Afternoon Inquisition

4.2 Afternoon Inquisition

I completely flaked on posting yesterday’s A.I., for which I sincerely apologize. How much longer until I can no longer use the “my-home-was-burgled” excuse? Anyway, today’s AI comes to us courtesy of last week’s COTW winner, Mr. Blake Stacey, who I am allowing to natter on far longer than the AI requires, only because I happen to like him. Blake writes:

First of all, I’d like to express the great honour I feel at being
offered the chance to ask a question of this august community. Of
course, it’s an honour I had coming to me, being as I am a well-known
Elitist Bastard known for dashing good looks and raging intellectual
prowess as much as I am known for my modesty (that is to say, not at

Recently, the television network formerly known as the Sci Fi Channel
announced its intention to change its name to SyFy,
which appears to be a Polish word meaning roughly “zit-semen”. The
change was hailed (by the people who thought it up) as a positive move
in the network’s plans to become more “with it”. Channel president
Dave Howe was quoted as saying, “It made us feel much cooler, much
more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we
wanted to achieve communication-wise.” Howe then went on to act like
Your Friend’s Dad, putting on a sweater vest and asking, “What music
is this? It’s got a neat beat!”

SyFy wants to move beyond the “typical sci-fi themes of space, aliens
and the future”, into territory explored by written SF for, I dunno,
more than half a century. As part of this plan, the channel will
launch a new series, Warehouse 13, featuring a secret
government facility which stores relics from. . . uh. . . space aliens
and stuff.

In other words, management is being a bunch of useless rutting
loonies. And it’s up to us to save them!

Question: You’ve got an hour of TV time to fill every week,
and the money to do it. Space, aliens and the future (well, further
into the future than Next Sunday, CE) are off limits. How do you do

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. I’d just run old episode of The Big Bang Theory. Why come up with something new when something so perfect already exists?

  2. Honestly? I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to pitch something, anything based on the Crimson Skies universe. So let’s go with that.

    * Not in space.
    * In the past, no the future.
    * No aliens to speak of.

    * Nobody but me seems to care.
    * It’s technically too late to count as “steampunk”, so Make:Blog won’t report on it.
    * Possibly there aren’t enough Zeppelins? We could add more, though.

  3. A sitcom about psychic robot velociraptor pirates, written by Stephen Moffatt, directed by Joss Whedon, with animatronics by The Jim Henson Company.

    @Rebecca: I think you’ve got another week or two on the “my-home-was-burgled” thing.

  4. Unfortunately, this is a question that has baffled far better minds than mine (not to mention network executives) for a very long time. It appears to be pretty much trial and error as to what works… although I find that by and large who is involved in a project is far more important than what the project is.
    That said, Crimson Skies rocks! There’s been at least 4 different games that I’ve played, why not a series too?

  5. I’d go with a show about real people in unreal situations; with real outcomes (ie bad)
    Then same cast new type of story next week.
    Kind of like a theatre.

  6. Sci-Fi Channel? Don’t you mean Horror Channel? I thought they’d given up showing science fiction long ago. (No, I realize they still do. I just have to vent about them spending so much time showing other things. Ghost hunting? Oh, come on!)

    National Geographic Channel. At least they try to take a more scientific approach to things. They don’t feel they have to pretend to be “balanced” when what’s sitting on the other side of the teeter-totter is slug-witted drivel.

  7. Is ‘The Skeptologists’ meant to fill 1 hour or 30 minutes?

    Otherwise, I say make it something along the lines of Quantum Leap and Sliders, where you’re not committed to an ongoing plot in the least, and you can afford to keep messing around and experimenting with something drastically new in every single episode.

    I guess that fits reasonably well with numsix’s idea too.

    And as my third option, I would support a show based on Crimson Skies.

    And screw Big Bang Theory, it sucks and blows.

  8. Simple. I would fill my alloted hour with murder. Specifically, the murder of SyFy’s executives and marketing department. You see, murdering makes me feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which is kind of bang-on what I want to achieve communication-wise. Murdering clueless executives would also provide a fantastic new genre to our television audience at a time when our network rivals are dumbing down their programming to appeal to as large a base audience as possible. And as you can see, I’m really excited about getting down to the nuts and bolts of this operation. I feel that the male 18-24 year old demographic will really flock to what I’m offering here. As the hip and cool network president Dave Howe might say, “Dyn-o-mite!”

