One of the great mysteries of television is why a channel devoted to science fiction has found it all but impossible to come up with a good series set in outer space. The Syfy Channel’s almost-unbroken string of failure continues with “The Ark.”
Syfy launched as the Sci-Fi Channel in 1992, and I would argue it has given us a grand total of one really good outer-space show: The 2004-09 “Battlestar Galactica” reboot.
“The Ark” is not in that league.
The premise of the new show is not exactly original. It’s sort of “Lost In Space” on a larger scale, and the sci-fi trope of a colony ship that faces disaster wasn’t original when “Lost In Space” debuted almost 58 years ago.
Set 100 years in the future, when Earth is well on its way to being uninhabitable, the first planetary colonization mission — Ark One — is launched toward a distant planet. But before the journey is completed, catastrophe strikes. Something severely damages the ship, killing the captain and all the senior crew and leaving three lowly lieutenants in charge of a crew of 150. And some of them are not actually supposed to be on this ship.
“The Ark” is entirely set in outer space, but executive producer Dean Devlin (“Stargate,” “Independence Day,” “The Librarian”) insisted it’s not an outer-space series.
“This isn’t a show about laser-beam fights with strange aliens,” he said. “This is really about the characters who are in this pressure cooker of a situation.” Who are, in all 12 episodes, dealing with situations in which “the stakes are life and death.”
There is some tension. Characters do die. But, c’mon, we know the ship will be saved because if it isn’t, the show is over. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, given the lame scripts, stilted dialogue and lack of acting talent.
The biggest surprise in “The Ark” is how cheap it looks. Some of the external views of the ship look pretty cool, but others — including anything that features crew members in zero gravity — look silly. Granted, I was watching this after watching Season 3 episodes of “Star Trek: Picard,” which has space scenes that will blow your mind, but “The Ark” is nowhere near being in that league, either.
And there’s a reason that “The Ark” is populated by unknown actors. They command much lower salaries. Some of them are clearly not up to the task, but all of them are handicapped by the scripts.
Syfy ought to be able to do better than this.
“The Ark” airs Wednesdays at 11 p.m. on Syfy. Episodes will begin streaming Thursdays on Peacock.
“Dear Edward” (episodes debut Fridays on Apple TV+) • Based on the novel by Ann Napolitano, this is an uplifting tearjerker about a 12-year-old boy (Colin O’Brien) who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills his entire family. The always endearing Connie Britton plays the widow of a man who was killed in the crash.
It’s a reunion of sorts for Britton and executive producer Jason Katims, who starred in and produced, respectively, the superior series “Friday Night Lights.
“Murf the Surf” (starts streaming Sunday on MGM+, which used to be EPIX) • This docuseries about champion surfer-turned-jewel thief Jack Roland Murphy is interesting, but not as interesting as filmmaker R.J. Cutler (“The War Room,” “American High,” “The World According to Dick Cheney”) thinks it is.
Four episodes is at least one too many.
“Not Dead Yet” (8 and 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, ABC; streaming on Hulu): I love Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”). I wanted to love her new show. But it’s just kind of … meh.
Rodriguez stars as Nell, a former ace reporter who returns to journalism after a bad breakup and is assigned to write obituaries — and the ghosts of those she’s writing about appear to her.
The ghosts are more believable than the portrayal of newspapering in this sitcom, but then most professions are not accurately portrayed in scripted TV. The bigger problem is that there are precious few laughs in “Not Dead Yet,” and neither the characters nor the plot are particularly engaging.
True story: A fellow TV critic asked me if I’d watched preview episodes of this show, and I told him no. Then I remembered I’d watched 3-4 episodes. It was that forgettable.
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