I don't watch television much nowadays. Procedural cop shows are so, well, procedural they quickly bore me and every other programs seems to focus primarily on forced relationship dramatics or just upping the ante of violence and exploitation.
Maybe that's the bag of everyone else on the planet except me (wouldn't be a surprise) but at least in my opinion it would be fantastic to see more shows that catered to the concept of characterization, interesting new worlds to explore, and ongoing tales that developed instead of contracted or floundered or pushed the magic reset button every single episode to restore the status quo.
Here's some suggestions my Summer heat-addled mind came up with for show concepts I'd actually watch with some regularity.
Maybe there's shows past or present that follow these ideas? If so I'd love to hear about them!
10: Weird World
Sometimes the world can be weird. Not quite science fiction or fantasy, just odd and unconventional. A lot of cult favorites, whether they are books, video games, films or a spare few television shows, gained that status by challenging the notion that all genres are based on the same premises. Consider the game series Zeno Clash which ostensively takes place in a savage semi-fantasy location but is never implicitly named as the past, present or future of any known reality. Things are just...odd, and purposefully so. People dress outlandishly, inexplicable creatures are everywhere, and although there's logic that ties the world together it's logic that isn't dependent upon the stranger choices of aesthetics such as your primary firearm being the 'fish gun' and the story revolving around a hermaphrodite who kidnaps children and an insane tribe of creatures from across the world who perform outlandish actions because they believe doing so is their purpose for living in the first place. Another production that had this idea of a self-evidently bizarre world is the classic Beyond Good and Evil. Here humans and animal/human hybrids live on a planet of mostly water with some scattered islands and the plot revolves around an alien conspiracy. There may be a deeper backstory behind all of this but the story of the game depends very little on explaining it. Jade the reporter and main character is relatable even if her world is crazy compared to our own with future technology and strange flora and fauna.
It's a unique experience just to see the intricacies of her world while unraveling her story so there's rarely a dull moment; and since everyone in the story treats the most madcap aspects of their world as routine it's easier for the audience to reconcile them with an internal reality the characters are experiencing. It's easier to take anthropomorphic characters seriously when the humans never really find them that odd and treat them like a part of their every day lives.
I think it would be a MASSIVE risk, but one I'd try to support tooth and nail if a television series, or maybe on online web series presented a non-traditional genre setting for a show. Imagine if every episode the strange and bizarre would happen but intrinsically because the world of the show itself was off kilter. Watching that show would seem like visiting a new place with new experiences even if the characters don't actively go looking for them every time.
9: Post-Post Apocalyptic
In show terms this kind of production usually means DIRECTLY after an apocalypse. Shows like Jericho and Jeremiah and Revolution and to a lesser extent The Walking Dead show characters wandering through the relatively recent ruins of a destroyed civilization, bemoaning the loss of easy living and periodically getting into shoot outs or searching for supplies. That can be entertaining somewhat.
But what I'D like to see is a full on Mad Max scenario.
The world has evolved, perhaps in an unrealistic way but in one that's stylish and wondrous and wild. Society has crumbled, been rediscovered and put back together but in an entirely new way. The radiation has died down and now people can begin to live again, but live in a world they need to rediscover. Little armored settlements spot the land as well as enormous fortified cities and the new professions of hunters, craftsmen, mercenaries, and even just adventurers have become popular now that the new world is somewhat stabilized. Fallout is definitely an inspiration here, but more like Fallout 4 than Fallout 1-3. The wasteland is still out there to explore but it's no longer as much of a dreary, dead place. It's a vibrant world reclaimed by nature: the remnants of the old world lying in wait for those brave enough to search them out and loot their valuable artifacts.
Sets and costumes and the like wouldn't be too expensive. All you need is ruins and everyday clothing like any classic post-apocolyptic concept, but the difference would be that the world has become like a post-modern medieval society. People aren't griping about survival: they're joining into parties to make discoveries for the glory of their factions, they're investigating old world ruins for medical and scientific advances lost to the new world, they're perhaps encountering robots from the post-war period to retrofit into useful companions, or mad war bots they need to battle. Perhaps there's mutant animals to contend with as well with their own fanciful adaptations such as chameleon invisibility or hard shells that can deflect bullets.
