SciFi Weekend: Outlander Finale; Game of Thrones Diverging From The Books; Legends of Tomorrow; Tron; Community; Orphan Black; Twin Peaks; Jon Hamm; Netflix; Serial

Outlander Season 1 Finale

Outlander ended the first season like ending a book, moving on to new things but without a television cliff hanger.  Note that even though it was divided, everything which aired so far is considered the first season, based upon the first book in the series. The episode concluded the arc with Jaime’s capture and rape by Jack. Jack even demanded that Jaime “Say my name!” I half expected Jaime to respond with “Heisenberg.” The topic of changing time did come up in the finale, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out as Outlander is a totally different type of time travel story compared to shows such as 12 Monkeys.

Ron Moore spoke with Deadline about the season finale of Outlander and the plans for next season. The comparison to the recent rape scene on Game of Thrones was also noted:

DEADLINE: The May 17 episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones featured a rape of the Sansa Stark character that erupted into controversy for a show already drenched in sex and violence. Airing so close to that, how do you think what happened there will impact reaction to the Outlander finale?

MOORE: Obviously we wrote the finale, shoot it, and put in the can a long time ago and the rape of Jamie by Jack Randall was always a part of this story. Suddenly I’m talking about our show and we’re stepping into a cultural moment where that Game of Thrones scene has suddenly grabbed everybody’s attention.

To be honest, I still haven’t even seen it. I’m behind in my Game of Thrones and I have yet to catch up on it so I keep sort of defying comparisons as a result. But I will say, it’s just one of those things you can’t control. You never know exactly what pop cultural moment a show is going to step into. Sometimes it happens and there’s nothing else around it, sometimes you’re sort of moving into the stream where something has caused a wake and that’s kind of where we are at this moment.

DEADLINE: While you haven’t seen the Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken episode of Game Of Thrones with the rape, having seen the sandstorm of a controversy it blew up into, did you think of toning down the finale?

MOORE: I’ve never even thought that for a second. This is our show. We stand by it. I stand by it. We made our decision. We’re ready to show it to the audience and we’ll see what happens, but no I never even thought about that…

DEADLINE: The season ended on what is basically the end of the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s series – is that going to be the strategy for each season going forward?

MOORE: The general plan is probably to try to do a book a season. Some of the books are bigger than others so we’ve definitely had conversations about, “well, you know, at some point we made need to split a book into two seasons,” but right now we’re not there yet so the plan is to do Dragonfly In Amber for Season 2.

DEADLINE: Are we going to see more changes from that book for Season 2 of the show?

MOORE: There will be twists and turns that aren’t in the book. The second book is more complex than the first book is. It’s a little tougher challenge to adapt it. It takes place in France and it deals with the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s much more political, it weaves in and out of actual historical events. There’s more complexity, just in terms of how Diana structured the story in Paris, in particular, as Jamie and Claire try to change history.

DEADLINE: What’s going to be different?

MOORE: It’s an urban setting and you’re dealing with aristocracy and the court of Louis XV so it’s a whole different thing. It’s not going to look anything like Season 1, so you’re really kind of prepping and shooting a whole new TV show into the second year. It has a lot of, you know, “oh my God, what can we do,” those kind of moments to it…

DEADLINE: You’ve worked on and led a number of shows, now that the first season is over on this one, how has Outlander been different for you from a creative standpoint?

MOORE: Well, it’s a very different experience, you know? Galactica was something where I took the old show and then decided to revamp it and reinvent it. But it was kind of something that I was making up in the writers room as we went along and I literally didn’t know where it was going season to season. It was a process of invention and discovery all the way along the road right up until the end. This project is different, it’s an adaptation so there is a roadmap – this is where we’re going. The challenges are very different. It’s the first time I’ve done an adaptation like this.

Just from a strictly producing standpoint, it’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. The story aspect and the writing aspect has just been a very different game from what I’ve done before. It’s trying to maintain the spirit of the book, it’s trying to keep these characters, trying to maintain this story and making changes along the way because you have to make changes along the way. It’s trying to get back to that, and hopefully you’re able to serve two masters, the fans of the books and those who’ve discovered the story through the show.

