We need a third season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Friday, April 17, 2009

Warning: spoilers here.

Season 2 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles just ended a bit less than a week ago, and now the big question is whether the show will be continued or not. Apparently at the moment it's still undecided so there's still hope.

The general consensus is that the show is a good one and hopefully will get another season, but that it made a big mistake in the middle of the season by rolling three episodes in a row about Sarah Connor's mental state, which turned out to be an extremely boring three hours where a lot of the best characters (Cameron, John Henry) barely showed up at all, and this resulted in a pretty big drop in viewers during the middle of the season. I've made a graph of the number of viewers for season 2 (in millions) to illustrate:

As you can see, the show actually maintained a fairly stable viewing base of 5 to 6 million throughout the first part of the season, and it wasn't until those three episodes plus the move from Wednesday Monday to Friday came along that it suddenly plummeted into dangerous territory. The lowest rating it received (2.96 million) was actually the first good episode after the disastrous three, and perhaps due to word of mouth from that it began to pick up a bit of steam, though perhaps too late.

However, there are a number of reasons why the show should get a third season in spite of this. Here they are in no particular order.

- The Terminator brand is huge and there is a lot of sustained interest in the story itself, even when nothing in particular is being produced. In this sense it's similar to a number of fairly popular characters and shows such as Star Trek and Wolverine. Here are a few shows/characters (and even one company) compared to Terminator over the last few years from Google Trends.

Terminator vs. Battlestar Galactica

Terminator vs. Wolverine

Terminator vs. Jon Stewart

Terminator vs. Star Trek

Terminator vs. Starbucks

Terminator vs. X-Men
This last one vs. X-Men is probably the most telling as the two are just about equal when no content is being made, Terminator leaps a bit ahead when it has a tv show to its name, and when a major film is put out there's a huge spike which is what we're going to see with the new Terminator movie as well.

This long-term brand is also reflected in the ratings the show received during season 1, which ranged from 7.1 million to 18.3 million for the show's very first episode. Unfortunately this was also the year where the writer's guild strike happened so only nine episodes could be filmed, and then there was a fair amount of dead space in between this and season 2.

- Expanding on the first point: Terminator: Salvation is coming out, and promises to be huge. There's no sense pretending it's not: Christian Bale is the lead character, Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are rumoured to be lending their voices, and, well, it's Terminator. Even Terminator 3 grossed over half a billion. Fox should be able to capitalize on the interest brought about from the movie by rerunning Terminator: SCC chronicles episodes during the summer for those that haven't seen them but have had their curiosity piqued after watching the new movie, which creates a nice lead in to season 3 which would begin in the fall. Canceling the show, however, would result in a loss of opportunity to capitalize on this, and for what? For one extra hour that may or may not have a popular show replace it. A show with the name Terminator can't just be whipped up on the spot, whereas this one just needs the green light to continue for another year.

- The show is fiction, but aside from time travel it deals with an alternate reality that is actually very possible, and the debate it raises over the role of robots and artificial intelligence is something that is good, even necessary, for humanity as a whole. There are generally two views over the role of robots in the future: one is the so-called American version (Terminator, I, Robot, The Matrix), a dystopian one where robots attain a certain level of consciousness and decide that they need to oppose or wipe out humanity for one reason or another, and the other is the so-called Japanese version (Astroboy) where robots are mostly helpful and misunderstood, and humans come across as being much more negative. Naturally this is a big generalization as shown by programs like Star Trek where artificial intelligence is portrayed very positively (Data on Star Trek: TNG, the doctor on Voyager, plus parts of I, Robot).

What is particularly interesting about season 2 is that this season's portrayal of the varied motivations of the various terminators is a distinct possibility - Catherine Weaver is a T-1000 and has no problems with killing people she deems to be in her way, but at the same time doesn't hold the same motives as Skynet and is working to aid John Connor. Robots that are capable of learning and reassessing what they know should in theory also be capable of making their own judgments about these issues too, and it's also conceivable that self-aware robots could be taught ethics. The scenes related to this with Ellison and John Henry are particularly interesting:

- After the ending of Season 2, Season 3 promises to be extremely interesting. As Brian Austin Green in the link above says (here it is again):
The third season is going to be incredible, if it happens. There were no intentions of this being a series finale. It was absolutely a season finale. There's a plan where this can go and it's so good....

You have this episode where John Connor travels to a future where John Connor never existed. I don't know if people completely get it because we work on a string theory, which we've dealt with during the season. We dealt with that with Jessie, in the future that she came from there was Charles Fisher, who tortured everyone. In the future I came from, he never existed. I don't remember him. We were still together within these parallel futures but they were still different and they still had their own paths. This is the same concept. For John Connor to travel to a future where he never existed, where Kyle Reese never left, where Derek and Kyle are still fighting side by side, where Allison (the human Cameron was based on) is still very much present, what becomes of John? What better situation for somebody to grow up in and become the future leader than that? Than to be fighting in what he's been trying to prevent? Not just being the top dog, being listened to for everything, but having to actually listen and follow.

It's also worth noting that a lot of very good shows have taken a year or two to really get into a good groove. What if Star Trek: TNG had been canceled after one or two seasons thanks to some episodes like We'll Always Have Paris:

(Picard goes on vacation and meets an old flame, yay)

or how about the Dauphin?

(Wesley makes an appearance for the first time, falls in love with a girl, and there's a shapeshifting alien that does something too. Or she was the alien. Or something.)

Wikipedia's summary of the end of the episode shows just how mind-numbingly lame it was.
Salia thinks she will never see Wesley again, but he hurries to the transporter room to say goodbye and give her a last taste of chocolate mousse. She reverts back into her natural form to beam down through the planet's thick atmosphere, and Wesley is amazed at how beautiful she is.

