SciFi Friday: Finales For Doctor Who and Studio 60; Best Genre Shows of All Time

The major event in science fiction this weekend is the finale of the third season of Doctor Who, with this weeks episode running an extra six to eight minutes. My review of the previous episode, The Sound of Drums, along with a video clip, is here. Of course those planning to watch the season starting in July on the SciFi Channel might want to avoid these spoilers.

Many questions remain going into the finale, including the nature of the droids which are literally decimating the earth. I say literally as their instructions are to kill one tenth of all humans. We do know that The Master has converted the Tardis into a Paradox Machine to bring them to earth. He calls them Toclafane, which The Doctor says is really a fairy tale villain, not a real alien race. The Master also warned The Doctor that their identity will break his heart. One theory is that The Master is using The Paradox Machine to bring Cybermen in a new form back to our dimension, with Rose somehow involved, explaining the part about breaking The Doctor’s heart. (Fortunately The Doctor has two hearts). Another possibility is that The Paradox Machine brings fairy tales to life.

While Doctor Who has more episodes of any genre show, TV Guide didn’t give it the respect it deserves. They have released an updated list of the top thirty genre shows as follows:

30) Strangers with Candy (1999-2000)*
29) Absolutely Fabulous (1994-2003)
28) Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)*
27) H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1971)
26) Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1975-1978)
25) Firefly (2002-2003)*
24) Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
23) Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
22) Doctor Who (1963-present)
21) Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

20) The Avengers (1966-1969)
19) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
18) Veronica Mars (2004-2007)*
17) Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
16) Babylon 5 (1994-1998)
15) Family Guy (1999-present)
14) Battlestar Galactica (2003-present)*
13) Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1989-1999)
12) Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1991)
11) Jericho (2006-present)*

10) Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
9 ) Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
8 ) The Simpsons (1989-present)
7 ) The Prisoner (1967-1968)
6 ) Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
5 ) Lost (2004-present)*
4 ) Farscape (1999-2003)
3 ) Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
2 ) The X-Files (1993-2002)
1 ) Star Trek (1966-1969)

Shows marked with an asterisk are new to the list. I can’t see placing Doctor Who, which has more episodes than any show on the list (even if we add on all the spin offs to Star Trek) and is far better than many of the shows, at only 22. Firefly is ranked at 25. While I might place it a little higher, I do agree that it doesn’t deserve as high a ranking as some would give it. For example, recently I posted a list of top science fiction movies which listed Serenity (which was based on Firefly) as the top movie. They might also be overly influenced by the reaction to the cancellation and subsequent saving of Jericho. While a good show, it is over ranked here. I have no disagreement with the two two spots, Star Trek and The X-Files. While I’ve never seen Buffy, it has a tremendous following and I can also see ranking it highly. A few shows which have been left out, Heroes, 24, Lost in Space, and Dark Angel, are far more significant than several of the shows on the list.

Finally, a farewell to Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Fans of the show took out the above ad in the Hollywood Reporter thanking Studio 60 and encouraging donations to the Tipitina’s Foundation of New Orleans.

The problem with the show, which led to its demise, was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show. On the other hand, the great thing about the show was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show.

Prior to the finale, the show had a three part episode which ranks with the best of television. The finale tied up the loose ends, giving everyone a happy ending, even if not always realistically. Personally I don’t ever recall pulling a patient’s family aside with the words “I need to talk to you” to deliver good news! On the other hand, I’m glad to see that Jordan not only survived, but had already thought to draw up papers for Danny to adopt her newborn daughter. It was predictable all season that Matt and Harriet would follow the Ross and Rachel route and get back together. The best Harriett scene in the final four episodes, however, was not with Matt and Harriet but between Harriet and Danny. When things were looking bleak for Jordan, Harriet came up with,”Let me teach you how to pray.” If it was anyone but Aaron Sorkin, I’d start worrying–this is Studio 60, not Seventh Heaven after all. Fortunately it turns out that it was Danny who had something to teach Harriet, placing a few questions in her mind.

Sorkin ended Sports Night with a jab at ABC when he had a character say, “Anybody who can’t make money off of Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” That left me wondering if he would end Studio 60 with a similar message to NBC. With all the happy endings in the finale, my suspicion was that Aaron Sorkin might have been thinking, “so this stuff is too complex for you. Here, have a nice happy television ending if that will make you happy.” While there were perhaps too many happy endings for all, it was preferable to shows such as Veronica Mars which ended without a resolution in the hopes of being renewed. For better or for worse, it was also as different from the ending of The Sopranos as an ending could be.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    gabe says:

    Sometimes I feel that Studio 60 could be a better show if Aaron did not make it a behind the scene of a sketch comedy show… make it something else, hmm.. Nightline kind of show will be perfect to do all his favorite issues. And audience will not have a wrong impression of this show suppose to be funny, and NBC would not promote it as a comedy show.

    Yet I think NBC should give it more time to develop, they drop the support way too early. But at least Aaron have time to warp up everything in the finale… but wait, where is the FCC plot? 😛

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    A show like Night LIne might have worked better for Sorkin, but would have been harder to sell. This was the year for behind the scenes shows about comedy shows. Unfortunately for Sorkin, NBC owned 30 Rock while Warner Brothers owned Studio 60, giving NBC more incentive to stick with 30 Rock.

    As for the FCC plot, it got taken care of in the real world:
    http://liberalvaluesblog.com/?p=1632

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