Source: Media Week
Original Story by: A.J. Frutkin
Submitted by: Mr. Sevens
Most analysts credit ABC’s Lost with spurring next season’s flurry of network sci-fi dramas. But the events of Sept. 11, 2001, also may have impacted the trend.
In ABC’s Invasion, a Florida community faces the unsettling aftereffects of a hurricane. On CBS’ Threshold, government officials try to stave off an attack from outer space. NBC’s Fathom finds scientists coming face-to-face with mysterious creatures from the deep.
Far from Steven Spielberg’s benign view of aliens in ET: the Extra Terrestrial or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, what these series share is a portrayal of the unknown as menacing. Such observations may not be that surprising. After all, in an age of global terrorism, suicide bombers and underground cells, the idea of hostile forces infiltrating America’s neighborhoods, schools and workplaces is a top-of-mind subject not only for viewers, but for Hollywood creators as well.
“We live in a very unstable time,” said Shaun Cassidy, creator of Invasion. “People are afraid because there is no rule book and no assurances.” Some media buyers are reluctant to directly link 9/11 to next season’s sci-fi and mystery shows, noting that broadcasters are more concerned with creating escapist fare than programs steeped in social and political metaphors.
“The media’s motivation is to make prime-time hits,” said John Rash, Campbell Mithun’s chief broadcast negotiator. “But at a time of an undefined end to the war on terrorism, let alone the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these shows may have tapped into the current American psyche.”
Cassidy noted his series primarily is a family drama about a blended household and the challenges that arise both from divorce and re-marriage. Although he said he didn’t set out to create an allegorical tale about 9/11, “obviously it was in my subconscious.”
Brannon Braga, exec producer of Threshold, echoed Cassidy’s sentiments, noting that any reference to 9/11 was “not intentional.” However, with three TV series all dealing with the unknown, the terrorist attacks “must be in the zeitgeist…There’s something in the blood right now,” Braga added. “There can be no doubt that, even subconsciously, 9/11 is a thematic undercurrent in our show, for sure.”
Intentional or otherwise, the unease portrayed in next season’s sci-fi and mystery shows is a sign of the times, agreed several advertisers. “It’s no secret that popular culture and entertainment are driven by what is happening nationally and internationally,” said Tom Weeks, director of entertainment at Starcom.
“I definitely think we’re in a culture where the idea of good versus evil has been heightened. In a post-9/11 world, where there are no easy answers, all these shows are reflective of what this country is going through,” Weeks added.