Review: ‘Defying Gravity’ on DVD
A prime time summer series launched during the dog days of August is never a good show of faith on the part of the network. Last August, ABC presented Defying Gravity
, a thirteen episode science fiction series which lasted a mere eight weeks.
A noble effort, it failed to garner much interest and even fewer ratings. The series was said to be inspired by the BBC series [[[Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets]]], and became an international effort co-produced by the BBC, Fox Television Studios, and Omni Film Productions in association with Canadian broadcasters CTV Television Network, SPACE, and German broadcaster ProSieben.
This misfire is now available as a complete season set on Fox Home Entertainment and you can decide for yourself what went wrong. The premise begins in 2052 with the launch of a six year mission throughout the solar system, making the first visits to several planets. Along the way, the eight-person crew is told the real secret behind the mission, then you add in the “[[[Grey’s Anatomy]]] in space” aspect and you have a sprawling tale that truly lacked a compelling focus.
We’re introduced to the eight astronauts, an appealing cast led by Ron Livingston and Laura Harris plus the team at ground control and then other recurring figures including the dogged and totally dispensable reporter. Being a global production, the cast is international in background, which introduces us to new and unfamiliar performers in addition to showing us that reaching the stars will be one way to unite our cultures.
In attempting to make the characters more complex and available for the soap opera elements, many of them come across as people NASA would never accept as astronaut candidates. There was a reason the original seven were chosen, not only did they have the right stuff to handle a spacecraft, but they were dedicated career men who put mission and country first, making them a little less colorful and a lot more trustworthy.
Series creator James Parriott covered this flaw, though, by introducing an extraterrestrial, almost mystical, element that eventually reveals to us that they were chosen to be on this mission. And right there is the series’ greatest problem.
In addition to all the soap opera elements for the crew on the ship and at ground control, there’s the extraterrestrial plot plus a nosy reporter plot. The producers also decided to give us the character’s backstories through intercutting flashbacks in each episode so we’re being asked to juggle multiple plot lines in differing timeframes. As a result, it was all a bit of a jumble and most certainly not as dramatically strong as they had hoped.
It’s a shame American audiences were deprived seeing the ship land and
see the first human step foot on Venus. The series actually started to
find its footing with the latter episodes as the exploration became
more of a focal point. The final five unaired episodes are far stronger
than the early ones. The series’ cancellation also means no single plot
line is resolved and anyone who falls in love with the [[[Defying Gravity]]]
will be disappointed. Ideally, the extras should have included
something about the resolution since clearly the production team knew
what was planned for subsequent seasons.
Instead, the extras include an all-too-brief behind-the-scenes piece
designed to tease the show, not really explore it. Better are the
lengthy deleted scenes which deepen most of the characters to one
degree or another. A still gallery rounds out the extras and shows some
nifty production design.
All in all, a nice idea that would have benefitted from a stronger core
story front and center before dizzying us with sub-plots. Additionally,
a stronger marketing campaign and launch date would have enhanced the
series’ chances. This is far from the worst SF show ever conceived but
one of the more disappointing.
I think you just saved me 13+ hours, old buddy.
I quit after about the fifth episode. Your review is right on, Robert, the show was a bit of a mess.What really bugged me is that the show had several actors I liked, so I hated giving up on it.
Columbus could of quit also……………………You have absolutley no Idea what your missing in this………….As I say in Chapter one, if your like most, you will fall in love with Zoe………………………Chapter 12 is such a cliff hanger that you will want 13 right a way………………….If you were cooking Turkey dinner, that bird would burn if it was scedualed to come out at the end of Episode 12………….~ "Defying Gravity", "Saturday Matinee" http://cmkxunofficial.proboards.com/index.cgi?boa…
Does this post make sense to anyone?
My whole family was VERY disappointed when this show was cancelled. Of course the promoting was so bad we didn't even know it was on until about 4 eps were already out and we had to catch up online. Then they dumped it. That was like starting a mystery novel and then giving up in chapter two cause you didn't know what happened yet. The whole point was to see how details unfolded one at a time. This was SMART scifi, not action shoot 'em up sci fi. But not so smart that you had to be a physicist to "get it." We just finished watching the unaired eps and all of us, Mom Dad and kids from 18 down to 12 loved it and couldn't believe they cancelled it and now we'll never know what was planned for future seasons. That's the ONLY way this series was dissapointing.
