Pre-season thoughts

Reflecting on seasons past, in light of the approaching 2010/11 offerings.

I’m not even going to pretend that I was disappointed by the True Blood finale. The show had spun out so many ridiculous plotlines and sidelined so many previously strong characters this season that it was destined to be somewhat debilitated come the end. Warehouse 13 is another show that’s more or less off my radar – I can certainly watch it when I feel like some light entertainment, but I can’t invest in it beyond that. Eureka’s alright by me. The new season, however, looms, and I’m both excited and nervous.

I decided to have a look back through previous issues of the magazine on the train to the Monsters screening last night (review coming soon), and I was genuinely surprised not only by the amount of new shows that have been released in previous seasons, but also at their range. Take 2007 – nine new shows were coming out or otherwise airing for the first time in the UK – The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Flash Gordon, Journeyman, New Amsterdam, Reaper, Bionic Woman, Pushing Daisies, Moonlight and Chuck. In 2008 we had Sanctuary, Dollhouse, Knight Rider, Fringe and Virtuality for the new flock. 2009 saw V, Caprica, Stargate Universe, The Vampire Diaries, Eastwick and FlashForward.

How many of those are returning for 2010? Not many. V, Chuck, Fringe, Caprica, True Blood, Stargate Universe, Sanctuary, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. All of the rest were cancelled, either in their first season or second – none made it to a third. This year, the new shows are few and far between. We’ve had The Gates and Haven during the summer season, and coming up there’s No Ordinary Family, The Cape, Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead and a smattering of pilots from Syfy, including Three Inches and Alphas.

If you look at previous years, there’s been a breadth of genres. Science fiction, fantasy and horror have all intertwined. This season, there isn’t really much in the way of diversity or interesting stuff – there’s certainly nothing that engenders the same enthusiasm as FlashForward, Journeyman or Sarah Connor.

I’m sure we’ll be surprised by the new blood, but the overwhelming focus is certainly on the returning shows, probably for the first time in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been reporting for this magazine. Excepting the ends of Battlestar and Lost, of course.

Accordingly, some questions:

1. Will Fringe continue with its succesful shift into serialised storytelling? I hope so. The end of season two notched it up to a new level, where I personally was of the opinion that it was floundering and directionless before. Mostly, I’m hoping that it utilises its cast more effectively, who individually are really quite good.

2. Will Stargate succumb to critical reviews or franchise nostalgia, and become more action orientated? I hope not. I seem to be among the few who actually enjoyed the slower pace of the episodes. If you’re whining that “nothing happens”, go and watch cartoons instead.

3. Is this going to be the last season of Supernatural (speaking of which, the last of the review series will be up this afternoon)? I don’t know. I assume so, as the contracts for Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki run out this year. I’m reserving judgment until I can see how well Sera Gamble handles the show and refocuses it, with the new story.

4. With the absence of Lost and other heavy hitters, will we see a decline in mainstream coverage of science fiction? In all honesty, it’s a probable outcome. There’s not much that newspaper columnists are trumpeting at the moment, and I think it’ll be a while before we see another of our shows with a Peabody.

5. Is the two-season rule still going to be in effect? I hate predictions. They’re a bit of a mug’s game, and I’ve been known to be way off in the past. That being said, to give you all something to have fun with at my expense this time next year, here’s a few for the new and returning shows.

Supernatural (The CW) – Season six will be the last.
Smallville (The CW) – Season ten will be the last. That’s confirmed.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW) – Will be renewed, possibly twice more.

No Ordinary Family (ABC) – Will last for one season, possibly with a last-minute renewal for the second. It depends on how well it’s handled, and the balance between family drama and sitcom leanings.
V (ABC) – Will be cancelled this season.
The Gates (ABC) – Will receive another episode order.

Chuck (NBC) – This may be the last season for Chuck.
The Cape (NBC) – Will not receive a back nine, or be renewed.

True Blood (HBO) – Has already been renewed.
Game Of Thrones (HBO) – May receive another short order. There’s been a lot of development on this one, but it hasn’t been heavily marketed, which isn’t a great sign.

The Walking Dead (AMC) – Will receive another episode order.

Caprica (Syfy) – Will likely be cancelled.
Stargate Universe (Syfy) – Will probably receive another season order.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy) – Will likely be renewed.
Eureka (Syfy) – Has already been renewed.
Three Inches (Syfy) – Unlikely to be renewed.
Alphas (Syfy) – Unlikely to be renewed.

Edit: Thanks to information from the comments, it seems the Supernatural leads have upped their contracts to seven years. Which makes a seventh season of Supernatural more likely, if not a dead cert.