Outlander Finale Rape

More on next season at TVLINE:

TVLINE | Claire and Jamie are off to France for Season 2. Talk to me about how the show will look next season.
They’re going to Paris, and they’re going to be dealing with the French aristocracy. So you’re already in a completely different planet than where we were with Season 1. Scotland is about heavy stone, rough wood, dark tabletops, smoke and candlelit rooms, and now you’re in world of gilt, fine China, glassware and costumes that are made of silks and bright colors.

It’s going to be a whole different tone, a whole different…playing the story as much more political. We’re dealing with the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s much more about deception, and lies within lies, and the gossips and the surroundings of Paris. And dinner parties, and going to the court of Louis the XV — and if you know those books, there’s St. Germain, and there’s Master Raymond, and there’s more of an occult feeling to a lot of that stuff. [Plus], she’s pregnant, and he’s got the aftermath of Jack Randall.

In probably every which way you can think of, it’s going to be different than Season 1 was, which I think is one of the strengths of the series overall: its continuing evolution.

TVLINE | What can you tell me about how Jamie and Claire will navigate that world?
In a lot of ways, [Parisian society] is more familiar to him in certain ways than you would anticipate, because he is a laird in his own life, and he has lived in France, and he speaks the French language. It is a somewhat familiar culture to him. He does know his cousin, Jared, who runs a wine business, and he’s been to this place. Claire also speaks French, and she’s adapting in a different way, but she still struggles with the roles woman in these times, even in French society.

TVLINE | Do Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan speak French?
Caitriona definitely does, because she spent quite a bit of time in Paris, and Sam is learning French. I just heard him at the table read the other day, and I was pretty surprised. He did quite well.

TVLINE | Can you speak to whether Season 2 won’t be quite as true to the structure of the novel Dragonfly in Amber as Season 1 was to its source material?
It’s just a complicated process of adaptation… The Paris section [of Dragonfly in Amber], the plot is not as clean and simple as the plot was in Book 1. Book 1, for a big chunk of it, is Claire going back in time and trying to get home, and then she’s trying to find Jamie, and those are very clean narratives.

The Paris section of Book 2 is just more complex. It’s about many more ideas, other characters coming and going. They’re involved in something that’s more complex Diana [Gabaldon] shifted points of view, herself, in Book 2. So that alone just makes it a more complicated task to make the adaptation. So, yeah, we’re still struggling with the same things, with trying to be as true to the book as we possibly can while making it a television series. We always just try to do our best.

Game of Thrones Sparrows

Last week’s episode of Games of Thrones had a couple of major events, including Cersei finding that a religious movement now has more power than she does. George R.R. Martin discussed his inspiration for The Sparrows in The Game of Thrones with Entertainment Weekly:

“The Sparrows are my version of the medieval Catholic Church, with its own fantasy twist,” Martin told EW. “If you look at the history of the church in the Middle Ages, you had periods where you had very worldly and corrupt popes and bishops. People who were not spiritual, but were politicians. They were playing their own version of the game of thrones, and they were in bed with the kings and the lords. But you also had periods of religious revival or reform—the greatest of them being the Protestant Reformation, which led to the splitting of the church—where there were two or three rival popes each denouncing the other as legitimate. That’s what you’re seeing here in Westeros. The two previous High Septons we’ve seen, the first was very corrupt in his own way, and he was torn apart by the mob during the food riots [in season 2]. The one Tyrion appoints in his stead is less corrupt but is ineffectual and doesn’t make any waves. Cersei distrusts him because Tyrion appointed him. So now she has to deal with a militant and aggressive Protestant Reformation, if you will, that’s determined to resurrect a faith that was destroyed centuries ago by the Targaryens.”

And there are other, more direct influences as well between Catholic Church and the Faith of the Seven as well, Martin pointed out. “Instead of the Trinity of the Catholic Church, you have the Seven, where there is one god with seven aspects. In Catholicism, you have three aspects—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I remember as a kid, I was always confused by that. ‘So there are three gods?’ No, one god, but with three aspects. I was still confused: ‘So he’s his own father and own son?’”

