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Why George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice Novels Suck

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I’m talking about the George R.R. Martin novels, not the terrible campy TV show that hipsters watch in soccer bars. That’s just Deathstalker the 100 million dollar TV show with a better class of actors, slightly less nudity and more gay references than a season of South Park.

I liked Game of Thrones. I liked Clash of Kings. By Storm of Swords, I was having my doubts. By Feast of Crows, the problems were too obvious to ignore.

 

1. A Song of Fire and Ice depends on soap opera gimmicks, not consistent plotting

Think of 24. The show’s plot was incoherent but it kept you watching by constantly throwing in twists and turns. An entire season made no sense but it didn’t matter because you were watching for the suspense and the shocking turn. The Following does the same thing now.

The Game of Thrones novels are a novelistic version of 24.

George R.R. Martin depends on gimmicks to make up for what he lacks in plotting. His original novels, Dying of the Light, Armageddon Rag, were big on atmosphere, but their plots made no sense. That’s still true in Game of Thrones, but Martin spent enough time working in television to borrow its plot gimmicks.

Characters are killed unexpectedly. Characters seem like they’ve been killed off, but they’re actually alive. (Martin has at least twice shown the body of a character only to reveal that he’s alive. Or is that three times?)

Some characters rise unexpectedly and then fall equally unexpectedly. There’s a name for this. Soap opera.

And just like on a soap opera, the gimmicks worked for a while until they became repetitive.

How many times have you seen this one? A character with no real battlefield experience, Robb, Daenerys, Tyrion, suddenly turns out to be Napoleon until they suffer an unexpected setback and lose everything.

All this furious activity disguises the fact that the novels are going nowhere and readers have figured it out. A lot of the frustration isn’t just because Martin isn’t writing novels, it’s because he isn’t moving the story forward. He knows he can’t move it forward. All he has is a bag of tricks. And he’s repeating them too often.

George R.R. Martin’s final trick is to sell the lack of forward motion and consistent plotting as gritty and realistic. Peel away all the gritty medievalism and it’s as gritty and realistic as Days of Our Lives.

 

 

2. Martin is good at Character, Bad at Endings

Do you know what Martin’s early novels all had in common? Botched endings. If you’re waiting for A Song of Fire and Ice sequel that gives you what you want, don’t wait. Martin isn’t capable of it. He’s a good writer, but a bad novelist.

Think of Lost. The show was great at telling the stories of individual characters. It just couldn’t do anything with them in a story. The character sketches were compelling. The story went nowhere. The ending was a disaster.

After five novels, Daenerys is the only character with a meaningful arc whose story has been advanced. Tyrion has a meaningful arc but his only job is going in circles. The less said of the rest of the crew, the better.

In Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings, Martin builds the equivalent of Lost’s early seasons. But once that’s done, like the show, he has nowhere to go. He’s bad at plot and he doesn’t care about it. Like the Lost writers, he just wants to play with character sketches. He doesn’t want to do anything more with them.

Like Lost, Martin randomly kills off characters. He brings in new compelling characters. But the real goal is a status quo in which the setting continues and nothing gets resolved.

Lost wasn’t a mystery about a secret island. Viewers just thought that. It was a way of letting the writers play with a bunch of characters. A Song of Fire and Ice is about letting Martin play with characters. It’s not about big battles or figuring out the mystery of what lies beyond the wall or how the dead can walk again. Readers just think it is.

They’ve been wrong all along.

 

 

3. George R.R. Martin isn’t Tolkien

The Game of Thrones novels are promoted by claiming that George R.R. Martin is the American Tolkien. There are writers who might deserve that honor, probably Robert E. Howard, but Martin isn’t one of them.

There’s very little original worldbuilding in Game of Thrones. Most readers never realize that because the books are told intensely through first person immersion that create a sense of unearned reality. The world seems like it exists, even though it’s very thinly sketched.

Also most of them have never read Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. The similarities are so heavy that if Williams had the guts he could put “The Series that Inspired Game of Thrones” on the reprints and dare Martin to do anything about it. And while Williams isn’t as good at the characters or the intrigue, his world is more realized than Martin’s poor copy of it.

