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    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010 edited
    A couple of years back, before I was working on Iron Sky, I was listening to an interview of the movie director Timo Vuorensola on local Finnish radio. There were a couple of interviewers in the studio and one of them confessed that he can't stand scifi. There was a bit of talk about Star Wreck and Iron Sky and how they are comedies, and then the interviewer said something on the lines of "well, comedy is an integral part of scifi, isn't it?"

    At that point I almost swallowed my tongue and I think there was a couple of seconds of dead air from Timo.

    When I got my brain running again, I realized how someone who doesn't know the genre might have got that impression: watching only TV sci-fi.

    Now, just to "celeberate" Syfy's decision to can Caprica, I'd like to do a little gallup (and maybe find some new or old quality scifi to watch), here's a small challenge for people. List me television sci-fi that fits the following:

    - The writers don't see every line as a potential place for a witty joke.
    - No comic relief characters / caricatures, like the super-nerdy scientist who spouts nonsensical jargon.
    - Doesn't have "lighter and funnier" episodes now and then.

    The only examples I've been able to think of from the modern sci-fi is the new BSG, Caprica and Stargate: Emov... Universe, but that's about it. I think you might find more in the older stuff, things like Sapphire & Steel...
  1.  (9115.2)
    Do you want them to be modern? I hope not...
    Things that pop into my head without too much thought (so they may not completely fit your criteria)

    -Star Trek (any of them)
    -Babylon 5
    -Alien Nation
    -The Hitchhiker
  2.  (9115.3)
    -Star Trek (any of them)

    You sure about that? Granted, what I saw of "Voyager" was dull as hell, but I've watched a fair bit of the original and the Next Generation, and they're both pretty funny when they want to be.

    I remember once, in a comic shop, talking about how funny that film with the Next Generation cast on the planet that reversed the aging process was, when one of the other customers said, with a completely straight face, "I don't think humour's appropriate for Star Trek". I was left scratching my head.
  3.  (9115.4)
    All the QUATERMASS tv series.


    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010 edited
    Warped Savant:

    Hmm, can't really agree with most of that list. I think mentioning Ferengis will blow most of the new Star Trek out of the water, IIRC Babylon 5 had its silliness, Firefly was full of jokes and quips (loved the series tremendously, though!). X-Files was here and there depending on the episode and wasn't Alien Nation quite silly also, starting with the main alien character's language mistakes and the silly alien names. Never seen The Hitchhiker, though, maybe I should check it out.

    Now that I think about it, Dollhouse managed to be quite serious. Also, if you count conspiracy stuff under scifi, so did Flash Forward.

    Okay, I think a bit of clarification might be in order. First of all, I don't consider fun scifi to be a bad thing. It's just... whenever I start a new sci-fi series, I can be reasonably sure I'll be watching something that's "aimed at viewers from 13-18 years of age, but enjoyable for older geeks too". I have a bit of an overdose of sci-fi series' which sort of wink at the viewer at regular intervals: "this is only sci-fi, you know, so let's lighten things up a bit!" To drop a very loaded comment, watching BSG and also Caprica was a breath of fresh air, since the first time I got the vibe that I'm watching a sci-fi series that's aimed at adults. No winking, no quipping, no comic relief, daring to try to be dry and complex.

    I'd be very happy to see something like Wolfe's "Long Sun" books, Banks' "Use of Weapons", Haldeman's "Forever War" or Morgan's "Black Man" in TV format instead of a steady cavalcade of stuff like Warehouse 13, Eureka etc. I'm also hoping I've missed some awesome sci-fi series I've never heard about.
  4.  (9115.6)

    Oh yes! I saw Quatermass and the Pit a few years back and that was great stuff. It had also aged surprisingly well. For some silly reason I didn't realise it was a series, have to dig out the rest of that too. Never heard of the other series' up here in Commie Reindeerland, but got to check them out.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    I have to disagree with BSG. The eighth episode of the first season, "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" was essentially a screwball comedy.
  5.  (9115.8)
    - The writers don't see every line as a potential place for a witty joke.
    - No comic relief characters / caricatures, like the super-nerdy scientist who spouts nonsensical jargon.
    - Doesn't have "lighter and funnier" episodes now and then.

    The problem is those rules apply to almost every show on tv, sci-fi or not. There's very few shows, much less sci-fi, that don't have a minimum of 2/3 of those things happening in there somewhere. I honestly think this applies more to tv in general than sci-fi in particular.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    Even Stargate Universe has Eli, who, like it or not is a comic relief character.
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    Dark Skies
    Space Above and Beyond
    The Last train
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010 edited
    Blake's 7?