Game of Thrones has diverged from the books this season. The show runners discussed one of the changes seen in last week’s episode  which I think makes a lot of sense to move the story along–moving up the meeting between Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen:

Showrunner David Benioff said pairing these two characters—played by Emmy winner Peter Dinklage and Emmy nominee Emilia Clarke—was one of the twists the producers most eagerly anticipated this season. “We’re really excited to see these two characters we love so much finally set eyes on each other,” Benioff said. “Creatively it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen. They’re two of the best characters of the show. To have them come so close together this season then have them not meet felt incredibly frustrating. Also, we’re on a relatively fast pace. We don’t want to do a 10-year adaptation of the books, we don’t want to do a nine-year adaptation. We’re not going to spend four seasons in Meereen. It’s time for these two to get together. It’s hard to come up with a more eloquent explanation, but this just felt right. [Varys] puts Tyrion’s mission out there [in the season premiere] and the mission ends in Meereen.”

Tyrion and Daenerys have not yet met in George R.R. Martin’s novels upon which the series is based. But as is increasingly the case on the show, the producers opted to progress the story beyond the characters’ stopping point in Martin’s most recent book, A Dance with Dragons, in order to maintain an intense TV-friendly pace. Benioff and his fellow showrunner Dan Weiss have previously pointed out they prefer to cap the series around seven seasons.

“There will always be some fans who will think it’s blasphemy,” Benioff noted. “But we can’t not do something because we’re afraid of the reaction. I like to think we’ve always done what’s in the best interest of the show and we hope most people agree.”

The first real conversation between Daenerys and Tyrion, which occurs on tonight’s episode, should be interesting.

Game of Thrones The Gift

Both Ron Moore and George R.R. Martin have dealt with questions of the television works they are involved with differing from the books. Martin recently addressed fans who have been upset with events on the television show which differ from the books, such as the rape of Sansa, on his blog:

How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have? Three, in the novel. One, in the movie. None, in real life: she was a fictional character, she never existed. The show is the show, the books are the books; two different tellings of the same story.

There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect. Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes. HBO is more than forty hours into the impossible and demanding task of adapting my lengthy (extremely) and complex (exceedingly) novels, with their layers of plots and subplots, their twists and contradictions and unreliable narrators, viewpoint shifts and ambiguities, and a cast of characters in the hundreds.

There has seldom been any TV series as faithful to its source material, by and large (if you doubt that, talk to the Harry Dresden fans, or readers of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, or the fans of the original WALKING DEAD comic books)… but the longer the show goes on, the bigger the butterflies become. And now we have reached the point where the beat of butterfly wings is stirring up storms, like the one presently engulfing my email.

Prose and television have different strengths, different weaknesses, different requirements.

David and Dan and Bryan and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can.

And over here I am trying to write the best novels that I can.

And yes, more and more, they differ. Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.S

The video above has interviews with the cast of Legends of Tomorrow, and the first few seconds shows them in uniform. This includes Caity Lotz returning as The White Canary, and a scene showing The Atom shrinking.

Disney has announced they have discontinued plans for Tron 3. While some fans are complaining, I don’t mind. I see the Tron series as something out of the past which which we have moved beyond and no longer need–like another Clinton or Bush running for president. Besides, with Disney owning the movie rights to Marvel and Star Wars they have much better genre properties to develop into movies, such as we have much better politicians to consider for the presidency.

The Community sixth season finale will be on Yahoo this upcoming week. Yvette Nicole Brown will return to reprise her role as Shirley. Then is is six seasons and a movie?

Orphan Black Mexico

Orphan Black did not advance the overall story very much this week. We don’t even know if anyone survived Paul’s grenade, but it was confirmed that the military installation was in Mexico. The highlight was another case of one clone impersonating another, in this case Cosima as Alison. Next it is the time for the suburban drug deals to play host family for Helena.

Showtime has doubled the length of the planned Twin Peaks reboot from nine to eighteen episodes.

Jon Hamm should walk away with the Emmy this year for his work on Mad Men.  Hamm has also showed other acting talent doing comedy work such  as on 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Next he has a more dramatic movie role, string in a political thriller, High Wire Act. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Jon Hamm has signed on to star in the Tony Gilroy-penned political action-thriller High Wire Act. Brad Anderson is directing the film for Radar Pictures.

Set in 1980s Beirut, Hamm plays a former U.S. diplomat who is called back into service to save a former colleague from the group possibly responsible for his own family’s death.

