When I first heard that the movie Source Code, which I haven’t seen but which looks pretty cool, is being developed for TV, my instinctive first question was, “What network?” (The answer is CBS.) Because, with sci-fi and genre TV, the network is everything. It will largely determine how the material will be handled and whether it will succeed.
As you watch pilots in these first weeks of fall (Terra Nova, anyone?), keep in mind that the fate of genre shows may be determined by where they live. Here’s a handy guide.*
CBS: It might sound good on paper, but will quickly devolve into mystery-of-the-week monotony. Guaranteed sexual tension between partners, be they cops, scientists, psychics, geniuses with Apsberger’s, whatever. (Ghost Whisperer, Eleventh Hour)
NBC: It will looks really promising in the endless ads, lots of hype will be created, the pilot will be pretty exciting but then… after a few weeks, or a whole season if it’s lucky, no one will care anymore. (The Event, Kings, Flash Forward, Surface, Heroes)
ABC: It will have a good premise, which will be clouded by soap-opera-like subplot. ABC viewers wanting the next Ugly Betty or Desperate Housewives won’t get it. It will fade into oblivion. (Pushing Daisies, Defying Gravity)
CW: Hot people everywhere! Good or bad, it will almost certainly fall under the heading “guilty pleasure” on most fans’ lists. It will probably have a long life. (Supernatural, Smallville, Vampire Diaries)
FOX: It will be awesome. A loyal fan base will develop. Then the show will get moved to Friday nights, where it will die a slow, painful death as fans desperately try to save it. (Firefly, Dollhouse, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Dark Angel, John Doe, Wonderfalls, should I go on?)
SyFy: It will be likeable, but kind of lame in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. People will keep watching it anyway. A small but fiercely loyal fan base will swear by it and wait in line four hours at Comic-Con to hear its stars speak. It will last a while if only to fill the schedule when there’s no wrestling on. (Eureka, Warehouse 13, Alphas, Haven)
AMC: It will blow your little mind but a season will only last 3 1/2 minutes. Then you’ll have to wait around for a year to see what happens next. (The Walking Dead)
ABC Family: It will be kind of quirky and cool, but totally miss the mark in trying to please the “family” audience, or whoever these people are who make The Secret Life of the American Teenager a runaway hit. (Three Moons Over Milford, The Middleman)
*Employing no scientific measurement whatsoever, but based entirely on casual and biased observation. Please feel free to add your own thoughts.