The internet reaction has been swift and unapologetic, but here’s why I believe Outcasts is a good thing for UK television.
It must be terrifying to be a television producer these days watching your new show premiering for the very first time. First, there’s no escaping cynical bloggers, and now social media has exponentially amplified the critical reaction to television events.
Browsing Twitter, the reaction to last night’s premier of sci-fi series Outcasts would appear strained with pessimism. Comments say it was “poorly acted,” “staggeringly uninteresting” and “dull.” Now those are phrases I’ve been using to describe EastEnders for years, yet people continue to find something in that formulaic depiction of London life.
I’m not sure what the rest of the country was expecting – maybe a speeder bike chase through the wildness with vicious alien bats attacking? But an all singing, all dance, sci-fi thrill ride with typical action stereotypes is never what the show professed to be.
It’s not about CG images or nonsensical sci-fi techno babble. It’s about the one thing which we humans still can’t agree on: how to get along with each other.
It speaks volumes though that after a single episode of a serial drama, viewers are ready to switch off before it’s barely begun. This a sad state of affairs when the BBC is attempting to innovate with a genre that is rarely given a primetime slot.
In his blog post about Outcasts, writer Ben Richards wrote: “I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again.”
If one of those mistakes is shying away from originality – in favour of running back to the familiar embrace of The X Factor and EastEnders, then I’m sorry to say it may be a long time before UK audiences are ready to accept a sci-fi drama that challenges conventions – like Outcasts.
What has been condemned as a “safe and uneventful” opening may well be reflected upon as a sensible touch of restraint in future. Be it seamless or strenuous, the exposition has been laid and now the sky’s the limit. Personally, I would wish that the BBC avoid chasing ratings and continue to green light new ideas, as they have here.
Half the nation may have already given up on Outcasts, but I’m going to stick it out and see what lies beyond. After all, it is possible to be both an exile and a pioneer.