The Movie Waffler 2014: The Year in Genre TV | The Movie Waffler

2014: The Year in Genre TV

This past year proved to be a banner year for fans of genre television.  Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, which where largely viewed as niche programming in the past, have now become almost, if not completely, mainstream.

Every network had some returning genre content for 2014. Granted, in the case of CBS, a network that in the past has seemed to avoid genre content like the plague, it was Under the Dome, which was more by accident (stronger ratings than expected) than any sort of actual design. NBC and FOX also each had one show with Grimm and Sleepy Hollow, respectively. ABC had a stronger buy-in at three series with Once Upon a Time, Agents of SHIELD and Resurrection. The leader of the network pack in terms of genre friendly content remains The CW, who still seem to be in contention with SyFy for that channel's very name with six series in the form of Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, The 100, The Originals, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. I should probably note at this point that I don't actually consider The CW a true network yet as they are still at the proto-network stage FOX was at prior to the combined successes of 24, American Idol and Prison Break.
What is even more surprising than this is the further buy-in by the five networks in the form of new genre series launched this year. CBS was especially surprising with three new entries, although I would argue the number is really closer to four in that Person of Interest, which I never personally considered a genre series, underwent a transformation in the fourth season that would cross my personal threshold for considering it such. CBS launched Intelligence (imagine a serious version of Chuck), which has already been cancelled, but they have also added Extant and Scorpion to their roster. All the others each added one show a piece. NBC and FOX added Gotham and Constantine, respectively, although it looks like the latter might not make it past its first season in spite of a recent jump in ratings. ABC added Forever, which may be enough of a police procedural to make it fall into my "not really genre" bin, but as I don't watch the series, I can't say for sure. Finally, The CW added The Flash as a semi spin-off of their popular Arrow series and have already, based upon this show's inaugural season's success, promised to add a third DC hero series in the near future.
On the non-broadcast network front, the biggest news of the year would have to be the SyFy channel's decision to actually start focusing on science fiction again. They have taken the approach of supplementing the slow build up of original content with additional foreign content, which they had already been importing. Lost Girl and Continuum are two Canadian genre series they have been airing, to which they added the new Canadian drama Bitten, and while I was personally underwhelmed with the series, it seems to have gotten good enough ratings to earn a second season. SyFy also brought in the New Zealand series The Almighty Johnsons, which has tragically already ended after its third season, and the French anthology series Metal Hurlant Chronicles. As a final note on SyFy's imports, it was recently announced that Continuum's fourth season will be its last and consist of only six episodes. I was quite stunned by this news as Continuum is easily one of, if not the best SF series currently airing on TV. Unfortunately, it seems the ratings just weren't there. On the original content front, the channel came out the gate early with Helix, which was created by Ron Moore, who was one of the two people responsible for the now classic Battlestar Galactica reboot. The season had a few shakedown issues in the middle but otherwise was a solid new series, with a second season airing soon. In addition to Helix, SyFy added three other new drama series with Dominion, Z Nation and Ascension, although the latter was really a three (or six depending upon how you count it) epsiode mini-series. Z Nation was probably the biggest surprise to me here as it is clearly trying to ride on the coat tails of The Walking Dead, but proved to be an entertaining series in its own right. Of SyFy's previous content, only the underrated Defiance will survive for a third season, as Warehouse 13 came to an end with its fifth season and Haven has begun its two-part final season, which will end next year.
The two heavy hitters in the cable original genre television department are HBO's Game of Thrones and AMC's The Walking Dead. HBO added a second genre series with The Leftovers, based on the novel of the same name, which looks to be heading down the same road as Lost, so I'll most likely be giving the rest of it a pass. AMC will add a second genre series next year called Humans which is an American version of the great Swedish series Real Humans.
BBC America is one of two cable networks who seemed to jump on the genre TV bandwagon pretty heavily. Of course, they are the source for Doctor Who in the US. The eight series with new Doctor Peter Capaldi aired this year. I was very much looking forward to this new Doctor as he seemed to be channeling some of Jon Pertwee, who, at the risk of being labelled a heretic by American Doctor Who fans, remains my all time favorite Doctor to this day, although David Tennant gave him a close run for second. To get back to series eight, I would ultimately have to agree with the complaints about the weaker writing and especially the new title credits, which I know were fan-inspired, but unfortunately really look like it as well. However, through all of this I still loved Capaldi's Doctor. Beyond Doctor Who, we had the return of the excellent Orphan Black for a second season with a third already promised. BBCA also brought back two BBC series with the equally excellent In the Flesh and this other series Atlantis. The only surprise here is that Atlantis has been renewed for a new season while In the Flesh has not. Finally, BBCA launched a second original series (Orphan Black was the first although technically a coproduction) with this year's Intruders
The other cable network to join the party is TNT. Falling Skies returned for its fourth season with a new show runner and an equally huge course correction that felt like a completely new series to me. They have already announced that the fifth season next year will be the last. TNT lauched two new genre series this year and announced a series next year based on DC's Teen Titans comics. The first new series is The Last Ship, based on the novel of the same name about a post global pandemic world. Second is a new series called The Librarians, which is a series based upon the three Librarian films that TNT made starting in 2004. Although the Friday the 13th series is generally credited as being the inspiration for Warehouse 13, the Librarian TV films could easily have been as well. 
Other noteworthy genre series include MTV's Teen Wolf, which is entering its fifth season. Showtime, who seem to run hot and cold on genre original series content, introduced a new show called Penny Dreadful, which strikes me as a more horror themed version of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.It's actually a co-production with Britain's Sky, and a second series has already been announced. FX's American Horror Story returned for a fourth season subtitled Freakshow. This is one of those series that I'm not sure why I watch, other than to say it does have its moments. The fifth season promises to tie all the previous seasons together, which will be an interesting feat, as most of the cast each played a different character every season. FX also introduced a new series in The Strain, which was co-created by Guillermo del Toro and based upon the novel he co-authored with Chuck Hogan. Finally, Starz, who introduced Da Vinci's Demons last year, added the new series Outlander this year based on the novel series of the same name. Both will return with new seasons in 2015.
Overall, 2014 was a good year for genre TV fans, especially those that are fans of the superhero sub-genre. DC comics certainly made a huge impact and is doing with television what Marvel has been doing so successfully with films. With the return of SyFy to their genre roots and the promise of a serious space-based drama in the form of The Expanse, based upon the novel Leviathan Wakes, things are looking even brighter for next year. Given the number of shows that have already been renewed and, hopefully, a return to a space-based drama, it looks like 2015 should be as good a year for genre TV fans, if not better.

For more from Nick, visit his site, Fantastic Television