I'd love to see a production in which the main characters weren't constantly bickering, or if they were it was about something more than just being inconvenienced. If the characters were part of an exploratory team they'd be more professional, skillful, self sufficient, always have a goal in mind, and work together. None of the alien beauty of a new world would be lost, but a great deal more time in the show could be spent investigating its mysteries instead of arguing over food.
I love metaphors that have a tenable quality compared to the rest of a story.
Silent Hill 2 is like one long personification of one man's deep-seated psychological issues, but brought to life as a literal journey through judgement in the form of Hell itself. It's a story told twice: one with the horrifying imagery around the character and his attempts to circumvent and escape it and the other with his slow realization that these monsters and locations are not at all random and each represents an aspect of his own past. This kind of thing can come across as pretentious, but the word 'pretentious' specifically means 'not saying anything although it pretends its saying a lot'. Silent Hill at its best doesn't have this problem with every aspect of it tailored to be associated with the internal story of the characters involved.
So why not have a show along similar lines? Perhaps literally a character is capable of perceiving the manifest psyches of people. A person who suffers from insecurity could have surrounding them a monster who is constantly whispering admonishments to them and pricking them with the needles lining it's body like a constant reminder of inferiority. Someone who is psychotic could be accompanied invisibly by a charismatic but monstrous figure who instructs them how to do their crimes and provides justifications, relishing in their wicked deeds just as their 'host' is.
These psyches are not the 'people' exactly, they're more like the mental influences (sometimes self created) which they've allowed to define them. The host may even become aware of these manifestations; even fight to defend them.
So this hypothetical person capable of perceiving these manifestations might be able to combat them or even converse with them using her own psyche. This psyche could grow, change, and even become corrupted in the presence of others. It would be an interesting morality play if the person capable of challenging damaged psyches could only cure or repair these by taking some dark aspect of these wayward souls into her own mind. Gaze not into the abyss or the abyss gazes back into you sort of thing.
Also what happens if by changing a psyche you change the person? When you 'defeat' a psyche does it leave someone without that mental prop they relied on? If someone has a fearful disposition and that is destroyed the person may ironically become very depressed because they've lived with that fear so long it began to feel like a part of themselves. And maybe the protagonist would have to struggle with the outcome of her use or abuse of her powers. In some instances she might try and tinker with a psyche for her own ends or end up changing a person for the worse with the best of intentions.
And to get really fancy imagine if a person's psyche isn't only a manifest object or being, it's an entire landscape. Everyone has their internal world where their secrets are literally locked away and guarded, where their own worldview has defined the way the 'inhabitants' live and think. Someone suffering from arrogance may depict in their minds a world in which everyone is lockstep with their own perspective and literally worshipping the owner of the mind as a god. Someone with multiple personality disorder may have a world split into two warring societies.
I think if it wasn't treated as a joke this could be a very atmospheric and intriguing production.
7: True Fantasy/ Sci-Fi Adventure
An honest to goodness fully catalogued and considered science fiction or fantasy universe would be fantastic. Firefly had the beginnings of a universe planned out but a little too often it slipped into making fun of the genre rather than embodying it. The Legend of The Seeker portrayed such a cliche and thoughtless fantasy universe it was impossible to care about for me. Game of Thrones has a fantasy universe but the problem I have is that it's not an interesting one: highly generic and with no interesting people except for the ruling families who are principally interesting because they are constantly backstabbing each other.
What I'd like to see is a genre production in which the world was treated with some integrity and respect. In the Dragon Age series the world feels fleshed out and real despite the wacky things that happen in it because there's some kind of logic and thought about how things work. In Legend of The Seeker the wizard Zed throws fireballs around because...that's what he does. In Dragon Age series wizards gain there powers by traveling into another dimension and making pacts with demons. That takes the boring idea of magic and makes it into a fully developed and interesting new concept. Mass Effect as well took the most dull and uninteresting aspects of science fiction and made them fresh and new by treating them somewhat seriously. What if 'blasters' weren't just inexplicable laser guns but they instead fired particles using the same mass field technology that powered the jump gates used throughout the story? What if the super-combative single minded alien warrior race had actually be genetically developed to be warriors in the first place...and were suffering from an ailment coded into them by their creators which could lead to their extinction?
