TV’s Chicken & The Egg

Last week IO9 reported that rumors of the death of FOX’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were greatly exaggerated. Don’t watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles? That’s okay, neither do I. I know nothing about the show, who stars in it or even what it’s about other than it has something to do with the Terminator movies and Wil Wheaton auditioned for a small part. I know that last bit because I used to follow him on Twitter. I stopped because he never, ever responded to any of the @replies I sent him (and I sent him a few). Seems to me you could at least try and answer your fans every now and then Wil. Where was I? Oh yeah, I don’t watch the SC Chronicles.

I also I didn’t watch FOX’s much-hyped “Drive”, or the X-Files rip-off Fringe, nor the lame-ass Sci-Fi Channel remake of Flash Gordon. I’m a total science fiction fan and these shows are made for geeks like me, so why didn’t I watch these shows? The answer is simple. I didn’t want to get hooked because I knew they had about as much of a chance of surviving as a Red Shirt on a routine away mission. Ratings for Fringe are nowhere near what FOX wants, Drive lasted a grand total of 2 episodes and Flash Gordon got cancelled after one season. And although IO9 reports that T:SCC has another 13 episodes coming, somehow I don’t believe it anymore than I believe Knight Rider will survive to make its first turbo jump.

So herein lies the problem. Viewers don’t want to emotionally invest in shows they don’t think will last. But if no one tunes in, then nothing ever becomes successful enough to survive and flourish. I didn’t watch the first season of Heroes partly because I thought it was all hype. Of course the hype was deserved and season one became a mega-hit. When the DVD’s were released, I plunged in and enjoyed season 1 from start to finish. Sadly, season 2 was a waste and I’m starting to get a sinking feeling about season 3 as well.

Given the fact that science fiction shows usually have life spans of Tribbles instead of Trills, how do you as the viewer, decide which series get your attention? I never watched Firefly when it aired, but fans often tell me that it was one of the best sci-fi shows on television. Despite the piss-poor treatment FOX gave it at the time, they say it was well worth the abrupt cancellation to enjoy the few episodes that aired. I find this very difficult to believe.

Often, the fatal flaw for these series are networks that disintegrate them before they have a chance to develop and grow their core audience. What TV shows have you passed on for fear of having the remote snatched away? There’s no guarantee, for example, that the historic ratings success of Battlestar Galactica will translate to the new spin-off series Caprica. But if I know the Sci-Fi Channel, viewers may not even get a chance to set a season pass for Caprica before it’s blasted out the nearest airlock. A note to trigger-happy network executives: if shows like Sarah Connor or Caprica are to earn a place on my TiVo, you have to learn to say “I’ll be back”, and not “Hasta la vista, baby.”

It’s a Science Experiment!

Inspired by a recent episode of Mythbusters, I’ve decided to undertake a small science experiment. I want see how many more miles I can get out of a full tank of gas simply by changing my driving habits. It’s a documented fact that the more aggressively you drive, the more gas you waste. As Kari, Grant and Tori showed on Mythbusters, driving stressed out or angry used up to as much as 1/3 more gasoline as when speed limits, traffic signs, etc. are obeyed. Now, I wouldn’t call myself an overly aggressive driver, but I do exceed posted speed limits from time to time, and if you ask my wife, she’ll gladly tell you that I take corners rather hard. So when I filled my tank on August 8th, I made a mental note that I was going to “go to my happy place” while driving around town. I would then compare my average milage during my experiment with what I’ve been getting over the last 10 fill-ups. Fortunately, I’ve been keeping track of my average miles per gallon since May for just such an occasion.

Using the data I’ve collected over the last ten weeks I’ve determined that I get an average of 258 miles to a single tank of gas which is about 21 miles per gallon. I rarely do highway driving so my around-town trips fall squarely at the low end of Honda’s 21-23 MPG rating for the Civic. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, I can increase my average miles per gallon simply by becoming a more responsible driver. Even if I don’t manage to get much more bang for my mileage buck, I can say without a doubt that I’ve actually enjoyed driving more these past few days than I usually do. Since I know I can’t speed, I plan my departure accordingly and give myself plenty of time to be places. This results in a more relaxed pace and a more enjoyable experience behind the wheel.

One unexpected side-effect of my experiment is that I can see how I must have been driving. When not on my bumper or passing me at dizzying speeds, other motorists have been generally cranky as I obey traffic signs and speed limits. It’s funny because I drive along and think “there but for the grace of God, go I”. As of today, my fuel gauge is reading half empty and my odometer says I’ve gone 153 miles. Pretty good, but as a friend pointed out to me, my car’s fuel tank is not symmetrical so the lower half of the tank probably holds less than the upper. This means we’ll have to wait for the experiment’s conclusion to see just how I did. I’ll be sure to do an update when I have the final results.

When this trial is over, I’ll probably go back to my lead-footed ways, but if I can get 10-20 more miles out of a tank of gas simply by obeying posted speed limits, I may take up permanent residence in my driving “happy place”. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Well the results of my experiment are in. After running all the way past “E”, with no extra highway driving, I managed to get a full 278 miles out of my fill-up. That means that simply by obeying speed limits and curbing my aggressive driving, I managed to get a full 20 more miles from my car than normal. I increased my average miles per gallon from 21 to 23 which just about equaled an extra gallon of gas. Hooray for science!