Among TV aficionados (and Film too, for that matter), there are those I call the "Genre Watchers." They will watch anything that splashes across their Genre radar. (Conversely, while being far less discriminate about their viewing habits, they also tend to be hyper-critical of their favorite shows. Go figure.)
My problem is not with Genre Watchers. My problem--as always--is with any viewers of any medium who are content with and give patronage to--Utter Crap.
Yeah, it's your life, and why should I care if you won't come in out of the rain? Why? Because it affects me too. The central premise of TV Warrior is that the more people watch and support Quality Shows, the more Hollywood will consider Quality to be their best means of making money.
Don't kid yourself: Hollywood cares only about money, and that means the rates they charge for advertising, which in turn means viewers.
Sadly--very sadly--high viewership is not always or even often highly correlated to Quality. We see that happen, and the Renaissance of Great TV the last 10 years will spread throughout the airwaves.
Anyway, Rant aside, this brings us to Sanctuary.
The program (airing on Sci-Fi on Fridays at 10:00 with several more viewings throughout the week; premiering on Space Channel in Canada next week) is smack in the Middle of Genre Land. Geeks will likely jump on from word Go, complaining about anything and everything on Message Boards all the while. For the semi-geeks and regular viewers, the Question is: Should you bother?
Here is the story: there are monsters out there, genetic mutations that come from....Science? Magic? At this point it is unclear, and honestly, it could not make the least bit of difference.
Our heroes track down these monsters. Fairly standard so far. Ah, but the rub. Some of these Monsters are quite dangerous, and the public needs to be protected. But some of these Monsters are quite innocent, and they need protection from the public. Friendly Fluffy Freak or Malevolent Menacing Monster, they are all safe in a Giant Castle/Zoo/Prison/Home run by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping).
From what I gather, Amanda Tapping is very popular in the Sci-Fi community. She does fine, although it's too soon to tell what Tapping brings to the table. You might wonder why the evil monsters aren't destroyed. "Soft-on-Crime Sci-Fi Liberalism" run amok? Maybe. But if you've seen any show about Monster hunters, you know that there are always dark secrets around the corner.
In the pilot we learn that Dr. Magnus is 157 years old, and like any woman who walks the night, feels an attraction to the Darkness that's more than job-related. (At this point half of you roll your eyes at the idea of another Horror-Whore, while the other half lick your lips with a "Sign me up!")
Dr. Magnus has a daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup). From the two hour premiere she's easily the weakest "actor" of the crew, by far the least believable character. Shockingly, she's hot as hell. Who would ever watch Sci-Fi without someone to lust after? (Admit it.) Ashley has secrets she's not even aware of....blah blah blah, you get the idea.
The rest of the cast includes a Forensic Psychologist (Robin Dunne, as Dr. Will Zimmerman), brought in to help understand the monsters, the requisite tech-geek, a token black weapons guy, a lovable version of Bigfoot and Jack the Ripper. I did not make that last sentence up. (He's the most interesting character so far, and that was before I learned he murdered prostitutes in the Victorian Age, which, all things considered, would be an ice-breaker in any social situation.)
Sanctuary isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, concept-wise. Echoes of X-Files show up, as there are of Heroes, Buffy, Beauty and the Beast, Alias and even Harry Potter. Many of the conventional tropes of Genre TV (weak writing that keeps people from saying what any normal person would to alleviate the situation, coincidences that explain whatever is needed and the like) are here, but to be fair, it's not any different than most modern TV. (Much as I love Heroes, I spend at least ten minutes a week grumbling about the conversations characters DON'T have that would make things so much easier. When I'm making movies or TV some day, don't any of you ever let me get away with that shit.)
What makes Sanctuary potentially appealing--to only a semi-geek like me--is the look. Shot almost entirely on Green Screen, the backgrounds--while not always completely believable--are gorgeous, far beyond what we're used to in limited-budget cable TV. Think of your favorite Gothic and Baroque Art, mapped in fairly realistically as background. Beautiful to look at.
Sanctuary promises to have that X-Files Monster of the week aspect, with (likely) an ever-growing conspiracy of some sort. We've all seen it before, but that's not a criticism. The strength of weakness of the show will be in the writing and how the characters develop.
If you're a Genre Fan, or even if you're not, Sanctuary might be worth a shot. Some of you aren't Sci-Fi geeks, but look at how Firefly and Battlestar Galactica and even LOST transcended their genres to be some of the best TV in years. I'm not predicting or saying to expect that from Sanctuary. I'm just saying people should keep an open mind. If you ever watch TV on Friday nights, why not?
And even if Monsters aren't your cup of tea, please grasp and believe my central tenant. The more you support and get others to support good TV, the more Good TV we will get.