Ahhh, me — so many things wrong with this review that it's hard to know where to begin. If you really think Defying Gravity was flawed, you either didn't see it all or weren't paying attention. The one part you got right: yes indeed, there was bad faith on ABC's part from beginning to end with this show. The only things wrong were all ABC's doing. Starting a new show with the summer half over was the least of many sins. Try not committing to the show until a week and a half before ABC began to run it, thus preventing a decent marketing effort, then with a week and a half to go not bothering with any marketing **even then.** I'm not alone when I say that I literally stumbled over the show by accident because nobody advertised it. The only logical conclusion is that ABC stuffed a programming hole with DG and never wanted it to succeed. You can bet it would have marketed the bejeezus out of this show had it been created by ABC instead of a syndicated show the network merely paid for, made in Canada. Instead, ABC guaranteed that a perfectly great series never got a chance and predictably failed. This was intentional, a self-fulfilling prophecy in action. And it was an idiot ABC exec who cursed this show with its intended audience by labeling it 'Grey's Anatomy in space' — which, in addition to being an incredibly stupid remark also turned out to be untrue. BTW, the only reason you think real NASA astronauts would be so much less human and quirky is that NASA had an unbreakable hold on PR and image making for all the astronauts for the first 15 years; it's not that they didn't have any serious personality glitches but rather that we were never allowed to hear about them (unlike later on, when a fruitcake astronaut started stalking her ex and got caught and went to jail — that they **couldn't** hide). Yeah, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were the straight arrows, though not without a few quirks, but the rest definitely had a few twists and flaws, as we learned many years later. Enough said on that.But I digress. Defying Gravity presented us with likeable people under duress, a mysterious goal behind whaat seemed like a straightforward tour of the planets, and a cliffhanger conundrum that the astronauts themselves only learned about halfway through the season; and the season got better with every episode. Although the last five episodes were never aired on ABC, I and many others managed to see them online — and I have to tell you, they completely BLEW ME AWAY. Damn!!! If there were any way to bring this series back, even on cable (HBO or SyFy, even), I'd certainly be for it. But of course, ABC is ***SOOOoooo*** duplicitous that it refuses to admit even now (even with the sets struck and the actors released from their contracts) that the series has been canceled. How much bigger a lie can they tell about this show?!?!?!??!!!Get the ultimate revenge on ABC, folks, and do yourselves a huge favor: get the complete first (and probably only) season DVD set of Defying Gravity and enjoy it while you can. I did — and I love it. I've been a hard-core sci-fi reader for better than 30 years, in between watching shows like Masterpiece Theater, Mystery, Prime Suspect, and great commercial TV series like Homicide: Life On The Street, Third Watch, The West Wing, the reinvented Battlestar Galactica, and Torchwood, and I have to tell you: Defying Gravity is not only good drama but good speculative fiction as well.
I agree ABC never gave a Defying Gravity chance. I really liked it and hate that it is not coming back. I just happened to stumble upon it but was lucky enough to catch it from the beginning. Maybe some other network will see what a good show it really is and possibly bring it back.
I am so disappointed that this show was cancelled! I have two episodes left to watch and I'm rationing them like water in the desert. This show was very slow paced and complex, but that is the appeal for me. It is great exercise for my mind after being overexposed to so many Scooby Doo procedurals (I'm talking to you Bones, NCIS, numb3rs, Castle and CSI wherever). I sincerely hope the producers have something else up their sleeves!
Hi Robert,Well, I too wonder if you totally watched this series, or cherry picked parts of it, and relied on other reviews to fill in the rest. But, having said that, on some fronts, you are correct, as stated by other commenters. The advertising for this show was nil, and marketing a joke. I actually think I did see one commercial for this series, but, never remembered it until after I was told to look for the show (abt week 3).I guess, as a big scifi fan, it was great to have something a bit more cerebral. After a while, one gets sick of the same old shoot 'em up, us against the bad guy universe. And, this was more in our time, not in a galaxy, far, far, away. There are a place for those shows, but this one was just plain, good, on the edge of your seat entertainment. Especially in the later episodes.If ABC or any other network had given this a decent and typical advertising/marketing campaign, it would have probably gotten at least 3 seasons. If there was a genuine desire to give this show an attempt to succeed, it should have, at the very least, been allowed to go to season 2, with a better time slot, and "some" marketing.Interestingly enough, if you read around the net as I do, there's more interest in this show NOW then when it was running. Only (I think) because people are just now "discovering" it and wondering how they could have missed it!Just a side bar on this, I do have a few contacts at SyFy and asked if they'd ever consider picking it up and got a more or less stock reply that was both historical and open ended. To paraphrase, I was told that it was a show that ran on ABC and had been canceled, but, it that same response, they also informed me, "…besides, no one is currently offering it to us…". So, perhaps if ABC wants to give it up, they might be able to recoup some "losses", and fans might be able to get the closure that the want and deserve.No matter what though, this was a great production, great sets, and had a more or less "true feel" to it and it wasn't just white noise that people watch to be entertained. Like "Lost", it made you think and kept ones interest. Something that many current scifi shows can't claim.My bottom line, if you're a scifi fan, give it a chance and take a peek. You might just become one of us voices that wanted more.Dan (ctdannyd)
This show was incredible and clearly lacked the support from ABC. There is a pattern with ABC producing great shows and then disappointing its fans by cancelling the show right when the series developes a good following. For example Pushing Daisies and Doll House are two good shows that developed great fan base but ABC did not support. This show had a brillant idea and was slow to develop the storyline and strength but did so at the end. The last 5 episodes were stronger than the first but I do believe this show will become a cult classic in the future as people slowly hear and see the show. I wish ABC or SYFY would just do a 2 hour finale movie for the show to wrap up the main plot line.
"Dollhouse" on ABC? What universe do you live in?
This had the potential to be the next Lost. But, I guess ABC isn't really looking for another one of those series right now.. which is a shame. This is a great show. I would love to see it revived by WB or someone. I could see them doing it.. Smallville is getting a bit old. Anyway, personally, I can't believe this didn't make ABC's cut. People claim it's to jumbled. It may be a bit, but I like it that way. It keeps you interested and intrigued. I was always grappling to figure out how the plot was going to unfold rather than being spoon fed the details like some of the shows out there. Perhaps James Parriott will write a few novels or write a movie script or something, but, I honestly think this story is best suited for a TV series. It's too bad it got canceled. I just finished all 13 episodes and I've got to say, it's 100% worth checking out. If only James Parriott had pitched this show as "LOST in Space" rather than "Grey's Anatomy in Space".. That would've been much more suiting AND may have hooked ABC's interest a little better =/