The pseudo-medieval European religion and history are far more realized in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Martin just tosses them out there inconsistently. He doesn’t create a compelling fantasy universe the way that Williams does. George R.R. Martin creates compelling characters. That’s a lot, but it’s not great fantasy.

Martin’s early novels and stories did do some compelling worldbuilding with the Manrealm. It could have been one of Science Fiction’s great universes. But Martin dropped it and did a lot of television. And television is the only thing he can do.

The HBO series Game of Thrones bastardized Martin’s novels, but before it did that, Martin bastardized other people’s work to create A Song of Fire and Ice.

 

 

4. Martin is a good writer, but he never learned to write novels

George R.R. Martin has written some amazing short stories and novellas, but he never learned to write novels. Instead he gave up and went into television. He still doesn’t know how to write a novel.

A Song of Fire and Ice is popular because he used television writing gimmicks to disguise that fact. But the novels stretch on indefinitely because it’s all gimmicks and filler.

Martin can’t end the series because he’s never successfully ended a novel before. Each new novel in the Fire and Ice series just drags on even more. By Dance with Dragons, Martin wasn’t even bothering to pretend that he was ending a novel. And he didn’t. It’s just a chapter in a serial. And the serial can go on forever if the audience doesn’t notice that it’s going nowhere.

Kill a character. Bring him back to life. Up. Down. It’s all an attempt to avoid another failed ending.

If Martin really wants to do right by his audience, he needs to take a break from the universe, which he’s been doing anyway, and write a separate unrelated novel, and not one of the Cards universe collections, plot it out and end it successfully. Then he can take what he learned and apply it to the series.

Not that he will. The HBO cash and all the associated merchandising money keeps flowing in. Martin has become ridiculously famous. He can keep cashing in without delivering. By the time the HBO series ends, he can copy whatever it did with the elements he laid out or he can drag it out for another ten years.

But whatever he does, A Song of Fire and Ice will be mostly forgotten in a generation. The novels are not going to stick around because Martin can’t deliver and soap operas have limited rereadability.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if Martin, like David Gerrold, never releases a final chapter, but just basks in the fame until it goes away.

 

Paul Reiser is the Best Thing About Amazon’s Red Oaks

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There was a time when Mad About You was on the air and hating Paul Reiser was in fashion. Red Oaks is in its own way as cloying as Mad About You, but Paul Reiser’s club president, a clumsy jackass, is the best thing about it.

That’s not much of an achievement.

Red Oaks is a semi-average when it focuses on the titular club, but it’s dragged down  by its mopey dorky main character and his sitcom home life. Every time Jennifer Grey and Richard Kind show up to do a routine that got old in the 1940s as a neurotic married couple, the show becomes teeth gratingly awful.

And it doesn’t have to be.

There are fun characters in Red Oaks like the stoner valet and the sleazy tennis pro and Paul Reiser’s club president. If Red Oaks jettisoned the dorky protagonist who is there to act as our avatar and drifted around from the points of view of the club staff, this could be a much better show.

Not great, but a lot better.

An ensemble Red Oaks could be fun. It would spare us from the miserable experience of watching another TV dork who is supposed to be a stand in for the audience, but is really a stand in for the writers and producers, having to choose between two beautiful girls, neither of whom would look at him twice in real life unless he were producing or writing Red Oaks, and choosing between a successful career as a CPA and a career as a tennis pro if he can only escape his crazy parents.

I don’t want to watch this. Based on the other responses to Red Oaks, I don’t think anyone does.

Paul Reiser, Ennis Esmer and Oliver Cooper are the good things about Red Oaks. If this thing becomes an Amazon show, it will have to keep its focus on them, get rid of Kinder and Grey.

Or better yet just order The Cosmopolitans.

David E. Kelley Killed Robin Williams

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David E. Kelley did a lot of horrible things to television, but this was the first time that he killed a man.

Forget Parkinsons, money problems or alcohol. Go rewatch the first episode of The Crazy Ones and you’ll know why Robin Williams slashed his wrists with a penknife and then hung himself.

Even watching an episode of The Crazy Ones is enough to make most people contemplate suicide.

Imagine you’re Robin Williams and your job is to spend a week playing the head of an ad agency whose big ambition in life is to get the fat girl from American Idol to sing about hamburgers.

