Amanda Tapping and others in Sanctuary.If you've heard about Sanctuary then you'll probably dig this, and if not, it's still worth noting because I think this represents the very beginning of a new digital development platform for television. Note that I said development and not distribution, because I'm of the mind that the Internet can't possibly replace cable or satellite distribution -- physically incapable of it -- meaning it'll make a good proving ground for trying things out, but not much more than that. Sanctuary is a show that like Quarterlife was produced by veteran TV producers and writers, self-financed, broadcast initially on the 'net without much success, but garnered enough attention where it counts to make the leap to broadcast television. Friend-of-the-blog Morjana dug this one up over the weekend, a story on Sanctuary by Diane Kristine of Blogcritics reporting from the Banff festival. Although they call it a "world television" festival, from what I gather it's mostly a Canadian thing. Anyway, Kristine has a few quotes from Stargate vet Martin Wood on his new show and making the leap from the Internet back to his recent home cable network, NBC-U owned Scifi Channel.
For Wood, this is less about developing shows on the 'net before moving to traditional distribution channels, and more about developing successful shows that are entirely Canadian productions. Stargate for example only features one WGA writer (the rest are WGC -- Writers Guild of Canada) and only three SAG actors amongst the main cast. The studios where the show is filmed are in Canada -- which is not to be confused with the studio that owns the show, MGM, which is based in the United States -- and all post production and effects are done locally. I know a lot of Canadian writers that desperately want their government to invest more money in local productions instead of acting as outsourced talent for American industry, and Wood sees this as progress in that direction.
The Canadian government provides incentives to foreign productions that employ Canadians but I don't really see that as productive as perhaps establishing production companies staffed with TV veterans that do nothing but produce all-original home-grown shows. That's the only way you're going to produce content that people want to see -- you can't get real quality with token incentives and lip-service promises to bring on token locals who end up working in in the background.
It'll be interesting to see if Sanctuary can find some level of success, especially with the high-profile failure of Quarterlife on NBC. The latter was actually a very predictable outcome, and take this from someone who watched a few episodes online and then what aired later on NBC, the show was absolutely mind-numbingly boring. Quarterlife bombed because NBC didn't spend any money advertising it, didn't care about it, because it wasn't designed for a network audience and because it just plain sucked.
Sanctuary I believe is better targeted, better produced, and well suited to the Scifi Channel audience. Let's also not forget that the expectations on a network are very different than those you'll find on cable. 800,000-1.4 million will keep you alive on cable, while even six million won't guarantee life on a network.
While I think that Martin Wood's new series will be a lot better than Quarterlife was, and find more success in the short-term, I don't see it sticking around for more than a season or two. Shows that are born on the Internet are still subject to Sturgeons Law, after all.