Netflix has renewed another show well worth watching, Grace and Frankie, for a second season. Netflix, incidentally, accounted for 37 percent of internet bandwidth during peak hours in North America in March. According to  Variety, “YouTube accounted for 15.6% of downstream Internet traffic, web browsing was 6%, Facebook was 2.7%, Amazon Instant Video was 2.0% and Hulu was 1.9%.”

In addition to increased viewing of television from streaming sources. podcasts are becoming more popular, with Serial one of the biggest. It has been announced that Serial will have at least three seasons, with the second season coming this fall.

Halt and Catch Fire starts its second season on AMC tonight. Reviewers are saying it has fixed many of its first season problems and the second season sounds worth watching.

SciFi Weekend: Fringe; Person of Interest; Benedict Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver; Don and Megan in Hawaii; Downton Abbey; The Hour; Klingon Wedding

There was not a new episode of Fringe this week, but we do have the video above and some information on upcoming episodes:

Friday, October 26 at 9pm: “The Bullet that Saved the World”

When the Fringe team tracks a lead into a hostile and heavily guarded location, Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) resurfaces – but can he be trusted?

Friday, November 2 at 9pm: “An Origin Story”

In the aftermath of devastating events, the Fringe team reels and someone makes a pivotal and shocking move.

Friday, November 9 at 9pm: “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”

A Fringe team member takes on a new role, and Walter (John Noble) follows leads to a key piece in their battle against the Observers.

Friday, November 16 at 9pm: “Five-Twenty-Ten”

As the fight for the future intensifies, a member of the Fringe team orchestrates a Fringe event of his own.

Amy Acker didn’t return on this week’s episode of Person of Interest but above is a video of her talking about the season. On the show, Finch is still feeling the effects of being kidnapped by Root, while Carter ran into Snow. At the conclusion of the episode we found that Snow is being controlled by Reese’s old partner Kara Stanton, who has strapped a bomb vest onto Snow. I’m now sure if Kara is simply going after those who had tried to have her killed (along with Reese), if she is also involved in going after the machine as Root is, or if she has some other agenda. Unfortunately, as the mythology segments are often interspersed into episodes about the person of interest of the week, it is getting hard to keep track of all the conspiracies going on.

Above is the teaser for a longer preview to be released on Tuesday for Iron Man 3. Here’s the description of the movie:

Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

It appears that Benedict Cumberbatch liked what he saw in Lara Pulver’s nude scenes when she played Irene Adler in A Scandal In Bohemia (an episode of Sherlock last season). The two are now rumored to be dating:

Love mystery of Holmes and his naked co-star: TV seduction ‘turns to real romance’ for star couple

As a whip-wielding dominatrix, she played the only woman capable of seducing the emotionally detached Sherlock Holmes.

Now life is imitating fiction for actress Lara Pulver, who has struck up an ‘affectionate’ relationship with Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the troubled detective in BBC1’s latest adaptation.

The pair, both 36, radiated an on-screen chemistry in the sexually charged episode A Scandal In Bohemia, in which Pulver appeared naked as Irene Adler.

And last Thursday they were openly flirtatious when they attended the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards together.

Cumberbatch brought his former co-star along as his ‘plus one’ as he collected the Best Actor award.

Last season Mad Men ended with Don at a bar, being asked if he was alone. At least it doesn’t appear that things are over yet between Don and Megan. Jon Hamm and Jessica Pare have been sited filming a scene together in Hawaii which is thought to be for the sixth season premiere.

Downton Abbey fans are still shocked by the events of last week (no spoilers for American viewers who are waiting until the show season begins in January). It now looks like the show will be extended for a fourth season, and then followed with a movie.

HIT drama Downton Abbey could be heading to cinema screens after cast members revealed plans to turn it into a Hollywood movie.

The worldwide phenomenon was originally ­­ supposed to finish after the third ­series, currently showing on ITV1.

But cast members now believe a fourth series will be commissioned, before the Crawley family’s story ­concludes with a feature film.

A show source said: “Hollywood bosses are especially keen to make a film adaption due to the show’s success in America.

“A fourth series is now 99% certain but the worry is ­leading cast members will soon leave and follow film ­careers to capitalise on their new-found fame.

