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Posts Tagged ‘The Prisoner’

According to various blog reports the folks at AMCseem to have recognized that SkiffyTube(R) is no longer targeting the key ‘geeky young guy’ demographic.

Charlie Collier, AMC’s general manager, either thinks like I do or he reads the blog.  He wants to “mine” classic shows and movies for possible remakes, hoping to appeal to the fans who are in their 40s and 50s.

About frakkin time!

Someone in cablevisionland finally woke up to the fact that: 40 & 50 year olds (generally) have money, most of ‘em grew up on TVand a whole shitload (official measurement according to the US Dept. of Weights and Measures) get off on some kind of science fiction.

That’s right. Science Fiction.  NOT Nazi Werewolves versus the Giant Alligator from Planet Redneck.

They’ve also not missed the obvious fact that SkiffyTube(R) – aka the SciFi Channel – has abandoned that demographic in favor of Inbred Nazi Werewolves from the Redneck Planet.  (Although to be fair, inbreeding for werewolves might actually be a good thing.)

AMC is producing a remake of Patrick McGoohan’s cult classic The Prisoner.  From the buzz I’m hearing, they’re going to do it proper justice. Although the proof will be in the pudding, I’m rooting for ‘em. 

Collier seems to be looking for other classics that AMC can give the same treatment to.  I have a strong suggestion to offer.

Before you go and remake a classic, find out if your core audience prefers a remake, the original, or maybe even both.  Give some strong and serious thought towards EMBRACING a comparison between the old and the new.  Have your cake and eat it too.

As one (vocal) member of the fifty year olds who grew up on SF on television and in the theater, I know I cast a jaundiced eye towards any redo I’m offered. I know I watch in horror and pain when some smartypants director or script writer thinks they’re capable of improving on the original and fucks the entire thing up by failing to have understood not just the original message/plot/characters, but the zeitgeist of the era that produced it as well.

Its admittedly pretty hard to get the feel for a 50s era film if you’ve never been instructed to hide under a school desk in the event of nuclear attack.  Its impossible to know what it was like to watch a space flick before man had landed on the moon.

Which is one of the major reasons that I think that so many re-makes have failed to hit the mark, at least in my estimation.  To provide a recent example – I’d MUCH rather sit down and watch Heston’s Omega Man than Smith’s I Am Legend.

What I WILL happily do is watch both back to back, with Vincent Price’s Last Man on Earth thrown in for good measure.  I’ll spend the entire 6+ hours explaining to my friends exactly how and why LMOE is the closest to Matheson’s story, OM is a good update and strikes the right balance and IAL sucks on so many levels that the real tragedy is that its the only one of the three that shares Matheson’s title.

As far as the broadcaster is concerned, it doesn’t really matter why I’m watching now, does it? I’m watching. Nielsen can tell I’m watching and they can tell the advertiser’s that I’m watching. That’s all that really counts.

Now, when it comes to The Prisoner, I really have my doubts as to whether anyone can improve on the original.  McGoohan was made for the role – or rather, he made the role for himself. No other actor can say that.

The vaguely displayed technology of the original was pretty far-out for the time. Nowadays its standard government operating procedure for ordinary citizens, let alone retired secret agents.

The zeitgeist of the time was one of ultra-paranoia (pretty darned close to now) coupled with a sense that the old order was about to be overthrown and replaced with – what? Flowerpower? Anarchism? Communism?  No one knew.  The latter is going to be very hard to capture and translate for a different era.

But I’ll tell you what, AMC.  If you broadcast the original show before of after your remake – I promise I’ll watch both. I’ll even watch the redo with an open mind and anticipatory heart.

On the other hand, if all you offer up is the new version, I might remember to schedule watching the first episode .  After that its all up to how badly I think you’ve screwed with the original.  But if you give me both, I’ll have a reason to stick around.

AMC has a good chance here to eclipse SkiffyTube(R) and make the SICs over there regret ever having coined their new mantra, because all you’ll be hearing around their offices will be people saying “What If we had stuck with science fiction? What If we had realized our audience was already more than just geeky young guys? What If we hadn’t been such idiots?”

AMC has a hot, successful head of programming in Collier, a wide open field, some good connections to the existing SF community (Scalzi’s blog for one) and they’ve demonstrated with this move that they’re paying attention to what’s going on.

Just remember AMC – let us have our cake and eat it too!

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After reading the SciFiChannel’s intention to “expand the definition of SF” (so that their channel will appeal to viewers other than “geeky young guys” [or even geeky old guys]) and after writing my previous entry about the death of traditional science fiction through the offices of mass market appeal courtesy of media conglomerates, I decided to take a look at what a REAL science fiction channel might look like.

Of course you’d have to start with product that was already in the can and cheap, which means a return to anything and everything that ran on the tube from the early 50s on (believe it or not, science fiction was one of the original genres embraced by early television broadcasters).

Of course, this isn’t a scientific study.  I have no access to market research that would help determine what kind of audience share such a channel might enjoy, nor do I know how much any of the owners of these properties that still remain in copyright might ask for airing them again.  I’m by no means a professional broadcast programmer.  Heck, I don’t even know if some of these shows are even available for airing any more.

