BYUtv’s Extinct.

[This started out as a comment on facebook that I then expanded into a post there.  I decided I could expand it a bit more and post it here as well].

BYUtv’s new sci-fi series (free on BYUtv’s app, no registration required) is, so far, pretty strong. It is not great (though it is fairly good). There is plenty to complain about if you want to go that route (the acting talent is uneven, the pacing is too slow at times, some shots linger a little too long, green screen backgrounds are a little too obvious, dialogue is occasionally on the nose), but given that this is a small, independent production with a limited budget from what is essentially a regional TV station, it exceeds expectations.

For those who have no clue, I would say, based on what I have seen so far, it’s a cross between BYUtv’s Granite Flats, The 100, Lost, and a low budget (but still good) sci-fi series. It could be better, but given what they have to work with, it works fairly well and is intriguing enough I am going to finish the first season.

If anyone from the production staff is reading this, or if you know someone from the production staff, I do have a recommendation for the second season (if there is one) that will increase the quality immensely: Read (and apply) David Mamet’s letter to the staff of The Unit (yes, it’s in all caps and has some profanity if you click through. It’s Mamet. He’s shouting at the writers on purpose).  The biggest weakness the series has is that there are too many scenes that are “mere information” and do not advance the plot in any meaningful way.

Conversely, it’s biggest strength is the sense of mystery and wonder it has (much like Lost did).

If the acting were more even, a lot of the problems with the writing might get glossed over, but since that is not the case, they need stronger writing.  What they have is competent writing, fairly good but not approaching great yet.

I still recommend the series, despite it’s problems.  As I said above, it exceeds the expectations of what you might expect from a similar source (if you’ve ever watched “Christian” television shows or films, often made under similar conditions – low budget, limited acting talent, independent studio – you might realize just how rare it is to have anything that actually approaches “good” on a dramatic and technical level).

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.

6 thoughts on “BYUtv’s Extinct.

  1. The SL Tribulation panned it. It must be very good then if they don’t like it.

  2. The SLT review spent most of that article attacking Executive Producer Orson Scott Card for his stance on LGBT issues. It was a clear case of a reviewer going in with a bias and the letting that bias control the reviewer’s reaction.

  3. Yeah, I don’t care about OSC’s anti-gay stance, and I agree with the SLT reviewer. It’s not bad for a local production (full disclosure: I am biased as I’m friends with one of the staff writers) but it’s not great science fiction TV. It’s hitting all the wrong tropes for me (white protagonist saves black man in the first scene; only one woman in the whole world and she’s angry and standoffish for reasons the men just can’t grasp; the bad guys are comically inept; also OTT misogynist; wife left alone while men folk go exploring and when they come back she’s sitting around waiting for them as if there’s nothing else for her to do.).

    I do have to say I find it hilarious that the bad guys have ‘companions’ who are with them constantly and keep them faithful, and that they call each other ‘brothers’ (and presumably ‘sisters,’ should other women miraculously show up).

    I’m still going to watch it, but I’m not expecting it’ll suddenly grow into wonderful TV.

  4. I agree that this series has some of the faults mentioned in the OP and in the comments. Still, it is better than average and is notably lacking a lot of the garbage we see in TV shows these days, so I will recommend it. I am so sick and tired of finding a show on Netflix that I think might be good and to suddenly have to endure scenes of sex, violence and constant swearing. I would rather watch an imperfect show without that stuff.

  5. The church’s and church members’ forays into media always start with baby steps and grow. The first two major versions of LDS.org were pathetic on a technical level. FamilySearch.or had similar growing pains. Church movies and movies by church members also seemed like they had long learning curves. The early TV spots of the 70’s and 80’s.

    It’s not like great media producers are joining the church and bringing expertise into Mormon media all at once. It’s being home-grown. So there has been a lot of awkward growth.

    Even when the church hired outsiders to do things, there had to be a learning curve for those doing the hiring, managing, and communicating the creative vision.

  6. I haven’t had a chance to watch Extinct yet but am hoping to start it sometime this weekend.

    Whatever the quality of the writing, special effects, etc, I want to applaud BYUtv for trying to produce it’s own family-friendly yet exciting content. In today’s world there’s lots of trash being produced and lots of people complaining about it. Yet few of them are willing to put their time, talents, money, and other resources into creating content that’s well crafted and family friendly.

    To ping off Bookslinger’s comment, for those familiar with the LDS-themed novels of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, they’d recognize how much current LDS writers have improved on that foundation. The novels by LDS writers sold in Deseret Book are MUCH BETTER than older stuff. And there’s more writers and a thriving LDS community of authors that are not only producing well-written books for LDS and national audiences.

    Extinct may have plenty of flaws (and I’ll come to my own conclusion when I watch it) it is building a foundation for future screenwriters and producers to improve upon. I applaud BYUtv for actually creating content that can offset so much of the garbage that can now be streamed 24/7.

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