Is science fiction doomed on television? Hell no! Here are 18 TV series in the pipeline that could recharge your love of the fantastical, including alien invasions, dinosaurs, superheroes, time travel, super-spies, government conspiracies, zombies and changelings. Minor spoilers ahead.
There's no doubt things are tough. Most SF/fantasy shows are in danger of cancellation this time around. And in the wake of several high-profile failures, networks aren't giving science fiction/fantasy shows much of a chance any more. V had its first batch of episodes shortened to just four episodes, with a string of hiatuses and changes of showrunner behind the scenes — even though it turned out to be a hit. NBC preemptively slashed Day One from a series to a miniseries to a TV movie, and Fox did the same with Virtuality.
It seems a fair bet that Fringe will be back on Fox, V will probably return on ABC, CW will still have Supernatural, Vampire Diaries and probably Smallville, and NBC will have Chuck. On cable, there are still True Blood, assorted Syfy shows, Batman:B&B and Clone Wars, plus Futurama is coming back. Beyond that, what is there to look forward to?
Here are ten shows in the pipeline that we think could bring science fiction and fantasy back to their place of preeminence on your TV set.
Steven Spielberg's untitled alien invasion series, starring Noah Wylie. We can't wait until this show gets a title that's less of a mouthful. Besides Wylie, this also features Moon Bloodgood, of Journeyman and Terminator Salvation fame. TNT has already greenlit 10 episodes up front. Aliens have already wiped out most of the human race, and they're rounding up the survivors. But Wylie, a college professor, rallies a group of survivors to fight back, including his two sons, and Karen (Jessy Schram), one of the group's "motorcycle scouts."
No Ordinary Family Michael Chiklis (The Shield) stars in this ABC drama about a family discovering that it has superpowers. And it sounds like Chiklis' wife on the show (who's not cast yet) is some kind of mad scientist. The show just cast Autumn Reeser (Entourage) as the wife's lab assistant. David Semel, who directed the pilot for Heroes, is directing this one.
La Femme Nikita. The CW just announced that Maggie Q is in line to take on the role played by Anne Parrilaud in the original Luc Besson film, Bridget Fonda in the U.S. remake, and Peta Wilson in the 1997 cable TV series. In the new series, the CIA trains a new Nikita to replace the original, who has gone rogue. Creator Craig Silverstein says he wrote the new Nikita as "beautiful and exotic," and he wants to use the Asian actress to bust stereotypes (despite that "exotic" thing.) The Hollywood Reporter notes that Q's casting would be "the highest-profile series role for an Asian actress on a broadcast drama series."
Betwixt Another CW series, this one is based on the novel by Tara Bray Smith about three Portland, OR teenagers:
During a surreal, drug-filled summer, the three must come to terms with an incredible revelation: they're all supernatural entities known as changelings. The futures of artistic Ondine Mason, troubled Alaskan runaway Nix Saint-Michael and beautiful, ambitious Morgan D'Amici become irrevocably intertwined during a secret rave in the woods around Mt. Hood. They think they've come to a party, but a terrifying arcane ritual called the Ring of Fire reveals their true natures as well as their critical roles in a looming and potentially deadly other-worldy conflict.
I love the fact that they go to a rave and discover their supernatural destinies. The TV pilot, just greenlit, is being written by Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants' Elizabeth Chandler. So, you know, guilty pleasure.
Tower Prep and/or Unnatural History. I figure at least one of these two live-action shows on the Cartoon Network will turn out to have science fiction/fantasy elements. Tower Prep is about a rebellious teen who wakes up to find himself trapped at a mysterious boarding school that's full of arcane secrets, and he has to figure out the school's mysteries and escape. Paul Dini is producing, plus it sounds like a teen The Prisoner, so it should be pretty awesome. Unnatural History is about a teen, the son of anthropologists, who moves to Washington, D.C. and explores weird mysteries at the Museum of Natural History.
Riverworld. This Syfy miniseries filmed ages ago — we interviewed star Tahmoh Penikett about it last summer — but Syfy just announced an airdate for the first episode: Sunday April 18. Syfy is hoping the miniseries will spawn a new ongoing series, not unlike Penikett's last Syfy series, Battlestar Galactica. Sure, Syfy already made a stab at doing a Riverworld adapatation a few years ago, but this time Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Andromeda) is writing. Also co-starring in the miniseries: Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, V). If this is even remotely as great as Philip Jose Farmer's books, then we hope it does become a series.
Undercovers. J.J. Abrams is creating another new TV series, this time about two married spies. Is it science fiction? We don't know. Given his track record of inserting science fiction elements into most of his shows, including the spy-focused Alias and even the soap-opera Felicity, we're betting it'll be at least somewhat in the "spy-fi" genre. Undercovers is a comedy about a husband-and-wife spy duo, Steven (Boris Kodjoe) and Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who are recalled out of retirement by the CIA, and rekindle their relationship as they investigate different cases every week. Carter MacIntyre just joined this show's cast, as a CIA agent with a drinking problem, who goes missing on assignment. (There are also a few other new spy/conspiracy shows coming on this fall, including NBC's The Event, which is about the biggest government cover-up in U.S. history, involving a "secret facility in Alaska." and Ridley Scott's Nomads, for the CW.)