“One option is to conclude the drama with a feature film after series four, which would be a huge box office hit.

“It would end the show on a high and then free up the cast to pursue Hollywood careers.”

The Hour returns for a  second season in November. Above is Romola Garai.

“What happened with The Hour,” she tells me, “was basically that I picked up the script and the first line I read was, ‘Bel is sitting at her desk.’ And I was like, well, this is fucking amazing. This part is mine. Because how often are you ever introduced to a young female character and she’s sitting behind an actual desk? The main thing I’m interested in is that I don’t want the women I play to be defined by their romantic involvement with the male lead. I want them to have a job. So the fact that Bel having a job is the first thing we know about her was a huge deal for me.”

Garai says she recognises a lot of Bel’s character in herself. “We are similar in being ambitious, young women who love our jobs and are truly passionate about them. And who are interested in the world around them, and in politics. But we are different in that Bel is a real diplomat with people, which I’m not at all. I say what I think, and then get into trouble.” She tries to look sheepish about this, but it’s not particularly convincing. “Actually, I think it’s OK to fight for what you care about. The best piece of advice I was given about work was by someone who told me that it’s OK to have conflict. I think sometimes women need to be reminded of that.”

Maybe its the first wedding with a Borg cube for a wedding cake, but I don’t believe this is the first Klingon wedding to occur in the U.K.

SciFi Weekend: Cliff Hangers, Old and New

Locutus of Borg Jon Luc Picarddde

iO9 has compiled a list of the top science fiction cliff hangers on television. I don’t think there will be much controversy over choosing Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the best of all time. Discussion of how the  Borg could be defeated, how Jon Luc Picard would be saved after being turned into a Borg, and whether Ryker would really fire on Picard dominated the CompuServe forums over the summer in those days before the internet replaced it. The hype from this episode also was responsible for turning what had been a so-so remake into a major science fiction series.

A recent episode of Doctor Who, The Pandorica Opens made the list. While some object to the manner in which the Doctor got out of the Pandorica, what bigger cliff hanger can you have than the end of the universe?

There were other memorable cliff hangers listed. This included Zha’dum (Babylon 5) when Sheridan obeyed Kosh’s voice telling him to jump, Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2 (Battlestar Galactica) which jumped the series ahead a year when unprepared humans living on New Caprica were conquered by Cylons, and The Incident (Lost) in which Julia detonated the bomb in hopes of changing history.

There are some cliff hangers from last season I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of. The mid-season cliff hanger episode of Caprica contained several cliff-hangers. Last season’s cliff hanger from Fringe made the list. And, while not science fiction, I’m sure curious to find out how Jeff responds to both Britta and Professor Slater declaring his love for him followed by the ending with Jeff kissing Annie on Community. Personally I’d like to see him date Annie while Britta goes crazy with jealousy. Besides, I’d much rather see Alison Brie with Jeff on Community than as Pete Campbell’s wife Trudy on Mad Men.

Dexter also ended with a significant cliff hanger last season. Blogcritics reviews the first few episodes of the upcoming season, including this bit of news:

According to executive producer, Sara Colleton, this will be the year to “take a break from having a one season-long adversary. So as Dexter’s grief goes through different stages, different characters will play their part and yet eventually, these characters interlock to form a a worthy adversary for Dexter.”

In the final scene of the third episode, there is a stunning moment: a twist so totally unexpected, you’ll curse the fact you’ll have to wait a week to see what happens next.

Disney Fantasmic Mickey Mouse

We’ve seen many characters reimagined, including Superman, Batman, and Iron-Man. Next we will get Epic Mickey, coming in a game  for the Nintendo Wii:

Disney has hinted that Epic Mickey is kind of a reboot for the beloved character – one that takes him from cute and cuddly cartoon icon to brave and embattled warrior. The questions now are manifold: Will Disney turn off potential gamers who prefer the Mickey of old? Will the game be dark and intriguing enough to appeal to “core” gaming audiences? And, perhaps most importantly, given flagging interest in the mouse, does Disney have a choice?

That’s nothing all that radical–just go to Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On a related note, there are rumors that Jon Hamm will star in the next reboot of Superman.

