Just a mere two years ago, it seemed as though Science Fiction’s popularity as a genre was dying in the United States. The nice folks over at io9.com even created this nice little infographic for us, detailing the rise and fall of Sci Fi and Fantasy esteem on television, both in a steady decline after receiving a sincere whooping from reality television.  Although it does sadly look like reality TV is here to stay, at least for a little while longer, it also appears that both Sci Fi and Fantasy are in the midst of a popular comeback tour.

Headlining for the Fantasy fanatics, we have the Game of Thrones HBO program, based on the popular Song of Ice and Fire book series. I have not read the books myself, and the only two scenes of the show I’ve witnessed both happened while walking through my living room when others were watching it – one with the unnaturally blond chick drenched in blood from consuming a human heart, and the other with a woman breastfeeding a young boy who looks to be about 9 or 10 years old – so while I personally do not share the same enthusiasm for Sunday’s premiere, I do recognize I am very much in the minority and should probably give these books a chance. Season 1’s finale brought in over 3 million viewers, trumping the ever popular Vampire porn series, True Blood, and leveling the same playing field as Boardwalk Empire. With these figures and a projected even higher audience for Season 2, it’s hardly feasible to regard Fantasy as a dying genre in 2012.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should come as no surprise to anyone that playing in SciFi’s court, we have The Hunger Games. This popular book series took it to the big screen, hitting theaters last weekend. Although only in its second week, The Hunger Games has already broken box office records, grossing an estimated $155 million in its opening weekend and selling out more than 2,000 show times before Friday’s premiere to reach the highest advance ticket sales of any non-sequel movie. Even with sequels included in the mix, The Hunger Games still scored highly on the charts, ranking as third-highest opening gross ever, beat only by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight. To top that off, it also receives the award for biggest opening weekend for a non-summer release. I’d call that a return with a vengeance for Sci Fi!

Although reality television remains America’s guilty pleasure we love to hate, it is extremely refreshing to see both big and small screen hits stemming from literary roots. And, you know, the reassurance that our country still has the ability to branch out of the Kardashian/Jersey Shore bubble once in a while.

 

Admit it: you've felt like this a couple times watching Season 4

I don’t often use this space to rant about television, but I thought I’d just go ahead and do it on a Saturday morning. Its Labor Day weekend and I don’t feel like doing anything productive, anyway….

I wish I could be surprised or disappointed by the way True Blood is turning out, but the dreary truth is that Alan Ball has done it again. Fans of Six Feet Under must surely have worried that he might go and ruin his latest creation. And I think we can all now admit that he has. He’s gone and painted himself into a ridiculous corner out of which no easy escape remains. He’s gone and written so fast and furiously that he’s got a million subplots, all of them shitty and really none of them focused on what made the show a success in the first place.

Granted, they are two different things. Six Feet Under was a quirky, macabre and always interesting look at life through the eyes of those for whom dealing with death is a vocation. The opening sequences showing random deaths that had nothing to do with the plot (except to provide a corpse on which to work for the rest of the episode) were a real highlight of the show. They displayed life as fleeting and death as potentially silly, and with that as the amuse bouche, I was always eager to get into whatever crazy story line he was going to weave next.

But about season three, Ball decided to take the quirky and the funny and replace it with unendingly painful, shameful and ugly impostors. The show I used to watch for a light splash of death became a horrible burden of life. I enjoyed all the characters and wanted to see them do well, so I kept watching. I was invested. But soon enough, the sheer number of plotlines – David and the damned adopted kid, Nate and his emotional issues after the stroke thing, cute and funny Ruth suddenly becoming this horribly desperate character – overwhelmed my interest in the show. And anyway: what the hell happened to the funeral business?

With True Blood, we had vampires fucking. Remember the heavy metal Goth vamps speed-fucking willing human participants? Occasionally killing one, now and again? Gothic, sexy, raunchy, drug-fueled, nihilistic, funny, zero-sum Saturnalia, constantly filmed at night. It was everything I wanted my childhood to be. The simple yet completely implausible plot of vampires suddenly springing into the public eye – and humans blithely accepting it – was so silly that it made for great mind exercises. You just had to go on imagination and wonder what happens next.

Well, what happened next – about Season 3, if you recall – was Beverly Hills 90210 with expensive special effects. Oh, sure. There’s the occasional were-panther rape sequence. But that’s bad, like Brandon and his *one* fucking ecstasy trip. Pht. Remember when violent, doped-up supernatural sex was a good thing? Yeah, that’s gone.

Instead, the football team (The Vampires) has a beef with the lacrosse team (The Witches) and they’re duking it out for control of the lunch room (Merlots). The leather-bound, heavy metal hacker kids (Werewolves) are just waiting to see who loses so they can get their licks in and maybe steal some shit to fence out by the baseball diamond. Nobody but nobody gives a shit what the geeks and emos are doing (Shifters and god help us, Faeries, respectively), except the loser AV kid (Alan Ball). And everybody drops everything when the hot blond girl-next-door with the sweet ass who won’t put out comes into the room (Sookie).

I don’t give a rat’s ass in a red wheelbarrow about any of these plots. I want to see the vampires fucking. Goth music at Fangtasia, just like I’d like to remember Vertex. Freaked-out innocents and creepily-submissive tourists. Death and gore and sex and mind-bending intoxication and all the good things in life.

But no. Now we need to watch Jason the Fuck-Machine discuss his feelings with Jessica the Gorgeous Red-Headed, Nominally Uncontrollable Baby-Vamp. Are you kidding me? When do we go back to the fun?

There are now so many plots and subplots that there is no way to get back to the core of True Blood without jerking the wheel violently to the right and hitting a retaining wall. Which I admit: I’ve considered an acceptable plot-line, while watching the show. As it is, we had Russel in concrete and Queen Sophie-Anne about to do the Dance of the “True Death” with Bill at the end of Season 3, then we come back to Season 4 and its as if none of those plots happened. Did you feel a little cheated when the plot suddenly became about Faeries? Presumably living on one of the more cheaply-constructed Star Trek Voyager sets?

And oh, you just know those fucking Faeries are coming back at some unwelcome moment in the next two episodes, don’t you? Yes, you do.

Fucking Faeries.