Lets have MORE thought but into genre work, not less. I mentioned in previous entries that I like it when people in the stories take things for granted, but the WRITER should not. In Firefly there's a heist involving the world's fire laser gun. Cool and all, but why haven't we ever seen any other laser guns if this is 'the first'? Why is it only one of two left? Has it really been that long? We still have plenty of flintlock pistols lying around and those were made over a century ago. It's an example I feel of an idea which is interesting in theory but has very little thought involved when you scratch below the surface.
On the other side of the coin is something like Final Fantasy Seven in which EVERYTHING is explained, but not always directly on screen. The Buster sword of Cloud Strife has an in universe explanation which is provided. The super powers of the members of SOLDIER ties into the plot. It may seem like backstory is unimportant and it can become really wordy if you spend the unnecessary time blabbing on about it, but if it is there and it is thoughtful it's the difference between developing a world and just tossing out and ideas and hoping that they stick.
6: Creepypasta/ SCP/ The Holders
WHY ISN'T THIS A THING YET?
We don't have near enough spooky shows on television, and those we do have tend to rely on gore over any kind of genuine unnerving feeling.
Creepypasta for those who don't know is a play on the term 'copy-pasta' or 'copy-paste' which refers to people in forums who take blocks of text telling a joke or a story and sharing it wholesale. Creepypastas are those except designed specifically to be disturbing and scary. In essence they are internet era ghost stories or more accurately urban legends: anything from invented serial killers to strange phenomena or even twisted takes on childhood icons.
And therein lies the genius of this idea as a television or online series.
You wouldn't need to copy-paste creepypastas of old to get the same sensibility translated into an episodic show. Like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits or Tales from The Crypt, or anthology movies like Body Bags, Creepshow, and Nightmares each separate episode could be a self contained spooky vignette. This saves you from the horrors of an episodic show with series continuity. There is nothing quite so immersion breaking as having everything have to return back to normal at the end of an episode just so people can watch the show in any order, but spook stories have the advantage of telling their stories and wrapping up and moving on. You have the advantage of main characters being able, in fact almost being guaranteed, to die which is more than most other shows can claim. If there is continuity it could be with the cursed objects or monsters and killers concerned. Slender Man for instance could show up in multiple stories but those stories could take place in many different times and concern many different people.
Throw in some kind of host and you could bring back one of my favorite genres that's all but dead nowadays: the variety show. I think the host should be some kind of gently stereotypical basement dweller conspiracy theorist whose sharing these 'true' stories online so that people will finally believe him when he says that all is not as it seems. There could even be series duration skits involving the host in which he sets up episodes to correspond with a theme so he can work out a mystery or maybe he thinks (and could be right about the fact) that he's being stalked by a Creepypasta denizen.
Imagine a show you could tune into and you could see comedy, horror, adventure, mystery...anything the writer's pleased and sometimes all in the same block of episodes. One moment you could be shivering in the wake of a tale about Jeff the Killer and the next chuckling at a parody of Creepypastas with it's only eerie twist.
If not Creepypasta other great choices for shows would be SCP (Secure Contain Protect) which concerns strange objects and creatures being hunted down and catalogued by a mysterious organization, and The Holders which concerns a series of artifacts with strange powers only obtainable through bizarre rituals and trails, all of which may collectively lead to the end of the world.
Someone's going to do it, and if they don't they ought to.
5: The Silent Protectors
An organization is started to beat back the encroaching threat of something with worldwide implications but which can never be officially acknowledge for fear of starting wide scale panic. Be it aliens, monsters, a secret society the organization begun long ago has been combating its influence, sometimes in straight up battles but other times in subtler ways like infiltration, sabotage, and even negotations with unsavory elements. These people are highly trained in their civilian fields as well as proving to have a knack for their new, unusual calling and although from many different backgrounds they are drawn together by the necessity of defeating a common threat and keeping their fight a secret at all costs.
