Can Robert J. Sawyer Save Us From A TV Wasteland?S

With many science-fiction shows facing cancellation, our best hope is that next fall's programming includes another Fringe or Lost, a thought-provoking hit. So it's good news that ABC just greenlit Robert J. Sawyer's Flash Forward.

Reuters reports that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is "all but gone" (although at this point, insiders are still insisting no decision has been made). Joss Whedon's Dollhouse apparently has a fifty-fifty chance of coming back. And Eleventh Hour, the bland weird-science procedural, is probably toast. Chuck, meanwhile, had a ratings uptick this past week, but is still in deep trouble — especially since NBC's police drama, Southland, is doing well. (And NBC won't have as many prime time slots next fall, when Jay Leno takes over the 10 PM slot every weekday.) The 2008-2009 season may stand out as the last time prime time television included a significant number of strong science fiction shows.

So it's great news that the Hollywood Reporter is reporting Flash Forward, based on Robert J. Sawyer's novel, is "a lock for a series order." In Flash Forward, an experiment involving the Large Hadron Collider gives everyone on Earth a two-minute glimpse of the future. But unlike the novel, in which everyone sees twenty years into the future, the show, produced by David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga, gives everyone a glimpse five months into the future. And at the end of each season, the show resets and people get another future-glimpse. The show stars Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Sonya Walger and Jack Davenport.

Other pilots that are looking good for next fall, according to THR: the John Updike magic-fest Eastwick, the alien-invasion remake V, and Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas, in which a girl uses a magical atlas to discover an alternate world beneath our own. A show called Vampire Diaries is one of four pilots competing for six slots on the CW. To be honest, none of those shows sound as interesting as Flash Forward, or any number of recently canceled or "bubble" shows. They're also a lot more fantasy than science fiction.

And there's no mention whatsoever of Day One, the post-apocalyptic NBC show from Heroes' Jesse Alexander which supposedly filmed a pilot a while back. Also no mention of Boldly Going Nowhere, the science fiction comedy from the makers of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia which filmed a pilot last year — but since Fox already ordered five more episodes, that may be in the bag already. And, as you probably already knew, Ron D. Moore's big Fox pilot, Virtuality, is looking dead in the water.

One reason we might be seeing less science fiction on television for a while? Apparently the networks are tightening their belts in the wake of the econom-ick and the losses from the writers' strike. Shows have to be cheaply made, and filmed in Vancouver.