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‘Second Chance’ Is FOX’s Latest Sci-fi Problem

It looks like Second Chance, FOX’s take on Frankenstein’s monster, won’t be back for Season 2. Pulling in only a few million viewers per episode, the barely-high-concept drama will likely be the latest of many science fiction shows to fall victim in recent years to the network’s itchy trigger finger.

The police procedural takes a really old, disgraced sheriff, kills him and has a couple of tech wonder twins bring him back to life in a younger, stronger-than-human body. As the show developed, the newly-hunky, formerly-dead guy reconnected with his estranged daughter and helped his FBI Agent son put away a bunch of bad guys.

Second Chance
FOX Broadcasting: Second Chance

Second Chance debuted as the mid-season replacement for another doomed science fiction crime procedural which teamed a twitchy psychic with a beautiful police officer to put away bad guys in Washington D.C. circa 2065.

Unlike its successor, Minority Report came with a solid pedigree. The show was a continuation of the Tom Cruise/Stephen Spielberg movie from 2002 which was itself loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story from 1956. The show was created by screenwriter Max Borenstein (Godzilla 2014) and Spielberg had his name on the masthead as well. Fox effectively killed the show after three weeks, cutting its episode order from 13 down to 10.

Fox Network Minority Report promotional still
FOX Broadcasting: Minority Report

Before Minority Report, the network also tried the future-cop thing in 2014 with Almost Human from JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. The crusty-cop-partnered-with-malfunctioning-emotionally-unstable-android procedural managed steady if not spectacular ratings.

When it came time to renew, FOX claimed the show was too expensive to continue. To be fair, most of the shows Fox debuted in 2013/2014 didn’t get renewed but the network’s impatience with sci-fi fare is particularly obvious.

Fox Broadcasting: Almost Human
FOX Broadcasting: Almost Human

New FOX Science Fiction Shows Canceled Season 1

2016 – Second Chance (Facing Cancellation)

2015 – Minority Report

2014 – Almost Human

2012 – Alcatraz

2011 – Terra Nova

2010 – Past Life

New FOX Science Fiction Shows Canceled Season 2

2013 – Touch

2011 – Human Target

2010 – Dollhouse

2009 – Terminator (The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

The last time the network had a science fiction show survive for more than two seasons was the better part of a decade ago.  FRINGE debuted in 2008.  Before that it appears X-Files from 1993 and Sliders from 1995 would be FOX’s only other multi-season genre successes in the past 20 years.

FOX Broadcasting: X-Files
FOX Broadcasting: X-Files

Part of the reason this issue seems so prevalent at FOX is because the network offered up the most science fiction shows of any of the major networks during the past decade. All the others had their one-off season failures but none had as many as FOX which begs a few questions.

Is FOX just bad at sci-fi?

No. FOX does sci-fi as well and more frequently than any other big network.

Of the shows listed above, only two or three are REALLY good. A handful more are pretty good. None of them are really bad … Okay maybe I didn’t love Touch or Past Life but I’ve certainly seen weaker shows last longer elsewhere (Yes, I’m looking at you Heroes Seasons 2, 3 and 4).

Is Sci-Fi just unpopular with “General Audiences?”

No. General Audiences embrace good Sci-Fi television.

The ratings for all the recent failed FOX shows weren’t spectacular but they all had far bigger audiences than every show on SyFy during the same period. For example, Battlestar Galactica pulled an average of 2.8 million viewers for it’s most-watched season. Almost Human on FOX averaged 5 million viewers for it’s first and only season while Minority Report averaged 2.1 million.

Other networks have major recent successes with soft-science drama. CBS has the FBI procedural Limitless about a pill that makes folks super-smart for 12 hours and Person of Interest which has an all-seeing computer helping fight crime. The CW gives us The 100 with kids and their parents trapped on a post-post-apocalyptic Earth and, while you could consider them part of the current comic book boom, ABC’s Agent Carter and Agents of Shield are more about science than superheroes.

The audience for the genre is out there and FOX has seen genuine success with other similar genre programming. They’ve done particularly well of late with supernatural shows like Sleepy Hollow and 2016’s Lucifer. They’re also still hanging on the fringes of the superhero boom with their big budget Batman prequel Gotham.

Does FOX have faith in their own sci-fi product?

The evidence points to no.

The network has never been one to give a genre show a chance to find its audience. The one-and-done record stretches back to the network’s earliest seasons.

More one-season sci-fi from FOX…

1989 – Alien Nation

1993 – Brisco County Jr.

1994 – M.A.N.T.I.S.

1995 – Space Above and Beyond

1995 – VR.5

1997 – The Visitor

1999 – Harsh Realm

2000 – FreakyLinks

2001 – The Lone Gunmen

2002 – Firefly

Given their track record, one has to wonder if the viewing audience is a bit fearful of embracing new SciFi on FOX knowing that a newly-beloved show will fall victim to their capricious nature.

Is FOX giving up on sci-fi?

Despite their many failures, the answer seems to be a resounding “NO!”

In May, Fox ordered a new genre “dramedy” with Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane as its creator and star. The untitled show will be set on a less-than-stellar starship 300 years hence and currently has a 13 episode order for 2017.

Seth MacFarlane is the next guy to try SciFi on Fox
Seth MacFarlane is the next guy to try SciFi on Fox

It’s clear FOX Broadcasting has commitment issues when it comes to supporting science fiction.

If (When) Second Chance goes onto the network’s crowded Sci-Fi scrapheap there will only be one remaining exception to their recent one-and-done record. Wayward Pines, the M. Night Shyamalan end-of-the-world mystery, had a limited 10-episode season last spring and will return on May 25 for 10 more.

I suggest you watch and enjoy it while it lasts.


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Paul V. Rea

Paul V. Rea is a radio, TV and web journalist based in Clarkesville, Georgia. Paul is addicted to television of all genres and can often be found mouthing off about things he sees @paulvrea on twitter.

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