It seems like a lot of my favorite TV series ended in the past couple of years. Leverage ended a five-year run last year, Warehouse 13 ended this year and Eureka, a show that’s one of my favorites despite my only watching a single episode ended a couple of years ago too.
And while there are plenty of shows I want to get into (Continuum, and Lost Girl to name SyFy’s surprisingly interesting offerings), I’m constantly wanting new shows that… well don’t exist. Maybe it’s because I’m that huge of a nerd, maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself and just want to see my pet stuff winning through, but that’s how it is and this week we’re going to talk about some of those shows.
As always with this kind of article, you are kindly invited to make your own suggestions in the comments or on the forums and also tell me whether or not you would watch it. And because I can’t possibly have seen every show, you might be able to point me toward shows that actually fit the bill.
A Unit-Centric Giant Robot Show
There is probably a Gundam show that does this, but of the many, MANY ‘serious’ (as in no ‘Erupting Burning Finger’ or ‘mech with wings’–no matter how awesome those were) Gundam shows, most focused on the whole conflict, usually as it was won by an awesome Ace pilot.
He talks about ‘fingers’ so much, I almost put a dirty joke here.
What I’m talking about is a show where we don’t even really care about who is actually winning the war but how the unit we follow makes their way through the conflict, from the actual battles to downtime back at base, to recovering from injuries, to ‘mech maintenance.
Here’s the thing: I grew up on two very influential shows: GI Joe and Mechwarrior. I learned absolutely nothing about actual life in the actual military, but I did learn about camaraderie on and off the field of battle as well as why that’s important to survival. The little slice of life bits are what gave GI Joe what little tension and character development there was to be had.
Meanwhile, you had a lot of the same in the Mechwarrior series, where you as the pilot of the giant robot heard a lot of pilot chatter… but couldn’t really talk to them or hang with them between missions. This became a major issue for me when I was playing one of my very favorite games, Mechcommander, where I got to assemble my own teams of mech jockies and kind of wanted to see if Paingod and Raven got drunk together off duty—because they totally should have.
My feeling is that by smashing these two ideas together: down to earth slice-of-life with giant robot badassery and in-depth scifi setting exploration (how would these giant robot pilot units operate in these worlds?), you would have a winner.
The 108th Mecha Infantry Unit is made up of the rank and file mecha troopers of the United Space Alliance’s armed forces. They’re not the rock star aces and specialists. They’re the other guys; the ones who get out there and take part in the main assaults while the Heroes are undertaking their Daring Plan, or just aren’t there at all. They don’t even know if they’re on the ‘righteous side’. Sure they hope they are, but war is hell and bad stuff happens and is perpetrated by all sides.
The Alliance is currently engaged in a campaign against a former allied force who have already taken strategic installations. The 108th is being sent in alongside others to take them back.
The unit is left in bureaucratic limbo on a neutral planet and are forced into uncomfortable close quarters with an enemy unit.
A member of the unit receives terrible news from home—knowing they won’t be able to return and do something about it for months. The others try to help them cope.
The troop carrier gets disabled in space, necessitating a transfer to a new ship. With two solid weeks until pick-up can arrive, cabin fever and bored antics set in.
Also robots fighting other robots because you have to fulfill the promise of the premise.
Next up, we have one that almost made the Shows That Deserve a Reboot article:
Talespin: For Adults
For the uninitiated, this is Talespin:
For everyone else: Nostalgia!
Talespin is what happens when the most glorious and unsung hero in Disney’s creative stable forgets he or she works for the House of Mouse and boldly and loudly asks: “What is the cast of The Jungle Book were in a dieselpunk universe?”
The result is glorious. Baloo the bear is a down on his luck transport pilot whose business just got bought out by an industrious beancounter (original character Rebecca Cunningham) while still being up to his neck in debt with corrupt corporate executive/loan shark Shere Khan, who you might remember as the murderous tiger who was the main antagonist of The Jungle Book. Now he’s also Lex Luthor.
Also, Baloo must constantly avoid and/or fight sky pirates. Sky. Pirates.
My primary question is: why can’t grown-ups get shows this awesome? Well they should:
In a live action series with practical effects, Baloo and his world are recast as humans in the exact same world. Baloo remains a shiftless delivery pilot forced to work for the woman who bought out his business, but now instead of a kid sidekick, he has an adult son who just re-entered his life who wants more than anything to work with his old man, unaware that the glory days talk from Baloo was mostly made up of lies.
