There are some shows that you watch and instantly know it’s a hit, something that you’d consider having in your collection before the days of streaming. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Back to the Future.
And there are others that just deserve to be lost in time because they are so awful. Wild Wild West. The Mommy. Steel. Attack the Block. Countless Netflix originals.
Then there are those that absolutely flopped on first release, but became cult classics. Highlander, Blade Runner, the Iron Giant, Hocus Pocus, Labyrinth, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They lose so much money on release that sometimes the creators suffer bouts of depression, only for the show to resurface years later as being referenced among the genre’s greatest.
I can’t say why these shows initially bombed like that. It could be for a variety of reasons and social trends, maybe even world war.
Over the years I’ve had a couple personal bombs turned classics. I scowled at Last Action Hero the first time I saw it, expecting an action movie worthy of Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger. My brother Vonrick had to remind me that it was a comedy first, and I think it’s great now. The old movie adaptation for Dune was another sore spot, a show my sister Keisha is a guru on. My young, action craving mind straight out rejected the slow story buildup. Still never got around to checking it out but the 2021 version was awesome. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon just seemed terrible in cinema, but so worthy of a Saturday night action movie years later.
My most recent experience is the sci fi TV series the Expanse, based on the novels written by James Corey.
I remember in 2015 reading Leviathan Wakes, book 1 of the Expanse series. The world was compelling, sure, a solar system populated by humanity, made possible by an engine called the Epstein drive. This isn’t your usual science fiction of faster-than-light speed, lasers, force fields, and inertial dampers. Ships are armed with bullets, torpedo missiles, and rail guns. Gravity is generated using the same methods we know of today – either reciprocal, or centrifugal force.
It’s a huge fact, for when a ship goes forward, everybody feels it either at a comfortable 1g or by a crushing multiple. And when a ship turns, you better be strapped into your seat. Don’t even talk about making a hard burn. That’ll kill you if not prepared.
Then there’s the interesting factions of humanity divided into Earth, Mars – both called inners – and the asteroid living Belters or outers, also called Beltalowda in their native creole language. These Belters have some noticeable traits, growing taller in space low/zero gravity, thinner with less bone density, unable to return home without surgery.
And the characters are also great. There’s the heroic Earther James Holden and his mismatched crew, a strong willed Belter named Naomi Niagara, the trusting Marshan Alex Kamal, the badass Earther Amos Burton, and the mysterious Belter Josephus Miller.
And even with all that interesting world building and great characters, I still couldn’t get past book 1. Why?
Because Corey’s writing style annoyed the hell out of me.
Holden and his crew would be knee deep in action, bullets piercing armour and popping heads open, blood sucking out into space in droplets big as balloons, then the chapter cliffhangers with a switch to Miller’s much slower, missing girl detective story side of things. This happened so often that I tensed with anticipation, wanting to just skip Miller’s entire chapter to see what was happening next with Holden, forced to continue traipsing through for fear of missing something important.
When the book was over, with a somewhat satisfying but open to more ending, I previewed book 2 and saw even more character point of view chapters. I figured, hell no, I’m not going through that again.
Then the TV series came out literally that same year, on SyFy channel no less, a station notorious for cheap costumes and even cheaper special effects. I checked it out, and from the moment I saw Belters not looking like the tall, thin humans they were described to be (with the exception of two probably stuck in just to say “look, see, yes we did that”), I wrote the show off as a failure.
Fast Forward 7 Years and 6 Seasons
The show was taken over by Amazon Video, and a hold heap of positive internet chatter to back it up. “Game of Thrones in space,” someone even said once. Now that all the things I didn’t like about it have been rounded smooth by time, and after having nothing to watch with my month long purchase of Amazon Video for the sole purpose of the Wheel of Time, I decided to give it another go.
Seems my initial impression of the show was completely off.
Forgetting about the little details overlooked in the book, SyFy did a pretty good job with the special effects, the costumes, and the story in general. I didn’t have to get frustrated when the action switched over to a slow mystery since things were still visually stunning, and that switch only lasted a couple minutes. Amazon also kept up the quality from season 3 onward.
The season finale felt like it was cut short though, with huge questions unanswered, but Corey has a book 7 coming out so maybe I’ll pick up from there.
Now I’m wondering what other shows I didn’t like years ago that I should give another go. Wild Wild West, maybe haha.
What shows did you find annoying years ago? Let me know. Maybe it’s time to check them out again.