The history of sci-fi on network primetime is a checkered one. More specifically, Fox has struggled mightily in keeping science fiction around for more than a single season. It famously cancelled Firefly after just 14 episodes and most recently axed the robot-centric Almost Human after a similarly short run. Of course, if no one is tuning in, a network’s hands are mostly tied. But if the massive cult following of Firefly has taught us one thing, it’s that a year isn’t nearly enough time for a show to reach a wide audience. Still, that hasn’t stopped the oft-maligned network from periodically diving back in regularly.
In the wake of flagging ratings for its other offerings, Fox will be returning to the land of sci-fi this fall with its adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. The series will be set 10 years after the event of the film, focusing on a troubled detective meeting one of the three pre-cogs still battling with their visions of the future (sans Tom Cruise, unfortunately). Given the intriguing pseudo-futuristic world Spielberg’s movie built, the show should have plenty of material to work with.
But just like its predecessors, Minority Report could very well be on a short leash. Almost Human, cancelled in 2014 after a 13-episode run, couldn’t even hang around with J.J. Abrams attached as an executive producer. While superhero shows thrive just about everywhere they crop up, science fiction continues to struggle in finding a place on television outside of the aptly named SyFy network. The reasoning here could represent one of two options: 1. The genre doesn’t work anymore in a TV format (not likely), or 2. The genre hasn’t been given ample opportunity (more likely). The latter of the two seems the more plausible, and given the history of sci-fi, it’s hard to believe it’s a lost cause.
Much of the future success of Minority Report could ride on Fox learning from Almost Human. The network seemingly had a slam dunk with the show when it debuted in 2013. Keith Urban headed up the cast, and Fringe writer/producer J.H. Wyman was signed on as the showrunner. But a Monday night slot saw it pull in a paltry 1.5 rating in the latter end of its run, and Fox didn’t hesitate in calling it quits soon after that.
What Minority Report will need is a fair shake: more than a single season to stretch its creative legs. Almost Human had barely scratched the surface of what was shaping up to be a multi-season arc of mystery and intrigue. It would serve any shows following it to cut to the chase quickly, keeping in mind that they may not get more than one season to work with. Pretend that you have 13 episodes to tell a single story, and viewers will find themselves immediately pulled in. Spielberg’s movie already built out a universe that has vast potential past an initial run, so there should be little fear for running out of stories to tell.
While it would serve this new show well to keep some story arcs in the can for future seasons, it’ll need to worry about the here and now if it wants to beat the odds and outlast its sci-fi predecessors. Network TV needs a pillar to represent this oft-neglected genre, and Minority Report represents a perfect storm for accomplishing this on a large scale for the first time in what feels like forever. To accomplish this though, Fox will need to exercise more patience than it’s proven capable of in the past.
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