The sci-fi universe has been bombarded lately with news.
Much of it is good news for fantasy fans … unless hey want their shows to be on big broadcast networks, with kajillions of viewers. In that case, most of it is bad. The basics:
— Two shows will slide to streaming services. On Dec. 13,” “The Expanse” starts its third season, now on Amazon Prime. Almost a year later, “The Orville” starts its third season, now on Hulu.
— “Agents of SHIELD” is leaving … gradually. ABC had already renewed it for another season, its seventh. Now it says that season – 13 episodes next summer – will be the last. For now, the sixth season is still here; there’s an hour at 8 p.m. Friday (July 26) and a two-hour season-finale Aug. 2.
— “Archer” will be back; FXX has just renewed it for an 11th season. This animated action-comedy isn’t usually a sci-fi show, but it currently has the outer-space “Archer: 1999,” with its final two episodes at 10 p.m. July 24 and 31.
— Then there’s the show that was created for streaming: “Star Trek: Picard” debuts early in 2020 on CBS All Access, with British actors (shown here) from opposite ends of the age spectrum. Patrick Stewart, 79, stars; Isa Briones, 20, plays a young woman unaware of her powers and importance. The show announced that it’s being stocked with “Trek” alumni – regular roles for Data (Brent Spiner) and two characters from the Borg, Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), plus guest roles for Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis).
The flood of news is linked to Comic Con and reflects ongoing trends:
Sci-fi shows do well in overseas markets. They can be hardy profit centers … if they also get a bunch of money from a U.S. network.
The ideal is a big broadcast network – ABC for “SHIELD,” Fox for “Orville.” Next-best is the dependable CW or basic-cable.
Several shows start with a Canadian network, then add Syfy in the U.S. It’s a logical strategy … except that Syfy has been very inconsistent with those shows, even the good ones. It canceled “The Expanse” and said the new “Killjoys” season (10 p.m. Fridays) will be its last.
The alternative is to go to the streaming services,. Fantasy fans are early adapters, ready to switch technology. Many of the sci-fi shows end up there … leaving the broadcast networks in danger, alas, of being old-folks homes.