You signed on to a TV show because you needed the money and now you realize you’re being paid $165,000 to shoot a 23 minute McDonalds ad.

There are no words for how screwed you feel.

Now that Robin Williams is dead, the cast of The Crazy Ones is bitching about him.

His antics infuriated the cast, even though he had been hired to try recreating the madcap spirit of “Mork & Mindy,” on which he often riffed unscripted, the source said.

He also indulged himself by taking his pet pooch, a rescued Pug named Leonard, to work.

“He brought it everywhere with him,” the source said. “When he wasn’t filming a scene, he was holding and petting and fawning over the dog.”

Williams — who last year said he signed on to the series because he wanted “a steady job” to help pay alimony to his two exes — ­often complained that he hated the show’s unedited daily rushes.

He also griped that he “had a bad feeling” about the lack of chemistry on set, while the rest of the cast blasted his constant need for attention, the source said.

He was right. The cast had no chemistry. Everyone except Gellar was so bland and blank they could have come from a modeling gig.

Watching The Crazy Ones was like watching A Night in the Museum except that the statues never came to life. Robin Williams was the only living man.

It’s no wonder he killed himself.

It wasn’t his fault that the miserable David E. Kelley sitcom failed. Robin Williams without a script could have been ten times funnier than David E. Kelley’s miserable project, but he walked away feeling like he couldn’t even make a sitcom work.

David E. Kelley’s hackery killed Robin Williams.

Cable TV, Longmire, Falling Skies

Longmire Getting a Second Seasonlongmire poster

Good news for anyone who likes the new Western cop series, bad news for Justified fans who keep complaining that it’s derivative of their show, even though it in no way is. I wondered if Longmire would watch on, but it’s performing well. It skews older, but it’s also on A&E, so what do you really expect. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a lot of notes about making the show more appealing to younger viewers.

 

Falling Skies Falling

I haven’t watched the second season of Falling Skies. Really haven’t seen much of the first season either. But Spielberg’s TV luck is still bad and Falling Skies doesn’t seem to be flying that high in the ratings. It’s playing well below Dallas and below most everything on TV except Suits. But its 18-34 ratings are good. At some point I’ll have to tune in.

 

 

Longmire Pilot review

Longmire is the kind of TV show that television used to be full of. The eponymous protagonist with a tough past and a ready quip, talking to people, unraveling a mystery and then riding off into the sunset. It’s a type of television that is almost as endangered as the Western and Longmire is both.

Longmire will be compared to Justified, but it doesn’t have much in common with Justified’s hipster frontier. It’s not knowing or self-aware. It isn’t aimed at viewers who want a postmodern soap opera, a True Blood, Game of Thrones, Sopranos or Justified, that is far enough away from Days of Our Lives to make them feel clever for watching it. It’s just a good old-fashioned sheriff  cop show. And it’s a good 40 minutes of television that reminds you that the old stuff works.

The cast isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough to it. The West fills out the landscape against which every great detective show takes place, whether it’s New York City or Hawaii or Singapore. And the stories take, what is obviously a series of mystery novels, and condense them into something that plays on TV for 40 minutes or less.

There’s Sheriff Longmire, the beleaguered lawman mourning his wife and fighting off a younger rival. Solving crimes by noticing things, instead of by calling in lab techs. There’s Katee Sackhoff’s tolerable Vic, as a homicide detective not working in a small country, who fills out the usual sidekick role. But mostly there’s a wide frontier full of cowboy chic from Indian pollongmire posterice to mounted elk heads, old wood and antique guns.

The pilot isn’t anything you haven’t seen hundreds of variations on. The mysterious murder victim whose life unrolls the secrets that led to his death. A young girl forced into prostitution. A setup and a gunfight. It’s everything you’ve seen in Hawaii 5-0, Vega$, The Fall Guy, McCloud and a hundred other TV shows. But it’s rendered clean and fresh. It’s not original and it doesn’t quite feel new, but it feels open in a way that most television doesn’t anymore.

Longmire isn’t great television, but it’s good television. I don’t give good odds for its survival, because like Terriers, the authentic detective show doesn’t play on cable television anymore. A detective can be neurotic and weird, because cable is supposed to showcase screwed up people, but the story has to be there just as a soapy arc to showcase more weird allies and villains. It can’t be something as clean and succinct as Longmire.

