Today's SiFi Genre?


Active Member
I've been watching the 4th of July, Twilight Zone marathon and it struck me how today's ScFi, for the most part, is so blatantly inferior to what was consistently being turned-out by a little, low budget and unpopular tv show from the 60's , compared to what we are being offered today, from the one-off, cable channel movies and mini-series up to the multi-million dollar "block busters".

There's no originality, creativity or, intelligence, almost to the point of being insulting, the majority of what's being churned out is the vapid, end-of-the-world by alien invasion or, meteor or, man-made virus or, natural disaster or, the occasional Zombie, scenario.

Maybe I'm biased since I've been watching the original Twilight Zone, almost religiously, since I was a small kid, but I just don't see anything today that compares to the level of what was being generated back then.
Everything follows formulas from music to games to movies based on what's the biggest draw and money maker at the moment. Twilight zone would never survive in this era as it requires people to think. A lot of movie goers just want to see stuff blow up and have the entire story handed to them without forming a thought.
Twilight Zone has remained popular through all these years because it is an exceptional piece of television. What hasn't remained popular is all the really bad sci-fi from that era--and there was a lot of bad sci-fi back then.
If you took only one really great television show from the past ten years--say, Battlestar Galactica--and ignored all the really crappy sci-fi, you can make the same argument for our era.
But BSG is the exception, just like Twilight Zone was. Good television, or just good writing in general, is extremely challenging to pull off successfully, and every generation will only see a few examples of it.
Short stories are short for a reason. I´d love to see a few concepts of the shorts stretched out, but I´d say that most of them would not work too well as feature films.

But yes, original concepts are rare, but still I think there are some good movies around like Inception and haven´t seen the one with Bruce Willis and a world full of avatars which sounds very interesting.

Currently watching the "Falling Skies" series, makes me wonder how much different it is going to be from V and a lot of other invasion stories.
I actually liked a few showtime/hbo shows like Jerimiah with luke perry and the 90s Outer Limits. The 80s Twilight zone and tales from the dark side were good too. I love to see an alien invasion that ends with humans actually being wrong about the aliens being evil invaders. It would be a nice twist.
I used to love it when The Twilight Zone used to be on from 12-1 and The Outer Limits used to be on from 1-2. This was at least 10 years ago and back when I got an hour for lunch. Living 5 minutes from work, I went home every day for lunch and always could catch some good TV even if I got out a bit late to go home.
..... But yes, original concepts are rare, but still I think there are some good movies around like Inception and haven´t seen the one with Bruce Willis and a world full of avatars which sounds very interesting.

Surrogates ?

Very entertaining. You should watch it. It won't let you down :)
I tried getting into the 80's version of the Twilight Zone and just couldn't do it, it didn't take itself seriously, it was all campy and cheese.

Recently I caught an episode of the 80's Twilight Zone, where a vintage radio program drama came to life in the studio, it looked like it was written and directed by Mel Brooks, the same with Tales from the Darkside, the only redeeming aspect about that show is the opening sequence, after that, it'

I agree with ManfromNaboo, but my point isn't so much the length of the story, but the quality of the story, the production, direction and the acting, especially the acting, the actors took the script seriously and they were actually good.
Serling was a creative genius. They don't come along too often and the studio business model is not much of a catalyst for them.
Inception, moon, district 9, children of men... they are out there but being shouted down by 3D mega whatevers.
It's tough comparing anything to the Twilight Zone, though. That show had a magic that's very hard to come upon. They've tried TZ-like shows for decades, including a few TZ rehashes, but it's just never clicked like it did that one time.

You could expand the original complaint to practically every genre out there these days. You watch an older TV show or movie that needed to tell a story and couldn't depend on SFX, and compare it to what's out there today. A lot of the blame has to go to the audience, though. People really don't want to see a story unfold over a period of time. They just want flash and glitz. You can see that in the shows and movies that tank vs. the ones that flourish. It's too bad.
Over the years, there's been attempts to revive The Twilight Zone that didn't capture the essence of what made it great.

I think it was a product of the time, and Serling's guidance. One thing that The Twilight Zone had was a social commentary. Whether it be about nuclear war, the ugliness of war in general, the loss of our individuality to forced conformity, prejudice... or any other of the 100 different themes explored the show, it was very much a social commentary about the human condition and the world in which we live.

I think most people view the show as a creepy sci-fi/ horror that always ended with a twist. I think the later incarnations of the show failed because that's what they concentrated on. They never really realized what Serling was doing with his stories.

Another influence on the show, I think, was that it was a product of a different time. Television was fairly new (at least, mainstream television). It took a lot of influence from theater and radio dramas. Acting, lighting and dialog all appear to be heavily influenced by this (okay, radio couldn't influence lighting).

I've tried to watch the show with young people (not much younger than me, but neither of us were around in the '50s and '60s). They often find the dialog difficult, the acting overly dramatic and the pacing slow. The reason of course is that they've become accustomed to today's television.

The acting is dramatic (though I don't find it overly so) because as I said, the influences of the times. In a theater, you can't convey emotion subtly... and seldom do plays rely on a lot of action to move a story. The dialog has to be interesting, because there isn't a lot of action. It was smart... it was about characters and ideas. It never really took you away from them. Any action was about influencing the character... not eye candy.

The lighting was often stark or done in a way that highlighted the character rather than the sets. It led the eye right to the main focal point... it sometimes feels like your a member in an audience, watching a play. It also had the added effect in TZ of giving it a creepy look when necessary.

I don't think you could do these things today. I don't think modern audiences would accept them.

But as EricHart points out, there was also a lot of bad sci-fi in those days as well.
Serling was also a decorated combat veteran, also volunteered to test early ejection seats.
That past had to play a big role in the creative flow later.

What are the backgrounds of today's writers and creators?

I think of Roddenberry as well.... WWII bomber pilot, cop.

Some of these guys that created enduring creations, had some pretty big life experiences first to draw from.

Could that be part of the problem today?
Did someone say Twilight?

After years of procrastinating I've finally joined Team Edward!

Darthgordon, you've really encapsulated everything I like about that show and those are the exact same qualities that are painfully absent from today's SiFi.

Could that be part of the problem today?
I don't think it's from a lack of talent, I think whatever talent is out there is stifled and compressed to fit into whatever current formula the corporate executives, lawyers and accounts think can turn a quick buck.

It's no different than the music industry, there's unlimited talent and creativity out there, but they are overlooked, ignored and cast aside in favor of what's trendy and hot.

Bruce Joel Rubin's screenplay for Jacob's Ladder became an underground, cult favorite among Hollywood insiders, everyone who read it loved, it floated around Hollywood and New York for over ten years, but even though every one loved it, they all claimed that it was too intelligent, too much of a finical risk and basically impossible to make or, turn a profit.

One of my favorite episodes of Twilight Zone incorporates nothing but an actual old woman, (not a hot, 30-something year old in a gray wig), in a wheel chair, her hospice nurse and a telephone.
It used to scare the crap out of me when I was a kid and it still has a high creepiness factor for me even today.

The Twilight Zone episode that got me thinking about this topic was "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", where a clown, a Colonel, a ballet dancer, a Scotsman and a hobo are trapped in a large metal cylinder, that's it, that's the entire premise, five characters in a tube.

Do you think the pool of "talent" that Hollywood continually tries to convince us is actually talented, could pull that episode off as convincingly and successfully as they did in the original?
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