Terra Nova. Another Spielberg show, this time for Fox. It's about a family from 100 years in the future, who travel back in time 150 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. Spielberg may actually direct some of it, and reports suggest that the special effects will be so expensive and awesome, the show may get greenlit as a series right away, to avoid the expense of filming a pilot, shutting down, and then starting up for the regular series. Dinosaurs! Dude! And as we reported the other day, Spielberg is also reviving his old TV series pitch, Nine Lives, about people who have near-death experiences to reconnect with their dead loved ones.
Being Human (U.S. remake). For those of you who've been living under a rock, this is a remake of the intense British drama about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house. Syfy's Craig Engler tweeted about this remake a lot yesterday, saying that work is progressing, and he expects to see a script "soon-ish." Various twitter followers asked the same question we've all been asking — why remake the show instead of just showing the British version? Engler replied, "1. We don't have the rights 2. The Brit version would only get a modest rating on us 3. The creator wants to do an American version." In any case, if original creator Toby Whithouse really does stay involved, we're all for more Being Human on our screens.
Torchwood (the U.S. remake). Another American revamp of a British show, another original creator in the mix — since Russell T. Davies moved to Los Angeles, this is reportedly going to be one of his pet projects. We'd been assuming that this is a remake, starting over from scratch, but the Guardian seems to believe that Davies might just pick up the story where it left off at the end of "Children Of Earth," the five-hour miniseries that aired last year. With the Hub destroyed in Cardiff, there's no reason for alien-fighting organization Torchwood to be tied to that location any more. So maybe Captain Jack (and his new boyfriend Alonso) will just come back to Earth and travel the globe fighting monsters? Will Fox actually let RTD make this show the way he wants to? We can't wait to find out.
The Cape. Another superhero show — this NBC show involves a cop who's accused of a crime he didn't commit, who turns himself into a superhero to prove his innocence. Simon West, who directed the Human Target pilot, is on board to direct this one. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this show will have a "comic book sensibility." No info yet on who's starring.
The Walking Dead. Frank Darabont writes, directs and produces this adaptation of Robert Kirkman's masterful zombie apocalypse comic, in which policeman Rick Grimes leads a group of survivors in search of a new home. Gale Ann Hurd (Terminator) is also producing. In the TV version, Grimes is seriously injured in a police incident in south Georgia, going into a coma. When he awakes, he finds that shit has gotten real while he was out. He goes in search of his family, only to find his neighborhood trashed. He finds two survivors, who tell him the government was setting up a "safety zone" in Atlanta. So he heads there alone, to try and find his family.
A Game Of Thrones. HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's acclaimed novel series. HBO has already greenlit a pilot, starring Sean Bean and Jennifer Ehle, and hopes to do seven seasons — one for each novel in the series. Producer D.B. Weiss says it won't be a huge, splashy series with thousands of orcs stampeding across the screen. Instead, it'll stay true to the books, and most of the battles will take place offstage.
Gates. This ABC series involves a big-city cop (Frank Grillo) who becomes the chief of police in a "sleepy planned community" and discovers there is more to the residents than meets the eye. Luke Mably plays a cardiologist who's secretly a "vampire-like creature."
Haven. Another book adaptation, this Syfy series is based on the Stephen King novella about a spooky town in (where else?) Maine, where "cursed folk" live normal lives in exile. The curses start coming back, so FBI agent Audrey Parker is brought in to help rein them in again, while untangling the mysteries of Haven. The production team all worked on The Dead Zone, so this spooky King territory is second nature for them.
Star Wars: The Live-Action Series. Who knows when we'll actually see this? Plus, of course, George Lucas' previous attempts at doing live-action Star Wars TV actually made The Phantom Menace look like Citizen Kane. Still, we can't help being excited by the idea of this show — maybe it's the fact that it's supposed to be more noir, focussing on the underbelly of bounty hunters and smugglers after the rise of the Empire. Any show that features a big role for Boba Fett can't be all bad. Not to mention, we hope Lucas finds a way to include Jedi-gone-rogue Quinlan Vos. Plus there are all those whispers that Lucas was recruiting some of Britain's best drama writers to pitch in. So let's hope it happens.
Plus there are also those rumbles that Joss Whedon is having lunch with the folks at FX, and possibly pitching them a show. (And possibly that missing "O" in the network's name will make a huge difference.) And Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman just signed a development deal with Fox, meaning there'll be shows coming down the pike from them. So don't give up yet! Television hasn't abandoned you.
Thanks to Nightsurf for suggesting a few we'd missed originally.