Entry for September 25, 2008: SFTV season starts

The new genre television season is now under way, so as I catch up after Byron V.O.'s visit this past weekend, here's a recap of recent episodes.

Thanks to our DVR, Janice and I caught up on ABC Family's Samurai Girl, which reminded me of the short-lived Vanishing Son. The teenaged martial-arts drama was decent, even if it can't compare with the fun allusiveness of recent Sci-Fi comedy The Middleman.

In addition, the casting of Asian-Americans of assorted nationalities as Japanese annoyed me. We don't all look alike! On the other hand, with a Frenchman cast as a Scot in the original (and best) Highlander film and an Englishman cast as a Frenchman in Star Trek: the Next Generation, there is precedent for such internationalized casting in shows like Samurai Girl and Heroes.

Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles continues to be a decent preaopcalyptic drama. There have been numerous plot holes, but the serious mood and action scenes are consistent with the movies in that series. The foolishness of those who would develop fully automated combat robots seems obvious, until one realizes that such things are happening in real life.

Fringe, from the creators of Alias and Lost, focuses on supernatural conspiracies, so comparisons to The X-Files and the upcoming 11th Hour and Sanctuary are inevitable. Still, it was nice to see Keen Eddie's Mark Valley (who would also make a fine Captain America) in a supporting role, and the Boston-area locations seem almost authentic. Some reviewers have pointed out the pseudoscience in the show so far, but that's to be expected in this genre.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of what critics have called "SF-lite" programming this season, as the networks continue to try to capitalize on the popularity of movies based on comic books but are limited in budget and special effects to stories taking place in the (more or less) modern world. No spandex-clad superheroes, few truly alien horrors, and no old-school battles in deep space.

Until more lighthearted TV fare such as Emmy-winning Pushing Daisies returns in a few weeks, I already miss Psych because the number of genre melodramas has been high. As much as I liked the two-hour premiere of the ensemble of Heroes Season 3: "Villains" and the series mentioned above, there have have already been plenty of grisly murders, double-crossings, and hints of humanity's imminent self-destruction across many of these shows.

I prefer to balance the mood among programs, especially after long days at work and monitoring depressing real-world news. However, Heroes has proven that an adult approach to metahumans, as in the legally troubled adaptation of Watchmen, is possible

Since I'm usually running the D&D4e "Vanished Lands: the F.B.I." fantasy game on Monday nights, I'll have to decide whether to record Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Chuck, and/or Heroes. At the moment, Heroes is probably my top choice, even after a lackluster second season.

On the lower end of the genre schedule is Smallville. While it's somewhat surprising that the young-adult metahuman ensemble has survived as long as it has, I'm glad that more elements of the Superman mythos, including a nascent Justice League, are finally being used. If only it could get away from love triangles and kryptonite monsters of the week.

Worse still was Spaceballs: the Series. Granted, I wasn't a huge fan of Mel Brooks' original spoof of Star Wars and other classic space operas, but the low-budget animation and writing of the television version make Tripping the Rift and Stripperella look highbrow. The voice casting, however, was pretty good, but I doubt I'll watch any more of this.

Next time: Stargate: Continuum and gaming!