Sure, cable seems to have a deluge of mediocrity. Still, there are fine exceptions -- channels that are suddenly trying bigger, more ambitious projects. That explains National Geographic's "Breakthrough" (see previous blog); it also explains a Syfy Channel push that starts Monday (Dec. 14). Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
arrived in 1953, in a world not yet saturated with science fiction.
C.S. Lewis praised it, Stan Lee called it one of his favorite books,
the New York Times printed two rave reviews. An adaptation would
follow ... slowly.
Now, 62 years later,
a miniseries is finally debuting on the newly ambitious Syfy Channel.
“We're taking the biggest swings in our history,” said Dave Howe,
Syfy's programming chief.
Coming later are
projects from Steven Spielberg, Gale Anne Hurd (“Terminator”) and
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck; first is a big start: “End” runs for
three nights and leads into the debuts of two series.
Many people had
tried to adapt this Arthur C. Clarke story. When Stanley Kubrick
couldn't get the rights, he compromised and made Clarke's “2001: A
That leaves the
current producers with a high profile: “As people who love the
book, ... we talked about feeling a pressure to do it the right way,”
Michael De Luca said.
compared to the pressure on the main character, Stormgren: He's the
Earth's only contact with Karellen, who represents the new alien
overlords who plan to end poverty, pollution and more.
“In the book,
(he's) like a 60-year-old head of the UN,” said Mike Vogel, 36, who
plays him. Now Stormgren is a Missouri farmer, pushed into a vital
role. He “is rejecting the idea, (saying) 'I'm not your guy. I'm
not worthy.'” Vogel said. “And he all of a sudden finds himself
in the forefront.”
This is a
straight-shooting guy, someone Vogel says he can imagine easily. He
conjures “memories of my grandfather and great-grandfather.”
Vogel grew up as a
plumber's son near Philadelphia; two grandfathers were World War II
veterans and one of them had a farm nearby. “There wasn't a lot of
fanfare about him,” he said. “He would look you in the eye .... I
just found myself drawn to him, listening to his stories of the Great
The kid had picked
up some work ethic by helping his dad, but he also commuted to New
York for modeling and acting. He starred in an MTV variation on
“Wuthering Heights” and other roles followed, including ABC's
“Pan Am” as a romantic pilot ... a role that met some
disapproval: “My daughter said, 'Why is Daddy kissing someone who's
Vogel lives near
Nashville with his wife and three kids and is currently on a
science-fiction streak -- “Under the Dome” and “Childhood's
End.” The latter was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, where “I was
dumbfounded by how much they could create.”
That ranged from
planting corn for the farm scenes to using Melbourne government
buildings for officialdom. There was also lots of work on sound
stages – especially for talks with Karellen, who remains unseen
until the story's mid-section.
Charles Dance (the
commanding Tywin in “Game of Thrones”) voiced Karellen. For the
early scenes, Vogel was just playing against his recorded voice ...
which sufficed, he said. “When Charled Dance just says, 'Excuse
me,' you stand at attention.”
And when an overlord
speaks, the world listens. A sci-fi classic is belatedly reaching TV.
End,” 8-10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Dec. 14-16), Syfy.
-- First two episode
reruns at 11:03 p.m.; Wednesday one reruns at 10:53.
-- Also, first
episode reruns at 6 p.m. Tuesday and 4 p.m. Wednesday, with the
second at 6 p.m. Wednesday; all three also air from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday (Dec. 20).
-- “The Expanse”
has its first episodes at 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, then stays at
10 p.m. Tuesdays.
-- “The Magicians”
debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, then returns in January.