Not to mention Shades of Gray, a clip show where Riker almost dies, relives a bunch of clips we've already seen before, and finally is saved by Doctor Pulaski (remember her? The fuzzy-haired doctor for a single season that called Data Dah-ta instead of Day-ta?) by stimulating his emotions.

In short, a few bad episodes in the first one or two seasons does not a cancel-worthy show make.

Next reason:

- A lot of the characters in the show are a treat to watch: Garret Dillahunt as John Henry and Cromartie before that, Brian Austin Green is great as Derek Reese, Summer Glau is naturally great as Cameron, and Shirley Manson as Catherine Weaver - admittedly a bit awkward in the beginning (What? All of a sudden there's a T-1000 that runs a company? But kills employees for fun?), she has become one of the best characters in the show as her reasons for being in the series have become more and more clear and as her character has turned out to be much more complex and interesting than previously thought. I think we all thought in the beginning that she was just another T-1000 out to get John Connor and for some reason was taking her sweet time doing it as well, and only later did the character begin to make sense. Her interacting with John Henry is also great to watch.

Finally, one mention of my favourite character: James Ellison. Why? For a simple reason: he's the only main character in the show that wasn't born into his role in some way. Sarah Connor is the mother of John Connor, John Connor is the saviour of humanity, a lot of other characters are from the future and the robots were designed from the beginning to be super-human, but James Ellison is the only character that earned his role as a main character by starting out as a regular agent and eventually finding out the truth behind the case he was working on. In that sense he reminds me a bit of Sam Gamgee (or perhaps Pippin or Merry) from Lord of the Rings - not the smartest or strongest characters, nor chosen by destiny, but regular people that have managed to work themselves into something much bigger than themselves when they could have just stayed at home and remained oblivious to what was really going on in the world.


Anonymous said...

I hope there is another season of Sarah Cronicles files. I have grown up watching all the Terminators and now have much pleasure in watching the missing years. To have these filled in has helped me understand it more. My hubby watches it with me every friday night. We also looking forward to watching Terminator 4. We will be both surely miss it if there is'nt another season. But surely with the Terminator 4 coming out they won't. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Very nice work. Well thought out, well written, a lot of effort with the graphs and all. Good job. Thank you.
This helps confirm that the core fans of the Terminator series tend to be thoughtful people.
FOX would be nuts to cancel this show with T4 coming out, but... they may be nuts.
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the three weak shows, but the rest of the story line is so fantastic in so many different ways. Thats why the potential for the story in season 3 is just tantalizing.
Good job, thanks again. Lets wish us luck.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Well done. This show has so much potential. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be just another dumb action-packed special-fx show, but I was wrong. Very wrong... This is one of the deepest and most thought provoking shows I have ever seen and I would hate it if they would cancel it at this point.

Anonymous said...

I love the graphs showing terminator vs starbucks! LOL.

You make some great points, send them to Fox!

Anonymous said...

Great points! Save TSCC... If you are a fan, email these executives and tell them what you think...


Anonymous said...

I love ths show and was one of those people that they moved it and could not find it.I have now watched every episode but now left wanting more.I totally agree if they would quit moving time slots they wouldnt lose viewers.I relly love the show and NOT just because of Summer.It is a awsome show and keeps me at the edge of my seat wanting more every time!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The effort you put in here, it was a very well-founded article. Thank you for your support. The fight continues despite the announcements.

Anonymous said...

Go to hell FOX!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

nowadays there's no more series from start to end... all that counts is ratings and company's plans...

as much as i would like to see TSCC have its story continue till it reaches its end, like Galactica did so well, i dont hold my breath...

Well have to settle with the movies... If they keep coming...

Anonymous said...

by:wafmks(escrito por:wafmks@gmail.com)
A third season could put logic in this madness
because of the child to have the father to the past
nacessario and acting as a third participant John Henry.
And time travel is very complicated it needs a good relationship with John Henry
must be highly motivated with human feelings thing your brother the SKY NET does not.
Recalling that John Henry is the only one who can fix it is to bring Cameron again and this love that John Connor is she is importand to strengthen the faith in a aliansa with Jon Connor does not need to remember is human.
The series does not show that a leader is done, because the logic is that John Henry John Connor chose for this Reason it has to be more Strategies for stronger (have to be so brave that they realize soon to know) The personajes is good but can be better and have a question he must know Amande Lee (Samer Glau) that will be captured by the machines and replaced by Cameron (Samer Glau).
Amande Lee (Samer Glau) would have to agree to be captured in another reality
for the sake of John Connor and the resistance if not, the Hero would be a monster and would not be so sara conor win the war if he were in his place is a moral issue among many.
And finally a third season well done can fill gaps in movies and solidify themselves as an integral part of history.
know these conversations idiots, "which version, movies, TV series ..."
They have the chence to do well because it is not ready
who move comes after and that will spoil and be remembered for that
With the detail that if the third season but will be one for me to buy the DVD
That means more money in their pockets

Anonymous said...

come on i'm still waitin for a third season

Anonymous said...

i've not read all the reasons... but one thing is for sure- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles MUST HAVE AT LEAST 8 MORE SEASONS because is a great show and it's producers know that the have potential to be much more than AWESOME... I'm from portugal and i love this show... please keep going...

Anonymous said...

EU preciso, nós precisamos de uma terceira temporada... Com John Henry com sentimentos bons e do lado de John Connor cotra a SKY NET...

Fernando, Maceió - Alagoas - Brasil

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