Space Ramblings

TV Goes Supernatural

The coming television season looks as if executives at the big broadcast networks might have turned over the creation of their schedules to the Munsters, the Addams family and Rod Serling — with an assist from Darrin on “Bewitched.”

The casts of characters include vampires, clairvoyants and immortals, some of whom can revive the dead or travel through time. They will be featured on shows like “Pushing Daisies” and “Eli Stone” on ABC; “Moonlight” on CBS; “Reaper” on CW; “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “New Amsterdam” on Fox Broadcasting; and “Bionic Woman,” “Chuck” and “Journeyman” on NBC.

Those newcomers join fanciful series being brought back from previous seasons, including “Lost” on ABC, “Ghost Whisperer” on CBS, “Smallville” and “Supernatural” on CW and “Heroes” and “Medium” on NBC.

It’s a little odd honestly to see so many supernatural offerings in the mix, but the New York Times also overstates its case by classing SciFi, e.g. Bionic Woman, Heroes Sarah Connor Chronicles and Journeyman with actual supernatural series. Chuck isn’t at all even SciFi but just a male Alias. I have no idea why it keeps being shoved into these ghetto categories in the first place.

That still leaves an unusual amount of supernatural shows in the mix but it’s important to remember that Network Executives are basically herd animals– as is much of the entertainment industry. They survive by cheating off each other’s tests. If one studio orders a movie or a TV show– especially if it’s something unusual, others inevitably jump on the bandwagon. If one goes for the Bionic Woman, the other goes for the Sarah Connor Chronicles. If someone orders a TV show about a guy who can raise the dead, another will order a show about vampires. That’s just the way it is.

The networks run a risk in filling their schedules with so many series of the same kind. “People are not looking for a genre, a program type,” said Steve Sternberg,

And he is right here. Focusing on genres is a mistake. People want a TV show they’re going to enjoy watching. SciFi fans may be drawn to any SciFi oriented show but they represent a minority of TV viewers. And even they can hardly be relied on to watch any TV show with a SciFi theme to it.

Most of the coming new shows “are playing to viewers’ desire to be in fantasyland,” said Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president and director of programming at Carat USA in New York, part of the Carat division of the Aegis Group, adding, “The real world has become such a horrendous place that people are looking for magic to avoid the tragic.”

The series for 2007-8, Ms. Brill said, are “either about the fantastic world of the spiritual and the supernatural, or the lifestyles of the rich and heinous.”

See now this is a classic example of overthinking it. People are not trends. Not really anyway. People aren’t watching Heroes to escape from the real world, anymore than they watched The Incredible Hulk to escape from the real world. In the end people enjoy a good story and a good TV show. Some may be attracted to real life stories. Others to stories of the fantastic. But there is no national escapist trend that critics and analysts like to pretend there is.

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