But I do know one thing.  THIS is the channel I’d watch on a regular basis – even if it was only on for background noise.  Sure, some of the shows are definitely hokey and I’d probably flip over to Discovery or History when they aired (even despite the fact that this would be my own channel) – but from the small bit of research I’ve done on the net, every single one of them has a fan base that would love to be able to see them on the boob tube again, so who am I to judge? 

I mean, if every single one of these shows has generated a handful of fairly-well trafficked nostalgia websites (and some have hundreds), and if many of them have annual conventions devoted to their fans, and some of them even have Ebay categories devoted to them – how the heck can you go wrong tapping into that?

Maybe I ought to call it the Science Fiction Nostalgia Channel…

Imagine a click- through to the channel’s website from – every single lost in space fan page; every single irwin allen fan page; every single quantum leap fan page; every single firefly fan page…

Will the audience be 18 to 49 year olds?  Hell no.  It will be 35 to 70 year olds.  Most of whom have homes, multiple cars, many own their own businesses, the majority of this audience has a college degree.  Maybe the Intelligent Science Fiction Channel would be the proper name? Or maybe the “I’m A Parent With Minor Children and I Tell Them What To Watch Science Fiction Channel” would be most appropriate.

The Other Science Fiction Channel?  The REAL Science Fiction Channel?  I think I’ll stick with Classic Science Fiction Channel for now.  And notice, please, that I’ve completely foregone the use of the skiffy abbreviation.  SciFi is something you type when text messaging, or something you hang on a cable channel that features Professional Wrestling in its line up.

Tomorrow I will post my current show schedule.  Below are the names of all of the shows I considered.  What I’ll be posting is just the roll-out schedule.  Please, if there are shows that you think belong that I’ve missed, let me know.  In the meantime, please pass the word.  I’ll be doing the same on the forums I visit. 

Shows considered for the inaugural season of THE CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION CHANNEL (in no particular order):

Futurama

Jetsons

Thunderbirds

Fireball xl5

Super car

Lost in space

My favorite martian

Voyage to the bottom of the sea

Time tunnel

Land of the giants

Firefly

Dr. who

One step beyond

Outer limits os

Outer limits ns

Night gallery

Twilight zone

3rd rock from the sun

alf 30 102

amazing stories

blake 7

captain scarlet

hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy

land of the lost

rocky jones, space ranger

War of the worlds

Quark

Farscape

Red dwarf

Star trek tos

Star trek ng

Star trek ds9

Star trek voyager

Star trek enterprise

Star trek tas

Tripping the rift

The invaders

Johnny quest

Tales from the darkside

The prisoner

Stargate sg 1

Stargate atlantis

Dark angel

Babylon 5

Tripping the rift

Quantum leap

men into space

Buck rogers in the 25th century

The 6 million dollar man

The bionic woman

Flash Gordon serials

Flash Gordon

space above and beyond

Sliders

the starlost

x-files

Science fiction theatre

The greatest american hero

Space 1999

Battlestar galactica

Alien nation

Andromeda

V

Logan’s run

astro boy

max headroom

Earth: final conflict

UFO 

Starblazers

Exo squad

Akira

 

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Hooray for Michael Moorcock!

I had the pleasure of meeting and greeting Michael years ago when he did an appearance and signing at the original SF Bookstore in NYC.  (I loved that store; it was tiny, dark and smelled of pulp. It was jam-packed with SF goodness and I never failed to find something to read.)

Mr. Moorcock certainly deserves to be elevated to SFWA’s pantheon; he was one of the pillars of the new wave/British invasion of the 60s, edited Britian’s most influential magazine (New Worlds), championed the cause of many who would become well-established authors in their own right and has provided us with a huge body of work that almost defies description:

The Elric stories, the Jerry Cornelius stories, the Oswald Bastable stories, Behold the Man (which I first read as a graphic tale in the comic book Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction – while studying for my religious education degree – talk about synergy…), An Alien Heat, Gloriana and so much more.

Moorcock plays with myths and archetypes, time and reality like no other.  Much of his work (The Cornelius Chronicles in particular) can be described as psychedelic fantasy.  You have to be careful when reading him, as he has a way of getting inside your head and twisting things in strange ways.  Its best to make sure you’re firmly grounded in reality before cracking open one of his tales, because you are going to go on a trip, man!

If you are new to Grandmaster Michael Moorcock and wondering how and why someone you may never heard of, someone with such an outrageous last name could win SFWA’s highest honor – now is your excuse to read some of his stuff.  If you’re an SF fan, I’d ease into him with Warlord of the Air, The Land Leviathan and The Steel Tsar, three interconnected ‘alternate reality’ tales.  For more advanced readers, start with Behold the Man, his award-winning novel.  If fantasy is your game, pick up Stormbringer, the first of the Elric of Melnibone novels.

If you’re totally whacked, or want to be, try and read the Cornelius Chronicles(fans of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner will feel right at home).

Congratulations Michael!

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