Cliff hangers sometimes lead to the death of characters. In case that happens Eternal Image sells urns fit for a true Star Trek fan. It comes in two models– one says “To Boldly Go” and the other that says “The Voyage Continues.”

Protect Insurance Company Profits

Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde,Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant,  Masi Oka, Jordana Spiro, Linda Cardellini, and Donald Faison explain that insurance company executives are the real victims of health care reform.

Lex Luthor Requests Bailout

The above video shows Jon Hamm of Madmen (and recently with a guest role on 30 Rock) portraying Lex Luthor requesting a government bailout.

SciFi Weekend: David Tennant Leaving Doctor Who; Liz Lemon to Date Don Draper; Weak Economy Helps Weak Shows; Lorelei Gilmore Becomes a Doll; and The Planet Vulcan Discovered

After months of speculation, David Tennant has announced he will leave the role of The Doctor after the upcoming series of four Doctor Who specials are completed. BBC News reports:

Tennant stepped into the Tardis in 2005, and will leave the role after four special episodes are broadcast next year.

He made the announcement after winning the outstanding drama performance prize at the National Television Awards.

“When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won’t be with me,” he said.

“Now don’t make me cry,” he added. “I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you’ll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair.”

‘I’ll miss it’

Three years was “about the right time” to play the role, he told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

“I think it’s better to go when there’s a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome,” he said.

His stint in the show had been “the most extraordinary time, it’s been bewildering, life changing, very exciting”, he said.

“And just so much fun, such a great show to work on.

“That’s one of the reasons I think it’s right to take a deep breath and bow out when it’s still fun, when it’s a novelty.

“I don’t ever want it to feel like a job, so I want to move on when it still feels exciting and fresh and that means I’ll miss it.”

Liz Lemon to date Don Draper? Tina Fey and Jon Hamm will have something in common besides both appearing on Saturday Night Live recently. Jon Hamm of Mad Men might appear in a multi-episode arc of 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s new love interest.Video of two of Hamm’s skits on SNL were posted here.

With all the subplots on Heroes, a lot has happened, including the return of Kristen Bell as Elle. Perhaps the most interesting development was seeing Sylar’s role get even more complex as his father got him to turn on his mother, but he still decided to save  his brother Peter’s life. His character is certainly different from previous years when he was motivated by little more than killing others with super powers in order to obtain their powers. Ultimately we saw him as a pure family man in a possible future shown earlier in the season.

There might be an unexpected benefit from the bad economy. I’ve often felt that, compared to several years ago, television shows are canceled too quickly if they are not doing well in the ratings, not giving them a chance to build an audience. The Hollywood Reporter believes that the bad economy might be responsible for some shows such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles being renewed:

Industry observers say the recent cluster of low-rated shows granted full-season orders might have something to do with network executives watching the plunging Dow rather than their shows’ falling Nielsens.

No execs would talk on the record, but the economic crisis, combined with the cost of marketing a new series, the lack of new programming inventory because of the WGA strike and the anticipated difficulty of locking down new advertiser commitments, has networks inclined to play it safe.

“Most years there would be more cancellations than there have been to date,” said John Rash, senior vp/director of media negotiations at Campbell Mithun. “But the dual dynamics of schedule stability keeping ad dollars in place is combining with delayed programming development from last season’s writers strike.”

NBC’s “Knight Rider,” ABC’s “Private Practice” and Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” recently received orders for an additional nine episodes apiece. Such a move typically indicates a network’s confidence in a show’s performance and signals the inclination to keep a series on the air for the duration of the season.

Life on Mars at least has received well deserved improvements in the ratings. Last week Sam came to the assistance of his mother, learning far more about her than he probably wants to know, and also got the opportunity to meet Jim Croce and Joe Namath (Joe the Quarterback?). In upcoming episodes he gets involved in his father as well as someone who was/will become his mentor.

Bradley Whitford of The West Wing and Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip is producing and staring in a sitcom for NBC named Off Duty about a once-legendary police detective (Whitford) on his way down who complicates the life of his new partner, both on duty and off.

Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls will be appearong on Broadway as the female lead in a new revival of Guys and Dolls.

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, is working on a script for a remake of the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet.

And finally, the planet Vulcan might have been discovered.