Sunday, July 13, 2014

TV: How Extant won (and so did you)

It makes sense that on last Wednesday's debut of Extant, the new CBS series starring Halle Berry, a creepy young male robot appeared to threaten and intimidate Halle as he insisted of a dead bird, "It was like this when I found it."  The robot then added, "Your hair looks really pretty."

As if that wiped away everything else?  As if that's the level the mind works on.

It's certainly the level the Water Cooler Set's mind works on.

Halle Berry's show pulled in over 9 million viewers Wednesday night making it the most watched show on Wednesday.

So how were the women hating Water Cooler Set members going to attack?

Because you knew they were going to attack, you always knew it.

Some basics, Halle is playing astronaut Molly Woods who is married to John Woods (Goran Visnijic) and they have a young robot Ethan who John sees as their son (child actor Pierce Gagnon plays the role, we don't comment on child actors).  On the space mission, she sees her dead husband Marcus who writes "Help me" with his finger on a window.  Molly attempts to help him and they make out.

When she comes to after, she checks the video footage and sees only herself in it.  She deletes is, convinced it was some sort of mental episode.

Back on earth, her friend and doctor, Sam Barton (Camryn Manheim) gives her the news she's pregnant and Sam wonders how, knowing Molly's just returned from a solo mission, a thirteen month solo mission.

Molly worried that her late husband is following her.

However, when she confronts the follower, it is Harmon, a man she used to go on space missions with but who supposedly took his own life.

And this is where the audience begins to realize Molly's not crazy and the Yasumoto Corporation which controls the space mission is a little more sinister than it may appear.

This is the same corporation that Molly's husband John tries to get a grant from.  He wants to mass produce Ethans so that no one needs to feel alone and everyone can have a companion.  However, the Yasumoto Corporation is mainly interested in how you put down the robot if something goes wrong. John freaks out and is appalled that the woman is asking how he plans to kill his son.  Later, Hideki Yasumoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) will meet with John and personally bankroll him -- but mainly because of the corporation's interest in Molly.

What is going on, what's really taking place, is a mystery?

On the show.

In real life, it was no mystery.

Halle's amazingly strong debut was downgraded the next morning by the Water Cooler Set.

Don't you know, they sniffed, Halle's audience was older?  Don't you know that she failed to deliver the debut numbers Under The Dome did and didn't that prove how lacking she was?

No, it didn't prove any such thing.

About the only thing it proved is how hateful the Water Cooler Set it.

Under The Dome, for those who don't know, was a project that found Steven Spielberg teaming up with Stephen King.  On his own, Spielberg is a name and a draw on TV.  On his own, Stephen King is a draw on TV -- a bigger one than Spielberg.  Stephen King, the writer whose classic horror stories remain touchstones for each new generation, is a huge TV draw -- more so on TV than on the big screen.  The Stand and the TV version of The Shining, for example, were -- and remain -- hugely popular.

A false equation was constructed, after the fact, to argue that the strong ratings debut of Extant was minor and nothing to see, certainly nothing worth remarking on.

Over 9 million watched on Wednesday.  CBS' Reckless debuted June 19th and didn't manage to crack 4 million.  But the Water Cooler Set looked the other way.  Halle comes along with a debut that more than doubles that and the men and male-wanna-be women of the Water Cooler Set start insisting the debut was a bust.

Was it a bust in England as well?

There the first episode was available on Amazon Prime and it set the record, Colin Mann (Advanced-Television) noted, "attracting three times more streams on release day than the first episode of any previous show on the service."

Extant is a hit and debuted as such.

But the same instinct to rip apart any project starring a woman went after Halle's show.

The Water Cooler Set has trashed Whitney and really bared their bitchy fangs when Ashley Judd starred in Missing.  Ashley's acting couldn't be assailed so they went after her face and were apparently quite pleased with themselves for that stunt.

(There was and is nothing wrong with Ashley's face.)

With Missing, they got to have the last word.  Thanks to the Whitney bloggers (Betty, Marcia and Ann), the Water Cooler Set began walking back their slams on the sitcom.  And the Whitney bloggers were ready to do the same again, to ensure that Halle's show got a fair shot.

But, it turns out, they weren't needed in the way they had been on a sitcom.


Sci-fi audiences.  Sci-fi gals and sci-fi guys.

Sci-fi gals aren't in search of the elusive Mary Sue.  They want strong, relatable women characters.

And Sci-fi guys may be the least sexist men in America.

They like strong women, whether it's Storm, Wonder Woman or Xena.  They don't start gagging if a science fiction film stars a woman -- they love Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and turned the Alien franchise into a film classic.

For about 24 hours after Extant's debut, the Water Cooler Set appeared to be controlling the dialogue but the Water Cooler Set is a weak group that is easily distracted.  So as they went off to play hipster, the sci-fi-ers, the geeks, the devoted, took control of the discussion and the conversation again became about the show.

The 'trendy' became less important and the merits of the show were brought to the forefront in the online discussions.

And that's how Halle ended up winning and Extant ended up winning.  Most of all, it's how conversations about television ended up winning as something beyond trendy became the focus.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }