Amanda Tapping's 'Sanctuary' premiers tonight

by Paul William Tenny

sanctuary.jpgSanctuary premiers on The SCI FI Channel tonight and to be honest here, I'd rather be getting the second part of the Stargate Atlantis two-parter instead. I love Amanda Tapping and I'm giving some of the Stargate talent behind Sanctuary the benefit of the doubt, but there's literally nothing about this new series that excites me. It is worth talking about though because of where it came from. Sanctuary is the second "TV show" that was made with real equipment and produced by professional talent but made for the Internet that made the jump from the web to the tube.
Quarterlife got there first and made the bigger jump when it was picked up by NBC during the writers strike. It only aired one or two episodes before being jettisoned to Bravo and finally killed off, which wasn't at all surprising to anyone who had seen the series while it was still only available on YouTube and the shows website.

Despite a not-so-insignificant chunk of change being spent to produce the show, the production value was still quite low by comparison even to the cheapest show anywhere on TV. Despite being written by accomplished talent, it was also pretty aimless and boring.

Not exactly what you want when you're pioneering a new media market.

For the sake of Sanctuary I really hope they thought things through a little more than the Quarterlife guys did -- that show clearly wasn't anywhere close to being ready for primetime. And there is a difference between the two, whereas Quarterlife was produced entirely at the whim of its writers and owners and then aired as-is on network TV, Sanctuary was actually produced a second time with more money and better resources. As such, even if the show is absolute junk, it ought at least to look like a fairly normal televsion series, although the extensive use of CGI for background sets is probably going to throw people off a little bit.

I've not seen the show so I can't tell you what to expect, though Hanh Nguyen covered it with a review at Zap2it if you're looking for a reason to watch or stay away. I think the comparison to Torchwood is a good thing in that Torchwood had its moments that made me feel like it was always on the edge of exploding into something truly emotional and cool, but it always kind of let you down.

I think that had a lot to do with the different writing styles and audience expectations between American viewers and British viewers. If Torchwood could ever attract a writing staff from America, I felt like they could be the first real overseas show that could be a big hit here the way that we export shows like CSI to other parts of the world on a fairly regular basis.

Not adaptations or American versions of shows from across the pond really, but their shows having such a broad appeal that we could air them here and just enjoy them as-is. Sadly, Torchwood never found that magic and now is stuck in some sort of development hell where there will only be four or five new episodes for the "third season" that will all air in a single week as some sort of bastardized mini-series.

But to get back on track here, the biggest problem Sanctuary has is that SCI FI hasn't sold it to me, or to you I'd imagine. It didn't have a hook, any captivating visual, snappy and memorable dialog moment, or premise that made me want to sit down and watch it. Shows like that need to be strong in every other aspect, hoping they can trap people who are just flipping channels looking for something to watch and happen to stumble across the creative equivalent of fly paper.

There just isn't enough talent there to make me want to get invested in a new show and the lack of a killer premise is unlikely to grab me even though I'll be sitting there on the channel already because of other shows I like such as Atlantis. As a fan of SGA, I can't help but feel like its cancellation was the result of SCI FI making room for Sanctuary, even though that's no more true than SGA being jettisoned to make room for Stargate Universe. I point this out because it's still in the back of my mind, true or not, and it'll be playing against Sanctuary especially because it has so many Stargate old hands working on it and it'll be airing back-to-back with SGA and, if it makes it that long, SGU.

Best of luck to them, but I'd much rather have new SGA to watch now and for the rest of the season..and well into the next. I think franchise shows like Stargate are a better investment even though I'm usually the first to demand studios take more chances on original content. In movies sure, in television I'm more than happy to stick with what works, because that's the kind of entertainment that couch potatoes want and need.

TV shows are bigger emotional investments, they take more time to watch and understand and subsequently are far more rewarding. Once youv'e found something that works -- which is rare on TV, even more so than with movies -- it's worth sticking with it until that tale has gone cold.

Stargate isn't cold yet and I'm weary of Sanctuary, but we'll see where it goes.
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Hi, Paul.

I watched the webisodes, and was impressed with Sanctuary.

I watched the premiere of Sanctuary on SciFi Channel and was impressed again.

I'm waiting for the third episode, when they deliver new material, to see if I can be impressed again.

Hey news flash for you, ignorant American. Torchwood is not being written for you and the rest of us like it the way it is just fine, thank you very much. Importing American writers to infect it with your derivative, repetitive plots, one dimensional cookie cutter characters and narrow mined bigotry is thankfully the last thing the BBC is interested in. Revenue from overseas sales might be nice for them but at the end of the day it's not what they're there for.

And while we're on the subject of ignorance (yours that is) if you think a 5 nights in a row, prime time mini series on the BBC's main channel is "development hell" I suggest you do a little more research on television outside your self obsessed home country. Torchwood's promotion from BBC3 to BBC2 and now to BBC1 is a never before seen rise to prominence and series 4 is already being talked about as pretty much a go.

There's a reason that the US gets garbage like Sanctuary on their TV screens - it's what you deserve.

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