“Debris” (shown here) arrives Monday (March 1), with all the advantages.
It has an engaging story, full of wow-factor moments … and a comfy timeslot, right behind “The Voice” … and a big promotional push.
It also has one huge disadvantage: Science-fiction fans don’t trust the big broadcast networks.
Sci-fi prospers on cable, on streaming and on the CW mini-network. But the big broadcasters keep introducing shows filled with clever concepts … then canceling them without resolving key questions.
Now “Debris” tries to break that trend. It’s “the kind of cable-level sci-fi that we’ve become accustomed to,” Jonathan Tucker, who stars, told the Television Critics Association.
NBC programmers seem eager, said writer-producer J.H. Wyman. “Literally, they said, ‘Hey, we’re looking for things that break boundaries.’”
He’s had one sci-fi show (“Fringe”) that managed to last five seasons on Fox, by working the “X-Files” formula: Have a self-contained story each week, then overlay it with broader questions.
That’s the same approach “Debris” has, Wyman said. “You’ll have a week-to-week show that people can come back to. But the real, hard-core fans … understand that there’s a plan.”
The basic notion is that an alien spacecraft has exploded, scattering its remains over the Western Hemisphere. Those pieces have varied effects on Earthlings, Tucker said.. “Scene to scene, the debris allows people to go through walls or manipulate weather or ESP or doppelgangers” or more.
Bad guys want to grab the debris and harness its energy. For the good guys, an international task force tries to find and store the pieces, while keeping it all a secret. Its top people (shown here) are:
– Brian Beneventi, a former Special Forces soldier. He’s “going through a rather profound PTSD ride,” said Tucker, who plays him.
– Finola Jones. She’s from the British agency MI-6 and is the daughter of the scientist who created the task force. “She’s just lost her mother and father,” said Riann Steele, who plays her. “But, through duty, (she’s) taking on this challenge to continue his work.”
They’re a little like Mulder and Scully on “X-Files” … except that neither is a skeptic.
“They are believers,” Steele said, “but they believe in very different ways …. Finola was probably the child who spent her time looking up at stars. (She) approaches things through heart.”
That fits the opening episode, which debuts at 10 p.m. March 1, then reruns at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 6. It has plenty of whiz-bang special-effects, but emerges as a self-contained story about grief and loss … then adds a closing twist to stir sci-fi fans.
There seem to be a lot of them these days. Sci-fi, Wyman said, is “no longer ‘alternative.’ ”
That’s obvious during the week when “Debris” debuts: On Monday (9 p.m., repeating at 10), the USA Network has a pivotal “Snowpiercer” episode … On Tuesday, CW has the “Flash” season-opener – with big special effects and a major character change – at 8 p.m. and the second “Superman & Lois” hour at 9. Then Syfy nas the quirky “Resident Alien” at 10 p.m. Wednesday and the season-opener of “Wynonna Earp” at 10 p.m. Friday — the day Disney+ concludes its much-praised “WandaVision.”
Those other shows, however, are all in places that fans trust – cable, streaming, CW. Now NBC sees if it can join the sci-fi party.