But as time goes on the organization runs into several concerns, some even as pressing as confronting the enemy influence.
For one thing the political ties of the protectors is questioned. Do they work for any one national interest? Do they support no country or cause since they stand for mankind? When their work nets them developed weaponry and devices do they turn over their discoveries to anyone or keep them secured for their own use? Do their backers demand compensation even though they are fighting for the good of all?
And when does intervention become occupation? The organization has been forced on occasion to use extreme methods, and sometimes they make mistakes. Would so many innocents suffer if the organization began to use the same tactics as their enemies and use secreted control to manipulate the world stage to their advantage? Anyone could be in the employ of the enemy so is everyone a threat?
And living and dying in secret is a difficult thing to do. Are there some who would abandon their missions in order to be recognized as heroes? Are there some who would change sides if they felt the organization was destined to lose the fight? Are there some who would defy orders to maintain enemy inventions and enemies themselves instead of destroying them: hoping to understand the foe better then ever before?
And what if the enemy has their own anti-organization: trained and highly skillful members with the sole directive of making their opposition pay for interfering?
Sort of like Men in Black meets X-Files I was thinking.
4: Den of Thieves
It's a time of chaos: but in chaos there is opportunity.
The industrial revolution has arrived and with it an upheaval in day to day life. The owners of invention patents and factories have gotten wealthy beyond the dreams of anyone in times before and the line between rich and poor has expanded. The plague has ripped through some areas and left them barren, creating an escalating problem that threatens the rich and poor alike. Neighboring kingdoms are gathering their strength, perhaps for impending warfare on a scale never before conceived.
But The Thieves Guild cares little for politics or anything beyond the immediate job at hand.
What was once the brainchild of an enterprising young ruffian has become an underground society for the training and coordinating of destitute people who have decided to abandon the law in order to survive. Only with the backing of this guild can they hope to pull off the most lucrative escapades: infiltrating the castles of nobility or deactivating the cunning devices that defend the wealth of entire companies.
But ever thief must make an oath of secrecy, of fidelity. Punishment for failure is bad, but punishment for ratting out a member of the guild is always death. And if you take what you steal without returning it you will be hunted.
At some point morality seeps into the equation. How do you in good conscience return to the guild your cargo if that mark is a young noble's daughter, kidnapped and being auctioned into slavery? What if the mark is medicines taken from an apothecary to be used to create poison in order to fight a shadow war with another rising thieves guild?
Can you even participate in the assassination of a guard captain whose only crime was dedication to his job and capturing a key thief in the process?
And as time goes on more worrisome developments take place. The potentially invading kingdoms have begun extending their feelers into the meanest parts of the kingdom and are enlisting guild members for great sums to sabotage their own kingdom, kill their own nobles and disrupt their own military. Is it worth it to keep to the code of survival?
And what if the thieves discovers devices being built for an internal takeover? Are these even safe enough to steal or fence? Will the thieves guild become something more?
Or will they endure like they always have with the will, the tact, and the reckless determination to snatch, dart, and return what they're sent to without question, without discouragement, and without being seen?
3: Non-Human Show
It's not easy to do, not at all, but what about a show that focused on something other than humans?
You could anthropomorphize the characters still to a certain degree, but how many people out there are fans of stories like The Warriors about tribes of cats or the Silverwing series about tribes of bats? The video game Tokyo Jungle had the concept of a world after the extinction of mankind in which animals of many different kinds were struggling for survival. Of course the popularity of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic I'd argue comes from the in this time fairly unique idea of a world inhabited by something other than humans so their problems are...or rather WERE...not just human problems.
(I'm not going to get into the recent changes to the show or I'll just get mad XD)
If animals isn't your cup of tea, how about Robots? How cool would it be to have a show in which EVERY character was a sentient, or even semi-sentient robot? The video game Scrapland investigated this idea, and the movie 9 postulated the same notion only with very small robots scrambling around a post-apocolyptic city. Robots would be intriguing because of the way their society would be like ours but radically different. 'Death' would have a different meaning entirely when they might be capable of functioning without limbs or entire sections of their bodies as long as their minds remained intact, and they could easily swap out limbs for different functions and survive under conditions it would be impossible for a human to.