And yet Longmire is the perfect antidote to the CSI’s, Law and Orders and NCIS’s that took over free television and the hipster soaps that are one shade away from fifty shades of grey. It’s television as it used to be and it still has appeal. That’s why Tom Selleck’s bland take on Jesse Stone has been a surprising success for CBS. USA has managed to make the occasional detective show work. FX blew it with Terriers. Maybe A&E can hit a home run with Longmire.

New Yorker Agrees With Me On Newsroom

And I didn’t even see it yet.

In “The Newsroom,” clever people take turns admiring one another. They sing arias of facts. They aim to remake

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Sorkin with his favorite person in the world

television news: “This is a new show, and there are new rules,” a maverick executive producer announces, several times, in several ways. Their outrage is so inflamed that it amounts to a form of moral eczema—only it makes the viewer itch.

Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker likes and dislikes The Newsroom for all the usual reasons, because it is a Sorkin show. And that’s how I called it

The whole premise of his HBO series The Newsroom is “Why don’t more people in the news say the things that we know are right.” And that’s going to be it. Episode after episode of clever dialogues that make people feel clever about what they really believe.

Oh and The Newsroom kind of sounds exactly like Studio 60, right down to the opening premise.

When the moderator needles him into answering a question about why America is the greatest country on earth, he goes volcanic, ticking off the ways in which America is no such thing, then closing with a statement of hope, about the way things used to be. This speech goes viral, and his boss (Sam Waterston) and his producer, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), who’s also his ex-girlfriend, encourage him to create a purer news program, purged of any obsession with ratings and buzz.

Jeff Daniels by the way is 57. Emily Mortimer is pushing 40. Nothing more to say about that.

Whenever McAvoy delivers a speech or slices up a right-winger, the ensemble beams at him, their eyes glowing as if they were cultists.

But they’re really admiring Aaron Sorkin’s words. McAvoy is standing in for Sorkin. Sorkin might as well just step in and play the part. He even kind of looks like Daniels.

Sorkin is often presented as one of the auteurs of modern television, an innovator and an original voice. But he’s more logically placed in a school of showrunners who favor patterspeak, point-counterpoint, and dialogue-driven tributes to the era of screwball romance. Some of this banter is intelligent; just as often, however, it’s artificial intelligence, predicated on the notion that more words equals smarter.

Besides Sorkin, these creators include Shonda Rhimes (whose Washington melodrama, “Scandal,” employs cast members from “The West Wing”); Amy Sherman-Palladino, of “The Gilmore Girls” (and the appealing new “Bunheads”); and David E. Kelley, who created “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.”

Nussbaum is very right here. There’s a whole school of these people and what they do best is copy some of the energy of the theater by incorporating wordplay and rapid responses, but there’s nothing behind it. Sorkin admitted as much in his New York Magazine interview.

Sorkin isn’t really any different than Diablo Cody. They’re both doing the same thing. Pumping out tons of fake clever dialogue that’s fast, topical and senseless.

Sorkin’s shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV. The shows’ air of defiant intellectual superiority is rarely backed up by what’s inside—all those Wagnerian rants, fingers poked in chests, palms slammed on desks, and so on.

And that’s similar to what I wrote

There’s no surprises when you’re dealing with Aaron Sorkin. All the flashy caffeinated dialogue hides the hollowness of the material. It’s the razzle-dazzle behind which there’s nothing except cliches. All the energy and character is there only to give the audience the cliche that they want and to make them feel smart for hearing their own ideas spat back to them in the crackling dialogue that they wish they could do on their own.

Reviewing Authority

Do you look at your master carpentry credentials when you take note of a stairway or deck or a door that is falling apart before your very eyes?

Of course you do not.

So then, why is this kind of question tolerated when talking about film-making, novel writing, TV shows, or comic books?

Heavy Armor at Loose Cannon asks the question. (I almost spelled that Loose Canon, which would be a whole other topic.)

Movies, books, comic books are products you buy. They’re products that you pay for.

