Friday, January 11, 2013

FFB: THE [SKIFFY] CHANNEL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TV SCIENCE FICTION (sic) by Roger Fulton and John Betancourt (Warner/Aspect 1998)

The Skiffy Channel Guide to In Any Way Fantasticated
TV Stuff We Could Cram In by Mid 1998
Roger Fulton, on staff at Britain's TV Times, first saw published (in the UK) his The Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction in 1990; after a 1995 revised edition, the Skiffy Channel, not yet the SyFylis Channel, saw an opportunity for some quick expansion and rebranding, apparently, and writer and editor John Gregory Betancourt was tapped to add considerable  though variable coverage of US and Canadian productions...or so it seems, since the impressive detail and fairly comprehensive coverage of English television has been augmented by sometimes very slight entries on the Western Hemisphere items (and the odd Australian series), making this a flawed but at core a good book of its sort...and useful, as such references are, as a browsing tool in a way that a web-browser often is not, with the latter's nature preferring (though not commanding) more targeted searches. The title of both books seems to have been at least somewhat misleading, as such non-sf fantasticated series as The Champions (far less sfnal than even The Avengers with Steed and his female partners) were presumably part of Fulton's original remit, much less such presumed Betancourt additions as The Flying Nun, Forever Knight and The Addams Family. And I have objections to a few factual omissions and other bobbles which come to mind (the US citations often do but also often don't list episodes, nor even transmission dates nor the networks, syndicators or cable sources of various series; the three episodes of Really Weird Tales are detailed, and is one of the happy items that I'd either completely missed in the past or forgotten about without seeing, but no mention is made of the relevance of this production to SCTV, despite having Second City tv folk behind and in front of the cameras...HBO is cited as the apparently unenthusiastic commissioner...I have to wonder if Global or some other Canadian outlet wasn't a co-producer). While on grounds of taste, I can see why Amazing Stories was omitted (and I can imagine that bad blood might've played a role there, as Betancourt was on staff at the magazine Amazing while that pathetic Spielberg/NBC anthology series named for the magazine was unspooling), but to refer to Small Wonder (quite probably the most aggressively inane sf-themed sitcom in North American history, and I realize the amount of competition there has been for this dishonor) as "amiable" is simply beyond the pale.

So...as noted, a particularly good guide, I'd say, to British sfnal productions (going as far as to bemoan the rather self-aggrandizingly justified shift of BBC's important Out of the Unknown from primarily sf to primarily horror...without quite getting around to suggesting that the series being taken away from its creator and original show-runner Irene Shubik might've been some sort of Old Boy power play). And entries on key non-British series (including the likes of Captain Video) are almost as complete as the default format, and space available, will allow...a cheap seconhand copy can make for an interesting and even a useful read, and crosscheck to other references.

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog

2 comments:

Richard R. said...

While these sort of discussion / list books can be interesting to browse, if there is nothing else to do, topically I'd prefer something a little more specific, like a coffee table book of Star Wars original art or Tolkein movie set sketches...

Todd Mason said...

You know, it's a rare single movie (nor even a series) that would entrance me too thoroughly with its coffee-table book, the way a portfolio volume from a favored visual artist might, or (as you might recall) the anthologies out of various magazines in that format...but I have bought a few, most recently Stephen Jones's book on the film adaptation of STARDUST...though that was an inexpensive remainder, and the cast is full of actors (such as Michelle Pfeiffer or Claire Danes or Kate Magowan or Sienna Miller) whom I don't find difficult to glance upon...