to make and very dangerous if you screw up. The winner of a contest gets a tiny vial of it. During a key moment (2 in the book, as it happens, but they changed it in the movie) Harry takes the Felix Felicis potion. It's fun in the book, but absolutely hysterical in the movie. He gets this really devil-may-care, almost drunken confidence. Both times I've seen the movie I thought I was going to laugh myself right onto the floor during the funeral of Aragog (a giant spider). It's so remarkably done, because he has a mission to do, get information out of a professor, and Hermione's telling him, "You've got to go see Professor Slughorn." And he keeps going, "No, I really think I want to go visit Hagrid. Yup, that's the place I want to be. See ya!"

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Scott Kreppein said...

Mark, as far as taste, it means that you, me, and the other commentors share better taste than the peons who run the networks, who in turn cater to the peons that watch them. ABC did cancel defying gravity, right after last weeks episode, which was the best thus far. I loved journeyman. Apparently merlin is up in the air. 7-days, andromeda, enterprise (right after finishing a terrible season-long plot), then there was the dresden files: all cancelled before their time. Mutant X was a rip-off, but was still entertaining. I think there was a time cop show. Basically anything with time travel doesn't last five episodes.

Sci fi just doesn't fair well in prime time. We are a different, more intelligent type of fan. You won't get immediate ratings, but you will get a steadily growing pool of loyal viewers. Even the original star trek was unceremoniously canned.

BSG is the only one I can think of that was allowed to hobble along and grow a fan base, then make a respectable exit. Stargate is still going from one spinoff to another. Heroes will deserve to be canned if it doesn't do any better.And, what happened to david the gnome (a bit of a non-sequitor, I know).

Anyway, you struck a cord, thanks for letting me vent.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I have high hopes that SyFy (which is a totally silly relabeling of a network, but I digress..) will pick up Defying Gravity then. Or, given its tone, maybe We, Lifetime, or O.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Oh, and Scott. Last night's episode was exciting. I'm all for finding out what Beta is, but frankly, if I was that crew, if I found out that some dickhead 6 trillion miles away just ran that kind of a drill on me to get my attention, I'd pull the plug on all communications until he was fired. "Hello, this is Antares? Is Goss still there? Yes? Talk to you next week. Click."

4:35 PM  

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