For something even crazier imagine a world of monsters. Some installments of the video game series Legacy of Kain presents a world mostly inhabited by vampires. The dynamics between them remain similar to humans but with many differences such as vampires having ranks based on their evolutions, vampires not dying entirely after death but becoming vengeful soul reavers, and vampires have a unique connection to the Pillars of Nosgoth which control the fate of the world. Something that might have been generic fantasy with humans involved becomes much more interesting when the majority of characters are close enough to being human we can relate them but still so alien they're fascinating to watch.
Imagine a series following the adventures of elves or dwarves instead of just one of each accompanying a generic human hero around. People can relate to things that aren't just other people as long as they can recognize human emotions in those other things. As kids we could enjoy series about creatures that were hybrids of two animals in the Wuzzles and Muppet Babies, Tiny Toon Adventures, Little Bear, The Busy World of Richard Scary and so forth had entirely inhuman societies and worlds of anthropomorphic animals. We seem under the impression that anthropomorphic are only for children and I think that entirely misses the point of the idea behind them.
In Secret of The NIMH and Watership Down (both borderline adult stories in both the book and film) the characters are mostly inhuman, but because of this allow us to look at ourselves without preconceived notions. We can focus directly on our animal natures: recognizing our emotions, our reactions, or choices reflected in other creatures. That's an adult idea, not strictly one for children.
So yes it would be difficult, but wouldn't it be fascinating to see a production in which we experienced stories through inhuman eyes for once?
2: Fantasy/Sci-Fi Survival
You're lost in the wilderness and need to quickly make a camp, find food and water, and some way to keep warm in the cold night ahead.
Also you need to fashion some kind of rudimentary weapon before that dragon comes back.
There's a lot of shows about survival from the perspective of someone in a 'real life' scenario which is all very interesting, but why has no one applied this concept to someone in a genre setting? Even Lost was just a handful of fantastic elements slapped onto a scenario which was practically mundane. Which missed the point in my opinion. What interested me in Lost wasn't the obtuse mysteries, it was the potential danger these people were in. Something giant is knocking over trees inland. That's ominous and interesting; I sure hope these actually find out what it is and maybe make plans as to what to do with it!
Nope. Like so many elements in Lost this was just a one-off cliffhanger thing.
But what if a show laid it's cards on the table from the beginning. An interstellar explorer crash lands on a strange planet or a warrior in a fantasy world is dragged into the woods by monstrous enemy creatures and left to die at the mercy of the wilds. We know we're in a genre story now so something like monsters or magic or weird alien sights won't just be something that shows up briefly and has no point.
Now that little fantastic elements are PART of the story.
How nifty would it be to tune into a program and watch our beleaguered fantasy warrior decide he's going to kill a manticore for food and hide so he spends the episode designing a spear and a shield from whatever he can find? The episode ends with him confronting the beast and finally defeating it, but he's gotten stabbed by it's poisonous tail so now he needs to use the strange plants around him to quickly develop a cure. Or maybe our space explorer stumbles across a pool of water with an alien monster in it and he needs to come up with a way of luring it out so he can claim the water for his own needs?
Each episode of this projected series doesn't need to have more than one major on screen character: the survivor. The settings could be as mundane as a forest, but because of the genre at play there would always be something new and strange to interact with. A space explorer could discover intelligent carnivorous plants that lay traps while a fantasy survivor could find mischievous sprites that mislead him when he goes to hunt but might be convinced to grant a boon...if they're in the mood for it.
The stories could expand beyond the survival scenario based on the backstories. Maybe the space explorer discovers an alien device or ruin and others arrive to try and take it for themselves. The fantasy warrior may want to return to the war he was fighting initially, now armed with knowledge hard learned in the wilderness.
Bear Grylls meets Enemy Mine meets Monster Hunter.
I'd buy that for MORE than a dollar!
1: Wagon-Train to the Stars
I miss Star Trek.
I miss having a show I could tune into and see something always happening. On Walking Dead I can almost guarantee that NOTHING will be happened. On NCIS the same thing happens over and over again. On Penny Dreadful or Game of Thrones or Black Sails something is usually happening but it's random and usually involves people killing or shouting at each other.
