My point sustains; getting a science fiction series on the air at
all is mind-bogglingly difficult. Getting it past one season is damned
near impossible. Of the series you named as examples of how SF has a
market in TV -- Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, V, Salvage, Matthew
Star, Flash, Greatest American Hero -- how many of those made it to or
past a second season? Though I'm kinda fuzzy on Buck (my brain has
mercifully excised most memories pertaining to that one), and Battlestar
had a *revised* show as another season...insofar as I can recall, those
are ALL one-season wonders.
We're still talking apples and oranges. The common question, the
real killer, is "Is the market big enough to sustain two SF shows, and is
there a market for SF at ALL?" *Getting* a show doesn't prove that there
is a market for SF; it only proves that somebody's going to try it again
to find out. If a show doesn't last, dies quickly, then that proves
the market's dead.
This is one of the blind spots in TV logic which pertains mainly to
the two groups you mention, SF and westerns. If a cop show goes on and
flops, nobody says there's no market for cop shows; *that* show failed.
If an SF series fails, the interpretation is that there's no market for
SF. Also, in general, hollywood perceives all SF as more or less the
same; it doesn't take into consideration, if an SF series dies, if it was
a GOOD SF series or a BAD SF series.
Nowhere was this more true than with the V series (not the mini, the
Kenneth Johnson stuff, which was great), where one of the producers told
me, "As long as we have aliens and space ships and ray guns, we'll get
the SF audience GUARANTEED; it's the mainstream we have to work at."
To understand this whole area, you have to stop thinking like a
viewer and start thinking like a network programming exec. (Start by
lowering your IQ about 15 points.) If a series runs only 1-2 years and
fails, everybody loses; the studio and network will never recoup the
expenses of production because these days you generally need 80-100
episodes of a series to syndicate it. Except for bargain-basement stuff
like minimal fees for SciFi Channel reruns, you're dead. You're out
MILLIONS of dollars.
*NO AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION SERIES OTHER THAN STAR TREK HAS GONE
ON FOR MORE THAN FIVE YEARS SINCE LOST IN SPACE*. We're talking here
twenty-four YEARS of failure (from a network/studio financial point of
view). This does not exactly encourage them to think there's much of a
market. Throw Logan's Run and Amazing Stories and the new Twilight Zone
into the mix.
By entering its 2nd year, Babylon 5 has already beaten the odds. If
we get year three (oh, yeah, and Time Trax also didn't make it), then as
far as I know, we'll be the first nominally-hard SF series other than
Trek to do it in nearly a quarter-century. (I'm excluding X-Files from
this only because I don't quite think it fits as science fiction; I'm not
quite sure what to classify it as other than Really Weird Shit, and a
truly *nifty* TV series. I love it.)
There are an *awful* lot of studio and network people watching us
very closely; if we can be the first to break the curse, proving that
there is a market for SF outside Star Trek that can sustain long enough
for the studio to make back its money, I think you'll finally begin to see
a lot more of it...and frankly, I can't wait; the more competition, the
more SF, the better.