 

The first authority for reviewing something is as a customer. That attitude has proliferated all over the internet with producti am legend poster reviews for everything. On Amazon you can register your opinion on a new hard drive, a new mop or a DVD of Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica.

Even if you didn’t hand over cash for the experience, you paid in time. The Simpsons in their Poochie episode mocked Comic Book Store guy (the default mode of TV producers and writers for imagining what their critics are like) for complaining about a TV show he didn’t pay for.

“What,” the episode has Bart tell him, when he complains about an episode,  “They’ve given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them.”

Uh no. Nothing is free. Free television sells your attention span to its advertisers. It’s still a product that you’re paying for, the arrangement is just more complicated and it’s a three way transaction.

Set against this is the aesthetic argument that reviewing a creative product is different than reviewing a mop or a new hard drive. It’s not a wrong argument. A creative product has a deeper level of engagement, but that just means there’s a deeper level of expectations. But the same rules still apply. If a product doesn’t satisfy you, doesn’t meet its expectations and is poorly constructed, then it’s your duty as a paying customer to speak out about it.

 

The second authority for reviewing is creative. The authority for acting as a reviewer comes from the same place that the authority for being any kind of writer does. You can do it well or you can do it badly, but there’s no source of authority for it.

A script or a book isn’t good or bad because of the authority of its writer. If an episode is bad or a poem is terrible, will the author resorting to citing his education history or his awards make it any better?

If you read, then you are an authority on reading. If you watch television, then you are an authority on television. If you watch movies, then you are an authority on movies. Your experience is your authority. You know what you like. You know what you don’t like. You know what you want to get out of it. That makes you, your own authority.

Sure you might not know the difference between a single camera sitcom and a multi-camera sitcom, until it’s pointed out to you. You might not know what a tracking shot is. You might not be able to define irony. You might not realize the author’s whole fourth chapter is a reference to a famous epigram from Proust. But do those things really matter? I can talk for three paragraphs about a tracking shot, because it matters to me. To someone else it’s just a really long boring stroll where nothing happens. You are your own authority.

The more you know about a subject, the geekier you get about it. It’s why creatives love reviewers with authority who can appreciate all the technical things. They like the idea of being judged on technique, not on experience. On the flip side, terminator salvation movie posterpopular trashy creatives like to be judged on audience experience, not on technique. And all of those are valid approaches because they’re all valid experiences with a product.

There’s no higher authority and no gated castle here. Entertainment is meant to be entertaining, it’s also meant to sometimes make you think and do a hundred other things that some speaker at AFI will talk about for fifteen minutes while looking at a bunch of old people wearing too much makeup.

A product is still a product. How much you know about it, can give your review more depth. A true expert can review a hard drive by going into detail about each component, discussing where the controller was manufactured, the manufacturer’s track record with components, how the transfer rate on the box differs from the actual rate that most users will experience under normal read/write conditions. And all that is important.

But if your hard drive is broken, if this is the third time that you sent it back, and you got it shipped back and it’s still bad, then your experience and your review and authority to review it is just as good.

Back to TVland

Damon Lindelof wants to come back to TV? Well isn’t that nice. Here’s what he would be walking away from.

bad tvLindelof wrote and produced three movies. Cowboys and Aliens, Prometheus and Abrams Trek II. Cowboys and Aliens bombed badly. Prometheus is coming up at the gate. If it performs badly and blame gets placed on the script, then Lindelof would have nothing but a sequel to an existing IP in his portfolio and that doesn’t look so great. And if Abrams Trek II underperforms, which is completely possible, as Abrams Trek I overperformed and the novelty will be gone, then it’s time to go back to TV.

Orci and Kurtzman are doing well on TV and they probably deserve more hate than Lindelof does, or at least as much hate, depending on who decided to blow up Vulcan and make the whole thing an alternate universe, and the former Xena writers are comfortably nested in the horrible Hawaii Five-0 reboot (though they also produced Cowboys and Aliens).

Unlike Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman, Lindelof doesn’t have his own TV thing going on and a guy who came out of such quality projects like Nash Bridges and Crossing Jordan should be able to make something happen. So long as it isn’t a string of weird failures like Abrams has managed to inflict on executives and viewers.