Cape Suzette, the series setting remains,a long with the supporting cast and badass ruthless businessman Shere Khan. The plot coincides with the arrival of the original series villain Don Karnage and his flying pirate airship, looking to take the cape as his base of operations and turn its citizens into the subjects under himself as a pirate king.
Baloo and Rebecca are forced by financial realities to become pawns in the power struggle between Khan and Karnage, taking work from both while trying to find a way to free their home and their business from both of them.
An epic two-hour pilot in which the pirates first arrive and attack with stunning CG aerial sequences.
Baloo and his son get stranded on one of the outlying islands and have to come to terms with the fact that all the survival knowledge Baloo claims to have is worthless.
Both Khan and Karnage order Baloo to retrieve the same item, then find out about the other’s orders, spurring them to try and take it off Baloo by force.
Baloo and Rebecca concoct a phony legend of hidden treasure to try and get both Khan and Karnage to spill a lot of blood and treasure going after it.
An Epic Fantasy Procedural
The Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons is a rather controversial one. This is due to the fact that it takes the level of magic present in most D&D settings to the logical extreme and has characters use it like technology: to make their and their peoples’ situation better, creating magitech. The result and the aesthetic is called Dungeon Punk, and while there are a lot of people who dislike Eberron for it, but it’s been baked into the game’s DNA since at least 3rd edition in the early 2000’s.
If you look at the art and some of the magic items, it’s clear that there are Dungeon Punk elements already in play. That both Eberron’s creator, Keith Baker, and myself entered heavily Dungeon Punk worlds (that both heavily feature dinosaurs and halflings who are badasses?!) into WotC’s setting search and one of use won (hint: it wasn’t me) attests to that.
Thing is, I am in no way bitter about Eberron beating Ere. Not only did I kind of… not follow the rules by calling gnomes extinct when you are supposed to have every D&D element present in the setting, but Eberron is awesome and did a lot of things I never considered. This included the Warforged (sentient golems, basically), the Dragon conspiracies (and dragon shards), and the idea of a constant attempted invasion by freaking psychic body snatchers. Most importantly though, Baker’s Eberron is rooted in 1920’s pulp while Ere is rooted in 1980’s Weird West. As such, Eberron has a concept I will always e stunned and saddened I didn’t come up with first: the Inquisitive.
Inquisitives are private eyes. Magic private eyes. Sometimes magic robot private eyes. Not only that, but Baker built hie world just stuffed full or various conspiracies, political factions and infiltrations that you can just plan run a detective game in it and never feel like you’re missing out.
But I do feel like I’m missing out. Because that as a TV show would kick so much ass.
Imagine if you will a detective; a Sam Spade type: hard drinking, hard-boiled and hard done by who is always on the job looking for people and objects his client hired him to find or find out. And almost every time, he finds himself in danger over it that he never expected and never asked for.
Only instead of gangsters and Nazis, he’s facing down cabals of wizards, secret societies of snake people, and literal church militants with the power of their god in their hands. To get the job done, he knows a little magic himself to help find clues and defend himself, but at times, he needs to pay off druids for natural lore, or seek out divination from a temple. All amidst the backdrop of a sprawling Fantasy world or powerful magics and even more powerful creatures and forces beyond the pale.
Sam (because of course) is roped into retrieving the daughter of a wealthy family from a cult she joined—a cult that is about to summon an ancient, sealed horror.
An old friend shows up having been hit with a geas spell that will kill him in a week if he doesn’t do what the caster wants him to. The problem is, he was too drunk to remember what that was.
A routine missing persons uncovers a terrible monster loose in the city—a monster a certain city father doesn’t want caught.
A locked room murder mystery where more than one suspect can teleport.
A Post-Apocalyptic Non-Dystopia
AKA, a more realistic post-apocalypse story.
Sorry folks, but this one comes with a rant. Most stories that take place after the end of the world are completely counter to the realities of human nature and also common goddamn sense. Invariably, they’re about people who decide to be the worst kind of assholes, out for no one but themselves and willing to kill, rape and maim anyone who they come across.
This. Makes. No. Sense.
Let me make this clear: the people who behave like that will be dead in short order the moment they run into actual non-sociopath, non-cartoon character humans who have banded together out of necessity and a better chance of survival and they kill that guy’s dumb ass in self defense.
Humans are social creatures. So much so that we literally start suffering mental problems if isolated from other humans for too long. Not only that, but we’ve gotten to the point as a people that most of us would not be able to survive very long on our own even if we didn’t start to lose out minds. Think about how little of your own food, clothing, water, shelter and entertainment you produce yourself.
Hell, if you are on your blog, you are at the very least getting ten minutes of the kind of mental stimulation you actually need to keep your brain healthy from a guy (me) who is likely hundreds if not thousands of miles from you. And your food probably comes from even further way.