On Star Trek I could anticipate something designed into each episode that would hold my interest. Some kind of new planet would be discovered to visit or something would go wrong with the ship or a character would be required to attend a social function or an alien race would confront the crew. Until the woeful Enterprise you were practically guaranteed that every episode of Trek, even the bad ones, would have SOMETHING going on because the show had the entire universe to play with. Enterprise mistook the term 'realistic' for 'boring'. Yes it's probably more realistic for aliens to be largely uninteresting, for planets to have nothing on them, and for the crew to spend most of the time sleeping and eating...BUT THAT'S NOT INTERESTING.
What is interesting is Captain Picard dealing with Q, the omnipotent being who tries to determine the worthiness of mankind through his reality bending games that are always rigged; Captain Kirk negotiating a settlement between alien races that have been warring for years or encountering a derelict spaceship on which the crew has died under mysterious circumstances; Captain Janeway encountering a planet under the authoritarian control of a sentient computer; Captain Sisko strategizing on ongoing war while weighing the cost of lives against the greater cost if the war was lost. It's a little on the crazy side, but at least something was always HAPPENING.
It was science fiction: it was allowed to craft ridiculous scenarios if they were entertaining and they had some kind of theme to investigate.
Dr. Who is the closest we have no to a science fiction adventure show and although shades of Star Trek are there it doesn't have nearly the dynamic of the 'crew on board a space ship' show. I miss having the idea of a group of characters all with their own roles and histories on board a vessel we got to know as a character. Again, Firefly accomplished this VERY WELL with The Serenity having quite the unique look and personality. I watched and still watch that show to see the ship as much as the crew.
Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as 'A Wagon-Train to the Stars'.
His idea was to take the concepts of Wild West exploration and transpose it into the future. Everyone onboard The Enterprise had their own function which was applicable to a western equivalent, even down to their names. Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy is nicknamed that because of 'saw-bones' which was a literal term for the function of a doctor in pioneering days. The idea, too long neglected, was that these spaceships were meant to be exploring strange new worlds while the crew developed alongside their journeys. For all it's episodic nature, Star Trek could often transcend the limitations of the need to maintain a status quo by subtly advancing the main cast. Kirk changes throughout the series along with his crew, becoming more worldly and less cocky. The others develop into their niche roles but expand beyond them with Spock discovering his heritage, McCoy falling in and out of love, Uhura becoming as much an ambassador as a technician and so forth.
So...where's our space exploration shows?
Battlestar Gallactica the remake had space ships just so they could shoot at each other. No one had any time to explore anything. Other attempts to resurrect the Star Trek like show have almost always been parodies of Star Trek itself or just so slavishly devoted to the original series they come across as spoofs even if they take themselves seriously. You don't need constant conflict in order to sustain the interest of a show. There were group discussions and disagreements for every Enterprise crew, but they were still companions and still friends when all was said and done.
The goal was in their motto: 'To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before'
Why then are the recent films convinced that all Star Trek ever was could be defined as flying around and shooting at things? That was the LEAST interesting aspect of any of the series!
StarGate put a great twist on this ideal and it earned a strong following for years.
Early shows like Lexx, Farscape and Blake's 9 still have a cult following and Firefly as mentioned is still being clamored for a resurrection. Every time the space ship style exploration show has shown up it's greeted with excitement, support, and viewership. Enterprise failed I'd say because it ignored those aspects: the ship wasn't interesting and the crew never explored anything.
But for some reason we haven't gotten another good wagon train to the stars in what feels like forever.
If we can have a show based on Game of Thrones, if we can have a show about Penny Dreadfuls and super heroes we sure as heck can get some sci-fi back on the air that isn't just a cop shop with laser guns. Maybe we could adapt a classic sci-fi book like The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov or the sprawling Hyperion saga by Dan Simmons featuring a galactic war between aliens and a divide humanity. Maybe adapt a video game series like Bungie's Marathon featuring a millennium space ship or maybe even FTL in which an intrepid crew battles the perils of space and the insidious rebellion alike.
Whatever happens just let me watch space ships on TV again please?