Friday

Fox Cancels The Finder (no surprise) and Alcatraz (good riddance)

Fox canceled two shows today, but it's no real surprise, since neither show was very successful from either a ratings perspective or a creative one.

The cancellation of The Finder is no real surprise. Since the first episode, I've been lamenting how the show is much less interesting than it could be. It's not a bad show, it's just meh.

Alcatraz is a show that had an interesting premise and the pilot was good, the cast was top notch, but overall the thirteen episodes felt odd and it never managed to find the right tone or the right approach. The elements were all that for an interesting show, but the producer's insistence on making the show a procedural. Each week the team sought a new Alcatraz inmate who has reappeared. The problem is that between the hunt and the flashbacks to events at the prison in the sixties, there was too little time to spend with the characters in the present day or investigate the central mystery in more depth.

What was most striking watching the final episodes was just how badly the series had been managed. At the center of the show were characters played by Sam Neill and Parminder Nagra. They knew each other in Alcatraz back in the sixties, but she–like the inmates and other employees–reappeared decades later, while he aged and tried to learn what had happened. I would have been interested to see the dynamic between the two, where they were once in love but no longer are, because he's become such a very different person.

Consider:  A young man interested in poetry and philosophy who loses the love of his life and he becomes obsessive and intense. He grows lonely and cold, leading an ascetic life because he is no longer anything but his work. After decades, on the verge of retirement, having achieved power and influence that he doesn't enjoy at all, he's reunited with the life of his life, who hasn't aged a day. He's loved the idea of her for so long and has become someone who can't quite be capable of love for another person. She loved the young man he was who bears little resemblance to this older man. And circumstances force them to work together. She's the only one he treats as his equal, and they work well together, know how each other thinks, but in the end, all they have are those glances they steal across the room that remind them of what they used to have and force them to ponder what might have been...

I'm not egotistical, and I'm my own worst critic, but I think there's more emotion in that paragraph that the scenario elicited in thirteen episodes of television.

When many people–genre fans and non-genre fans alike–complain about how science fiction and fantasy stories tend to be flat and uninteresting, this is what we mean. The actual human emotion at the heart of this story was completely eliminated. The result was that the actors were left with all too little to do. Sam Neill is a fabulous actor but he can play intense and grumpy in his sleep.

In fact all the actors had far too little to do in the series. The writers seemed to constantly be trying to figure out how to prolong the mystery, but no one ever asked, shouldn't these characters react like normal human beings?

Again, this is why so many people dislike science fiction. So little attention to and concern for human beings and far too much attention spent on other details. I enjoy world building and mystery as much as the next person–well, more than the next person, really–but as much as I wanted to like this show, it was something of a train wreck. A deeply disappointing one, but a train wreck nonetheless.

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