No matter what certain political ideologies might tell you, very, very few men (or women) live only on the sweat of their own brow. We all need other humans and we were built that way no matter who or what you think built us. If the world ends, the lone wolves are going to die first and deserve it so very, very hard.
So. That said, a realistic post-apocalyptic tale would be about a group of humans coming together and learning how to work with one another in order to ensure the group’s survival. There would be conflict, of course, but that’s part of the point: deciding if your ego is more important than your survival.
Only a few weeks have gone by after massive and relatively poorly understood devastation has ravaged what had been a major city. No help from the outside has come and the survivors are starting to realize that whatever happened to them has befallen the rest of the world.
The series follows a number of characters as they slowly find one another and band together against a harsh and blasted world. People have lost families, friends and everything they know. There are terrible gaps in their collective knowledge and their idea of what’s important. In the face of all this, they will have to learn how to deal with all that because the fresh food is starting to rot, the canned food won’t last forever and winter is coming and sub-zero temperatures are just as scary as ice zombies when you have to deal with them.
Rather than episode ideas, for this one, I’m going to just list interesting challenges and conflicts that can come up:
Is it worthwhile to use resources to generate electricity when no one knows how to make new electronics and you don’t know what devices you’ll find?
Should the group stay put and create shelters where they are or risk scouting out for better places?
Who takes care of the orphaned children and is it moral to reproduce in a time like this?
What is the morality of looting—especially bodies in this situation?
Does wealth and status still have meaning? If someone was a celebrity before, does that matter anymore? And what has worth now?
Should the group devote time gathering food and making shelter to figuring out what happened to the world?
Romance: The Series
I have said time and time again that I am a sucker for romance. And while I am contractually obligated to make a crack about how I’m a sucker for it in every sense of the word in a comically bitter manner because I’m a guy who writes things on the internet, I’m not actually bitter and not once had I ever given up on loving love.
Thus it has come to my distinct attention that there’s not a lot of romance on TV. Yes, there are romance subplots and love interests, but rare is the story when two characters of equal billing and their developing romantic relationship the focus of the story. No will they/won’t they crap, no drama-preserving handicaps duct-taped to these people—just a couple of interesting people living interesting lives and falling in love at the same time.
I collapsed to the floor foaming and demanding God apologize to me when I realized that the absolute closest I’ve every seen this played out was in freaking Dharma and Greg, in which a privileged stick in the mud and a neo-flower child meet and marry on a whim only to discover that they really are compatible despite being fish out of water in their respective love’s world. But there the fish out of water stuff took the driver’s seat and their actual feelings develop at the speed of light.
What I’m talking about is two parallel story lines: Character A’s slice of life and Character B’s slice of life which slowly become intertwined as they fall in love and draw one another in. Doesn’t even have to be ‘his’ and ‘hers’: love is love and good characterization is good characterization. I’ve just be living significantly less vicariously through someone if it’s two guys, but then the same is true if at least one of the female leads isn’t Alyson Hannigan (can both leads be played by her if we go with a lesbian relationship? That, or we could go meta and find the girl who played Tara on Buffy). Alternatively, Alyssa Milano. Apparently, my celebrity crush parameters require inappropriate use of the letter ‘Y’.
-Ahem- Moving on then.
We start at the start and this combines with what episodes will be like. The characters go through their day, which establishes them as characters in their own right and also how they might be good for one another until the end of Episode 1 where they meet end up making a date.
From there, we follow this structure: They both have a plot (an A Plot and B Plot) in the episode that intersect when they spend time with each other. The time with each other parts become slowly more prominent and they start to cross-over their supporting cast until they’re sometimes having plots with the other’s supporting cast.
Eventually, they get together and the relationship becomes the A plot with a B-plot besides. Sometimes we have episodes with just one of them to show they’re still worthy characters in their own right and sometimes episodes are just about them. Where you go with that is really up to how long the show runs and how the characters themselves work. They could move in together, they could get married, they could have a kid with or without those previous two things (because honestly, it’s 2014 and I think we can handle loving parents who are neither married nor divorced).
And it could be a comedy or a drama or even an action show for all I’m concerned just as long as the focus is the romantic relationship. Because to be perfectly honest, I think we need more love in our mental diets.
Before I go, I want to congratulate my writer friend Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson whose first I mentioned got picked up by Solaris some months ago. She’s one month from launch, but you can pre-order her book, One Night in Sixes on Amazon, B&N, and IndieBound right now. You can also read the first scene on her blog.