- Elf - which a friend enjoyed. If it was half as long as it was, it would have been quite good.
- Dodgeball - which was quite a bit better than Elf, but still not a good flick.
Fiction (as opposed to prediction) placed in the future comes in several categories. Mentally, I divide it as:
- SF / Speculative Fiction - serious stuff. Most cyberpunk fits this category.
- Sci-Fi - some what funner than Speculative Fiction, but also less involved, less detailed.
- Shlock Sci-Fi - This takes place in the future, but mostly for the gadgets and aliens, and to provide alternate cultures with little explanation.
- Pablum - Science is irrelevant.
|Buck Rogers (77 version)||Shlock||A fun cowboy-in-space series. No analysis of politics or how science really changed people, beyond having mechanized people and an alien with wings. Princess Ardala was hot.|
|Battlestar Galactica, 1980s||Shlock||Like Buck Rogers, but at least there was a quest here. Except it was easily forgotten.|
|Battlestar Galactaca, 2004+||SF||This is well-made, serious, riveting... except it's just not as much escapism fun. We're talking Life-and-Death here.|
|Bablylon 5||Sci-Fi||Features a very rich set of cultures, science, an actual long-term story-line (screwed up a bit by the vagaries of network commitments and by a primary actress leaving), but it's also fun.|
|Futurama||Shlock||The future is an enabler of gags. Aliens are like people with a few foibles. But enjoyable.|
|Mork and Mindy|
|Pablum||I liked these shows, but Mork/Alf being an alien merely allow fish out of water behavior and for certain magic to be explained away as "alien".|
|Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome||SF||You probably expected Shlock, but this movie provided an internally consistent world view, decently-formed characters with clear motivations, and no unexplained gadgets or magic. It's doesn't have to be boring to be SF|
|Judge Dredd||SciFi||From a quality perspective, this may be pablum or worse. But ignore most of the gadgets (robotic room-service carts, flying motorcycles, fancy weapons, force fields) for a moment and focus on the storyline. There is one... about how genetic engineering (the Janus Project) to create the perfect "Judge" created a good one (Dredd) and an essentially evil one (Rico), who wind up fighting it out, the latter with his own army of genetically-modified clones nearly ready.|
|Andromeda||Shlock||This is a fun show, and some science/futuristic elements were thought out. For example, one race of genetically-selected humans has certain traits consistently, science and scientific solutions are an enabler, etc. But more often it is more of a fantasy, almost a dungeons-and-dragons with science instead of magic. More than most of the other shows, this is pure escapism. But the quality of the backstory puts it on the line.|
|Star Trek (TOS)||Pablum||There wasn't much science in the original Trek. At all. A few gadgets, different colors of women Kirk could woo, etc., but even by Shlock standards this was a sloppy show hewing to a very few consistent formuli, with no arcing storyline or character growth, no depth. It could have easily shared writers with Gilligan's Island. On the other hand, Star Trek was a bit ground breaking in other ways and did enable what followed. But watching 12 hours of TOS episodes in a row would be quite painful.|
|Dr. Who||Sci-Fi||Dr. Who was intended to be educational but quickly morphed. Story was important, but British production values and writing schedules did some harm. There was growth though and again this was a ground breaker.|
|Space 1999||Sci-Fi||If you know this series, you probably guessed Shlock. The acting was wooden, the sets were wooden, the stories were wooden. But they were a good deal more creative than Star Trek (TOS); some would have been at home in a Philip K. Dick short story.|
|Red Dwarf||Shlock||I never liked Red Dwarf. The premise is Sci-Fi; a human being punished in a stasis field comes back to life as the last remaining human, joining a "cat" who, in a case of convergent evolution guided by video, resembles a human, and various other non-human companions. (Interestingly, there are no aliens, in the sense of life from other planets, in Red Dwarf, but there are mutated species from earth.) The scenarios are also Sci-Fi worthy, such as parallel universes, but too often slip into adolescent humor rather than relying on ideas. Why it lands in the Shlock category is that frequent collapse-of-purpose. It's no more original than some Battlestar Galactica (original) stories, and less entertaining.|
|Enterprise||Sci-Fi||By my metrics for Sci-Fi, this meets them. There are multi-episode story lines, character growth, science (not magic) is integral, and some very interesting plots. A handful of stinker episodes too, and it took a while for the show to hit its stride. As Sci-Fi, it's probably better than Andromeda, but below the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica and below Babylon5. Unfortunately it was inconsistently entertaining and didn't engage the Trekkies enough to overcome that.|
|Other Shows||I've omitted a whole bunch of quality shows. Some, like Quantum Leap, just don't hit the radar anymore. Others, like the Stargate franchise, never connected with me at all.|
|Independence Day||Shlock||This was a fun disaster movie, but the idea that alien computers could be brought down by computer viruses from our systems is surreally bad. A Commodore 64 worm cannot infect an IBM PC, which cannot infect a Palm PDA, and these use commodity components from our own galaxy!|
|V||Sci-Fi||I didn't watch much of this, but it was a plausible premise. The story is basically one of occupying force vs. resistance. Good idea, but how much of it can you watch?|
|Knight Rider||Pablum||It was fun at the time, but the concept was basically a detective whose superpower was a funding source and a tricked out car. Not much growth, plot or science.|
|Pablum||These were essentially action-adventure escapism, with no science behind the magic anyhow. Essentially superheroes with no real justifications. And they had wooden acting, stilted dialog and formica character development. And yet I found Witchblade fun. Not good, but fun.|