    Going waaaaaay back, I know, and Villa was largely there for comic relief, but I always felt it took itself very seriously. Even if the special effects inadvertently made pre-teens chuckle.
    • CommentAuthorkperkins
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    Basically your list precludes almost any show on TV, SF or not. I was going to put Lost, but there was some comedic stuff there, so that negated that choice. A show can take itself, and SF seriously, and still have some levity once in a while.
  6.  (9115.13)
    Charlie Jade. A year since first seeing it, I'm still not quite sure what it was - but I'm pretty sure it wasn't comedy.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    The issue with your question is that comedy is an integral part of drama.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    Outer Limits and Twilight Zone seem obvious to me.

    Dollhouse was much more serious than I expected from Joss Whedon.
    One second, a lighthearted conversation between two scientific minds... the next second - '::BOOM::' ... headshot.

    I miss that show.

    Perhaps what the interviewer meant was that 'Comedy is an integral part of life and that sci-fi is a fantastic play on life.'... er something like that?

    What makes Sci-fi different from fiction is the realistic/possible elements of science, right? Or you know.. the language of nature. Humor is a major part of life, living, nature, existence and ultimately storytelling... but I would not say it is actually integral with Sci-fi beyond all that.

    To me it's like saying, "Suspense is an integral part of Horror." ... Sure, I see what your saying but I could not imagine a world without Hitchcock.
      CommentAuthorJohn Skylar
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010 edited
    The requirements may be a little too stringent--it's hard to find episodic fiction that doesn't include some element of comedy every once in awhile--but I do think there've been some good things listed. I'll add to that two recent shows:

    the reboot of V


    FLASH FORWARD (not counted because they canned it)

    Say what you will about these (and I'm sure you can find a lot of things to say) they're still science fiction with vanishingly small comic elements, unless you count riffing them. And these didn't come out over the whole history of TV; these are from the past two years.
    • CommentAuthorALE
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    hm well seeing as "cast must be human" isn't on the criteria list; THUNDERBIRDS. Also I was beaten to the punch on Charlie Jade, which I didn't expect.

    I see where you're coming from with this, the problem is these "heavier" concept scifi shows tend to get tired a lot faster than the more lighthearted fare. Taking an honest look at what you find refreshing shows me things I've already seen on THE WIRE or THE SHIELD or THE WEST WING etc etc, except "in spaaaaaace!" It's drama fatigue, and while many viewers can't always articulate it, or in the case of some trek fans, are delusional, it's why Eureka and Warehouse 13 are going strong and Caprica it getting kicked to the curb.

    None of which is to say I would mind more cerebral/philosophical scifi on the air.
  7.  (9115.18)
    The Muppet Show: Pigs in Space!!!!

    because it was serious all the time.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010
    Some miniseries that might pass (and that are well worth watching):

    The Lost Room (2006)
    Children of Dune (2003)
    Wild Palms (1993) This one is a bit surreal but I don't remember any standard comedy sci-fi moments.
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010 edited
    Yep, as many of you have pointed, this is not necessarily a problem of just sci-fi - it can be argued that this is a problem with BAD WRITING ON TV. And by and large, I agree with that. The thing is that especially if you have a narrow view of what counts as sci-fi, it's very much a small niche genre, and one which the producers, or worse than that, the advertisers might see as something only for the young male geek. When the genre is small, there isn't that much chance of a Sopranos or The Wire or whatever to plop up to the surface amongst all the mediocre stuff - especially if the industry and the genre seems to be predisposed to turn out stuff for "a less demanding audience".

    ALE: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with your diagnosis, at least for the most part. I'd like to see "a sci-fi version" of The Wire or The Shield, sure (haven't watched The West Wing myself). Initially it sounds kind of silly ("Uh, so you want to see a cop show except with spaceships?"), but when you think about it, most stories can be transported and adapted across genres surprisingly easily and a traditional well known function for sci-fi is to take a real world issue, put it iiiiin spaaaace and handle it in a way that wouldn't be possible in down to Earth drama. 3/4 of Caprica we've seen so far could have happened on modern day Earth, the missing quarter being the real consciousness vs. virtual consciousness stuff, which the sci-fi setting enabled. Galactica could've been a historical story about a group of pilgrims, etc. etc.

    Anyhoo, I know the criteria I set up are kind of stringent, and furthermore, they feel a bit inaccurate for me too. I'm one of those Wireheads who think that when it comes to writing, The Wire is the best TV series out there so far - and yeah, it had its funny moments (sheeeeeeeit!), but that certainly didn't make the series a lightweight or stupid. I'm reluctant to slap the difference under "good writing vs bad writing", because that's such a wide categorization it's kind of useless for practical purposes. I guess the difference is if the series is built inherently as a serious thing, with some lighter moments dropped in here or there, or if it's kind of light and easy right from the start. I think the criteria are useful as a kind of litmus test in a "if these points are the first ones that come to mind when you think about a certain series" way.

    Gahh. This is one of those irritating things where I know intuitively exactly what I mean, but just can't get my brain bend around to vocalizing it. Which is very annoying.

    BTW, thanks for all the recommendations, there's a few shows in there I haven't even heard of!