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AppreciationNovember 3, 2014

The Genres That Came In From The Cold: The Zone Debuts


For decades fans of pulpy TV genres like sci-fi and fantasy have made do with a few mainstream hits, a lot of late nights and many what-ifs. That changes with today’s arrival of The Zone, and Andrew Todd is thrilled.

As a young New Zealander seeking to escape the hellish drudgery that was teenage life, I always leapt at any chance to catch an episode of some sci-fi or fantasy show on television. But such an endeavour was often frustrating, as networks would screen that kind of material in terrible time slots – if they even screened it at all.

Luckily, young New Zealanders of today will get a better future. With Sky launching The Zone this month, science fiction, horror, and fantasy TV shows will finally get their day to shine (hopefully, more than one day). It’s an important step for New Zealand television, finally acknowledging the popularity of genre material and giving its fans a chance to indulge – or more likely, overindulge.

I’m a nostalgic bastard, so the first shows my greedy eyes gravitated towards when reading the lineup were the classics. There is literally nothing better in this world than Star Trek, so the fact that The Original Series and The Next Generation are in the lineup means there’s little reason to bother with anything else. But if you must: varied stories and brave thematic material made Quantum Leap a favourite for me growing up, and the underseen Bruce Campbell steampunk Western vehicle The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr is worth checking out simply for how odd a show it was. For Millennials, more recent brilliance like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and the single good season of Heroes are coming, too.

There are also a bunch of new shows in the offing. I’m intrigued by the look of the vampire/infection thriller The Strain, primarily because it comes courtesy of Guillermo del Toro. The small-screen adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn is another curious one – reviews have been mixed, but the Tarantino/Rodriguez film upon which it’s based is a firm favourite, so it’ll be interesting to see how Not Quentin Tarantino and Not George Clooney get on facing their vampire enemies. The array of new shows is a little bewildering, but for once it’ll be easy to sample them without having to resort to ethically dubious means.

The one element of The Zone that does not appeal to me at all is the “Cinema Z” programme, which is effectively a movie-of-the-week format dedicated to schlocky monster movies and the like. I love trash cinema, but there’s a certain brand of made-for-TV fare that just feels heartless to me, and sadly, the low-rent zombies, Sasquatches, and giant mutated animals that Cinema Z has programmed seem to fall into that category. Still, I know there’s a massive audience for that sort of thing, and I made a movie called Ghost Shark 2 myself, so what do I know?

Genre TV shows haven’t had a great track record in New Zealand, thanks to networks relegating them to slow, painful deaths. If The Zone can keep up a high standard of programming, it’ll be a godsend for genre fans starving for some love. After all, all you need is love. And, you know, spaceships and blood.

The Zone launches today on Sky channel 16.

Watch Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes and other genre classics on Lightbox by clicking here to start your 30 day free trial.

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