Sunday, May 17, 2015

The "SeaQuest" Post

Once upon a time in 1992, I went on a family trip to the Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles, which was a rare treat because we lived a lot closer to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, so those were the default choices for theme park visits.  As always the place was plastered in advertisements for upcoming Universal movies and television shows.  The most prominent ones this time were for "seaQuest DSV," a new science-fiction adventure show "from Steven Spielberg," one of the Studio Tour guides told us.  It sounded fantastic.
I was eleven at the time, and it was right about when I was really getting the whole concept of television shows being aired weekly, and something that you followed and could be a fan of.  I got very attached to certain shows, and I remember insisting on watching every new episode of "Capitol Critters" and "Covington Cross," which were both cancelled after only half their episodes had aired in 1992.  In an effort to find more information to help keep track of them, I started scouring the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times.  And that's how I started following the development of "seaQuest," which didn't make it to air on NBC until the fall of 1993, Sundays at 8PM.  I was hooked immediately after over a year of letting myself get hyped up.  I wasn't alone, as the premiere enjoyed massive ratings. 
In retrospect, "seaQuest" was not a very good piece of science fiction or very good television.  Didn't hold a candle to "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which I would start watching the reruns of a few years later.  However, I was twelve and madly in love with teen idol Jonathan Brandis, so "seaQuest" became my favorite show.  I wrote my own episode guides.  I bought two of the spinoff novels.  I saved newspaper clippings that mentioned it - I still remember one pre-premiere story that speculated how "seaQuest" was going to fare against "Murder, She Wrote" on CBS and "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" on ABC in the same time slot.  My best friend was a "Lois & Clark" fan, by the way, having fallen madly in love with Dean Cain, something that bitterly divided us through sixth grade. 
And following "seaQuest" was how I learned about ratings and renewals and how television worked.  And as the show floundered through its second and third seasons, I learned about retooling and rebranding and format changes.  "seaQuest" is notorious for its rocky production history.  It was nearly cancelled multiple times before being abruptly pulled midway through the third season.  Episodes were aired out of order and constantly pre-empted, creating lots of continuity errors.  The show went from being billed as hard science based with a focus on existing technology and educational aspirations, to much sillier stuff featuring aliens and ghosts and even time travel.  Every year it came back with a different premise and a drasticaly changed cast list as actors bailed left and right.   
"seaQuest" also had a boisterous online fandom that clashed with some of the creators of the show, back in the early days of Usenet.  Alas, I wasn't on the Internet until after the series had ended, but stories about some of the fandom's antics circulated for years.  They were the best source of gossip about what had gone on behind the scenes and collected all the news stories and interviews I didn't have ready access to.  It was through the fandom that I learned about the unproduced episodes of "seaQuest" that would have gone to air if the third season had continued.  And it was through fandom that I realized that there were other frustrated fans of a once-promising science-fiction show that couldn't quite figure out how to let go.
Surely I would have become a media fan one way or another.  There was another genre show that premiered the same year as "seaQuest," with much less fanfare, that quietly took its place as my favorite television show by the middle of its second season: "The X-files."  But "X-files" never had me scouring the TV listings, trying to figure out what happened to pre-empted episodes, or holding my breath waiting for renewal announcements, or poking around online for explanations as to why the whole series had suddenly time-jumped a decade into the future.
"seaQuest" wasn't a very good show, but it sure was fun being one of its fans.  And I suspect that I'm the media junkie I am today because of it.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.