There's a reason J. Michael Straczysnki chose Netflix for his next foray into serialized sci-fi.
The Babylon 5 creator recently announced the Netflix original series Sense8, a parternship between himself and Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). But why not try to launch another sci-fi show the traditional way? Straczynski recently sat down to answer some fan questions, and took the time to bash network TV for its attitude about sci-fi shows.
"The problem is that the networks still don’t take SF seriously, or even feel threatened by it. I’ve had executives say that a space-show doesn’t work because people don’t care about what happens to characters in space, it has to be on earth or nobody’ll be interested," Straczynski wrote. "I’ve had them say 'you can do whatever you want, it’s scifi, it doesn’t have to make sense.' Because it’s SF they always think that somehow or other The Fate Of The World has to be at stake. If you’re doing a drama, no one suggests that solving the relationship problems of the murder has to save the world, but they feel that it has to be that way if you’re writing SF, which is why it’s also so often the rule in SF movies. It’s absolutely crazy-making. 2001, one of the most classic SF motion pictures of all time, could never get made today. Not a chance. Too cerebral, they’d say. Not enough action. All the crowdsourcing in the world won’t rewire the neurons engaged in that kind of thinking.
"I keep waiting for a paradigm shift to happen that will let network and studio execs see that SF is the same as any other genre in terms of how you approach it – logically, character based, with challenging ideas and forward thinking – but I worry that it might never happen in my lifetime."
To be fair, network TV has allowed stuff like Fringe and Supernatural to stick around for a while in recent years, but that doesn't necessarily speak to network behavior as a whole. It looks like, after years of playing the ratings game, Straczynski is happy to try a different format.
"We’re still very new to our dance, but so far all they want is for us to do what we think is best for the story," he said about his partnership with Netflix. "I think they enjoy a serialized structure because it feeds into binge viewing, but honestly, they haven’t said anything to us one way or another other than 'here’s a buttload of money, go have fun.' And I like that a lot."
So what do you think? Is Straczysnki right about viewing networks as the big problem with sci-fi TV today, and not creators? And if he is right, will that paradigm shift he's hoping for ever really happen?