The paraphrase the classic Conan O’Brien bit, (falsetto melody) “In the year 2000 … and 23,” science-fiction TV is alive and well. Here are seven new series that prove it.
Slip (The Roku Channel): Content-but-bored wife Mae (Slip creator and director Zoe Lister-Jones) has a one-night stand with a stranger, and then wakes up married to him in an alternate-but-familiar reality—it’s Everything Everywhere All at Once with orgasms. Lister-Jones masterfully, and frequently nakedly, balances dimension-jumping absurdity with a heartbreaking longing to get back to her own reality, even if she has to have sex with multiple multiverse randos (including Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire) to get here. Slip is a smart indie sci-fi flick split into seven perfect episodes.
Mrs. Davis (Peacock): It’s been compared to Westworld, Preacher, Monty Python, vintage Chuck Jones cartoons, and show creator Damon Lindelof’s own Watchmen, but Mrs. Davis is its own, wholly original thing. In a world obsessed with/enslaved to AI program Mrs. Davis (basically a holy trinity of Siri, Alexa and ChatGTP), non-abiding nun Sister Simone (Betty Gilpin) must find the Holy Grail to shut it down—oh, and Mrs. Davis sent her on this mission. It’s sometimes too clever and loony for its own good, but at least Mrs. Davis isn’t another re-re-reboot.
The Ark (Syfy, Peacock): Dean Devlin’s The Ark is as comfortable and lived-in as Mrs. Davis is wildly weird: With Earth on the edge of extinction (too soon—or, more realistically, too late), Ark One is on a planetary colonization mission that’s interrupted a year early by a mysterious, catastrophic event. The surviving crew—made up of the most really, really, really ridiculously good-looking people—rally to continue the mission, but there are bad actors (and, spoiler, other Arks) in the mix. The Ark isn’t much more than a Lost in Space riff, but it works.
The Big Door Prize (Apple TV+): When a vending machine called Morpho mysteriously appears in a small-town grocery store, promising to dispense anyone’s “true destiny” for a buck, the townsfolk eagerly embrace their new life trajectories. Well, not all of them: Dusty (Chris O’Dowd), a newly 40 high school teacher prone to whistling, receives a Morpho card reading simply “Teacher/Whistler,” while his wife gets “Royalty.” There’s no Black Mirror hand of doom hanging over The Big Door Prize, just feel-good quirkiness in the vein of The Good Place.
The Power (Prime Video): Teenage girls are scary enough—but what if they all suddenly gained the power to electrocute others at will? That’s a game-changer to upend the balance of patriarchal power worldwide. (See how the title works on two levels?) The Power, based on Naomi Alderman’s best-seller, is lucky enough to star Toni Collette, an actress who can ground even the most out-there premise (see: United States of Tara), which is invaluable in a sci-fi series that opens with: “Every revolution begins with a spark.” (Ugh). There’s big potential here, and the show needs a second season.
Citadel (Prime Video): The Russo Brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier—and Avengers: Endgame, I guess) were given a budget nearly on par with Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings series and a star who’s been on the cusp of The Big Breakout for years (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). The result is Citadel, an international good vs. evil sci-fi spy thriller that delivers mad action, sexy intrigue and even Stanley Tucci. (Everything’s better with Tucci.) The Bourne-ready flash and flare distracts well from meh co-lead Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), aka Dollar Store Armie Hammer.
Fired on Mars (HBO Max): If you’ve ever relocated for a job only to be laid off and stranded in an unfamiliar city, you may be able to relate to Fired on Mars. (In the future, no one’s figured out interplanetary remote work.) After he’s bounced from corporate startup Mars.ly, graphic designer Jeff (voiced by Luke Wilson) is stuck in an “office colony” on the red planet with no prospects and no way home. It looks like a comedy, but Fired on Mars is slow and dark, filtering the soul-crushing mundanity of corporate life through an animated sci-fi lens. Fun!
Regarding The Arc. Why would the plainest, ugliest people be chosen to populate a new world, I wonder? Hmmmm… well, maybe they would have been smarter? Or was it to ensure they’d start producing offspring the minute they landed in whatever new planet they were destined for? Anyway, I like SciFi no matter how incredible it is.
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