    So, when can I get started?

  9. A three year series dramatizing Neil Stephenson ‘The Baroque Cycle’. Takes place in the past and involves fantastic characters, history, Newton, Leibnitz, Calculus, Solomon’s gold, pirates, the plague and the Spanish Inquisition!!!

  10. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in from watching Fawlty Towers half of yesterday but the first thing that came to mind was remaking Blackadder but with American history.

  11. The Post-modern Prometheus. A modern-day retelling of Frankenstein. Unlike most adaptations of Mary Shelley’s classic, this one would go back to the source material’s focus on dysfunctional family dynamics (both real and artificial families), narcissism, responsibility, etc. It would be a serial, and essentially play out as a family drama or soap opera.

    Bipolar scientist Victor Frankenstein, in the midst of a manic episode, creates, through nanotechnology, AI, and genetic manipulation, something that falls so squarely in the deepest part of the Uncanny Valley that he freaks out, his mood crashes, and he tries to avoid dealing with it for as long as possible. The Creature, abandoned, tries to make his way in the world alone, and encountering nothing but anomie and rejection, begins to nurse a grudge against Victor, and develops a huge sense of entitlement. Victor, meanwhile, is oblivious to the selfish, needy crap he puts his family and friends through. To encourage audience identification, you’d need to tell the story through the Henry Clerval character, the only really sympathetic character in Shelley’s novel.

    Oh, and David Cronenberg should produce it.

    (I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Frankenstein lately. [a little? lately?] Also, I need to work on tightening up my elevator pitch.)

  12. Maybe something based on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels. But I’d have to put in a lot more boobs if I want to keep it on the air.

  13. I’d sponsor a new game show; Pit Full of Money with Knives.

    Though that show should be on Spike, I guess. And it’s more the half hour format.

    As for an ongoing show, I’d do Zombies, but more in a post Shaun of the Dead style, or Fido kind of thing. You know, where the Zombies are the good guys, and not so bad once you get to know them.

  14. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog ( ). Its got everything for everyone-superheros, supervillians, not-so-super villians, singing (needs more dancing though), and some nice eye candy-no matter your orientation. Plus, it has Neil Patrick Harris, a man I really respect for not falling into the since-I’m gay-I-need-to-only-play-gay-characters logical fallacy.

    But, I am a bit of a writer, I’m writing a super-skeptic-hero story. It has some famous-and not so famous-skeptics as superheros, doing superhero stuff, not fighting for truth, justice, and the skeptical way-let’s call it artistic liscence. Anyone interested in seeing some is more than welcome to take a gander at it.

  15. Improvised soap opera taking place in a mental hospital, so that whatever setting that they actors want can be ‘imagined’ into being. It must include disconcerting ‘stir the pot’ dynamics from the hospital staff that sometimes break the illusion that the actors are in, like someone going off their meds and splitting personalities or something.

  16. The world needs a good superhero based live-action show. There hasn’t been a good one since…..well i can’t think of any good ones. But i really believe that it’s possible to make a good one. And i’d prefer something original, not based on a comic book or something else.

  17. What do you mean without sci fi, now syfy? How can you not trust the decision making process of a network that knows the necessity of canceling high budget shows like Battlestar Galatica to make room for quality programming like Wyvern and Supergator.. oh and of course more iterations of Stargate. Alienating their existing fan base is surely the only way to succeed in their great dream of having high rated shows with zero production cost. I, frankly, can’t wait for the latest made-for-tv movie that cost $200 and a macbook pro to produce.

  18. Something with Robots. They probably will want to kill all the humans. (although I suspect Matt Groening has copyrighted or trademarked that line) Nothing says SciFi (sorry, SyFy) like a bunch of meatbags fighting to save the world from animated tin cans.

  19. Spin-off of Buffy/Angel, created by Joss Whedon, with Spike (James Masters) as the lead character. Could be anywhen or anywhere…… I’m sure Joss would come up with something brilliant.

  20. Let’s see…science fiction minus the space, aliens, and future. What SF themes does that leave?
    – New fundamental discoveries in physics (e.g., Heinlein’s _Sixth Column_)
    – Robots
    – Cyberspace
    – Undiscovered lands with exotic creatures
    – Time travel (into the past anyway)
    – Stasis (hard to do that without dealing with the future)
    – Teleportation
    – Mysterious artifacts left over from ancient civilizations
    – Traveling to parallel realities (a personal favorite of mine)

  21. Cowboys vs. Robots!

    But I’d guess they’d have to be like…steam robots to avoid that pesky “not about the future” clause.

  22. Court TV was changed to Tru TV. Discovery channel to Discover. And now Sci Fi to SyFy. What’s next? Foxes scare people, so I await their name change to the “fuzzy kittens channel” Fox news will be “fuzzy kittens with claws.”

  23. @slxpluvs: Problem is it won’t last, See Infected and Internet Superstar on Revision3 (both got canceled, sadly). They still have Web Drifter (also about interviewing and visiting the homes of the internet people), but it hasn’t been updated recently (so unofficially it has been canceled too). All three of these shows are creations of Martin Sargent.

  24. A priest, a hockey player and a caveman all double as bartenders for the up-and-c0ming nightlife hub “The Abomination of Grog” when they’re visited by the ghost of George Washington Carver, who informs our unlikely trio that he’s run the calculations and they are, in fact, the three people statistically most capable of discovering the mystery of life. But! According to those very same calculations, they have only precisely fourteen months, eight days, two hours, thirty-four minutes and one second to do it, or the answer will be locked away FOREVER. How can they possibly come up with it when all they can afford is the equipment in their bar!? And how will they involve their regular customers in their schemes to hunt the ultimate truth? Tune in every Tuesday at 3:00 AM!

  25. I stopped watching the Sci Fi channel when the wrestling invaded. I could deal with the Ghost Hunters since I figure they at least met the Fiction criteria – though I think “Fantasy” more than “Sci” – but hey, it was still better than wrestling.

    So, my show … post modern runaway green house future where most of the world no longer has functioning technology. The plot would seem to revolve around finding green tech ways of reviving technology to solve problems, while actually being about people working together to overcome various interpersonal and social issues.

  26. I give you: People are stupid misinformed. It’ll be a cross between Americas Funniest Home Videos, MSTK3000 and various clip shows, only with stupidity from the internet’s woo masses as the material. If we can’t show the clips due to copyright issues we’ll use puppet reenactments. In fact I think I prefer puppet reenactments. We’ll also use the best rebuttals already available. Just imagine, the Atheists’ nightmare, with puppets, followed by one of the better parody rebuttals (probably remade in HD).

    Occasionally there will be guests of both the stupid and not stupid variety.. I mean, misinformed and informed variety. Rebecca will be on every other month for instance.
    There will be a blog, a forum, blooper clips all over the intertubes, podcasts, and merchandise starting with t-shirts that will “accidentally” be printed with People are misinformed stupid, then recalled after just a few hundred have been sold. The remaining shirts will be sold through “unathorised” sites at three times the price.

    I’ll be filthy rich and knee deep in intelligent women. It’ll be great!

  27. Probably due to a combination of reading/re-reading V for Vendetta, Watchmen, 1984 and The Trial this week, I’m imagining something involving a distopian alternate universe – but a comedy. Something directly inspired by Brazil, I suppose. Something dark and satirical.
    Or, hey, zombies are good too.

  28. ‘Hooker Hunters’

    A reality show (low cost) featurimg a team of geeks (easy tech like laptops & flashlights)cruising the mean (cyberpunkish) streets at night looking for creatures that look strange (bad makeup & wardrobe) and perform unusual ceremonies like choking chickens (sorta like voodoo) on request for $20 (low cost remember).

  29. I’m thinking that an hour of live real world executions of fundamentalist religious leaders of all sects produced by Quentin Tarentino and brought to you by the good people of Nabisco would garner monumental ratings….

    Come on, wouldn’t you have tuned in to see Jerry Falwell get his comuppance on live TV? Unfortunately, it’s too late for him but there are plenty more to choose from. In the words of the immortal Nero as depicted by Warner Bros, “Bring out the next vicdumb”!

    I’m in a very weird mood today, just ignore me ok?

  30. Anything Star Trek. We need more Star Trek anything. I am so sick of killer swamp monster movies on “Sci-Fi”. Do they only hire 14 year old boys to write this stuff? More astronauts, aliens, time travel, hard science. Hell, do a series based on the great Sci-Fi writers short stories and it would be a hit. Asmiov, Bradbury, Clarke, Le Guinn, Dick. In fact make a series based on nothing but PK Dick. Genius.

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