If you think about it, you can blame Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof’s careers on JJ Abrams. Alias and Lost gave them a step up the ladder. That led to everything from Transformers to Hawaii Five-0 to Abrams Trek and Cowboys and Aliens.

Conan O’Brien Please Stop

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is the documentary chronicling O’Brien’s post Tonight Show tour which was about his breakup with NBC. His recent viral commencement address and now documentary, more of the same. Being booted from Leno’s old timeslot in favor of Leno gave him a fire in his belly and a new identity. It also made him a one note character.

The old Conan seemed smart and self-aware. The new Conan is obsessed with being forced out of a timeslot and learning to get over it. It’s comedy as therapy, which is funny with some comedians, but not with him. Maybe it’s because Conan’s downfall is hard to relate to. The energy of sticking it to your boss brought people over to Team Coco, but go behind the scenes and you’re looking at a guy who was put in a position he wasn’t ready for, walking away with a 45 million dollar golden parachute and then building a career on insisting that he’s the victim.

I’m not one to argue with a successful media strategy. But I doubt I’m the only one tired of it. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop raises and partly answers the question of why a rich guy who has been successful beyond any realistic ambition is still obsessed. And the answer isn’t great. The contrast with Jerry Seinfeld who ran through the top comedy half-hour on television and amiably walked away to do standup is telling.

The sad thing is that the job Conan wanted and wants was wrong for him. He’s a funny writer. A very funny one. But he’s not a talk show host. He managed to hang on to his goal of having a late night show to host, and he almost managed to draw the right lesson from it in his commencement speech. Failure is liberating, but Conan didn’t liberate himself from having to be a celebrity and chat with celebrities. He put himself right back in the same cage.

SyFy Weasel Craig Engler Pens Weasel Letter

You know canceling Stargate Universe might have been more defensible if SyFy actually had Science Fiction shows on its schedule, and I don’t mean Small Town Where Wacky Stuff Happens or Mysterious Warehouse or British Show We Ordered Because It Has a Good Looking Vampire and We Know That’s Hot Now. I mean Science Fiction.

But it’s not. SyFy is not in the Science Fiction business, it’s in the Reality Show business. It’s in the ghost show business, the wrestling business, the cooking show business and the pawn stars business. Not the Science Fiction business. So go ahead and shovel it on.

If we didn’t like science fiction we simply wouldn’t have made SGU. It’s because we like science fiction that we tried it. Even though SGU was ultimately unsuccessful, we don’t regret trying it.

Seriously, say that with a straight face. You made SGU because it was part of a well known franchise that did well enough. Craig admits that the show was only ordered because of that. If SGU had been named Destiny Flies Through Space. It would never have gotten an order.

And no you don’t like Science Fiction. Your schedule proves it.

Science fiction shows are the backbone and lifeblood of our network, and we have many in development.

Yeah you have a cooking show, two antiques roadshow shows, two behind the scenes of film shows, wrestling, two shows about finding relics and a ton of shows about ghosts. Your backbone and lifeblood are crap.

Later this year we’ll be debuting Alphas, the Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome pilot is being worked on as you read this, the movie Red Faction starring Stargate Universe‘s Brian Jacob Smith will air next month

Craig Engler proves his love for Science Fiction by citing their version of Mutant X, a third Battlestar Galactica reboot spinoff (after they canceled the second one) and a video game movie. Does Engler think viewers are retarded? Obviously.

SyFy ordered more ghost shows than Science Fiction shows. And I don’t mean shows about ghosts, but shows where people run around with cameras shrieking that they felt the temperature drop because they lost their last traces of dignity doing this.

5 of our original dramas will return with new seasons or new episodes this year, and we’re working on many more behind the scenes.

Like the Wrestling/Global Myths/Cooking show. It’s called Wrestling with Quantum Archeology. Or the exciting Science Fiction epic. Sharkopolus meets Octosaur.

We would have happily kept making SGU regardless of anything else on our schedule if the ratings were sustainable. We don’t discontinue successful shows to make room for other shows … no network does because no network has a full roster of successful series. SGU was judged solely on its own ratings.

Does the name Farscape ring any bells? Yes I thought it did.

Stargate Universe was canceled because SyFy thinks it can make more money making lamer versions of History Channel shows. And they’re probably right.

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