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November 13, 2012 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of television shows that develop into sci fi.

What shows begin with a plausible premise but develop into science fiction or fantasy? Usually shows that do this are already billed as sci-fi or fantasy, so you're really set up for it, usually from the first episode. Are there shows that take a while to get moving in this direction, like after a few episodes of normal stuff?

I've recently started watching Alias on Netflix (for the first time), and by the 3rd episode I'm thinking a transition (at least partial) to aliens or magic would really make this show.

Does something like this exist?

Note: If the current show I'm watching actually does this, you can tell me. I will only be happy if it does.
posted by klausman to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Twin Peaks
posted by jbickers at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I haven't watched the series, but doesn't LOST do this? Or is it Sci-Fi from the start?
posted by brentajones at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Lost takes a few episodes to get into it
posted by JayNolan at 2:21 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lost started out as basically mystery porn whose mysteries didn't necessarily have answers that fell outside the realm of the real (or the TV Real), and eventually became full-on sci-fi/fantasy.

Weird as it may sound - and I have no expectation that this will be a show you want to watch, just an answer to your question: The only example I can think of that really meets your criteria is Baywatch Nights. It starts getting into sci-fi/paranormal stuff in the second season.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:22 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alias does get a little science fictiony, but it's not really magic or aliens. I'll let it be a surprise. (I love Alias!)

Fringe, while always a science fiction show, just took a huge WTF turn in this most recent season.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2012

Fringe has actually had a few WTF turns over the course of its run.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2012

Family Matters.

Didn't the soap opera "Passions" start out as a normal soap, and then evolve into a lot of witchcraft weirdness?
posted by Melismata at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd say X-files in that it started out being the FBI investigating weird stuff. And it was fun. (Remember when Scully got the tattoo?)

But then in the last seasons, when Scully got pregnant and the aliens took over, that was a pretty big left turn there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2012

If X-Files qualifies, Kolchak probably should be mentioned, too.
posted by rhizome at 2:27 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The original Dark Shadows started off as a normal soap opera for its first season, then it went all vampires and witches and werewolves throughout the rest of its short, but memorable, run.
posted by jbenben at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, Family Matters. Fantastic example.

T.V. Tropes' Genre Shift page suggests Passions, among others.
posted by brentajones at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Prisoner is arguably just a weird spy show at the beginning.
posted by theodolite at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2012

The early 90s Australian soap Chances began as a story about a family transformed by a lottery win, but "attempts to boost the ratings saw an increase in sex and nudity, while storylines became increasingly bizarre and fantasy-oriented, with new stories involving ghosts, an angel on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Oriental villains, an Egyptian Sun Goddess, laser-wielding vampires, man-eating plants, and neo-Nazis hunting valuable Third Reich artifacts in Melbourne".
posted by hot soup girl at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2012

Well, from the devolving into fantasy perspective, Roseanne works. The final season was supposed to be a dream or a delusion or something that Roseanne has imagined to cope with Dan dying of a heart attack.
posted by mannequito at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2012

The US Version of "Life on Mars" turned, in its last episode, from a sort of psychological SF into a very stupid form of hard SF at the very end, to wrap up the cancelled show (though it's clear it was the device they had planned all along). Very disappointing.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:52 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Avengers started out as more of a straight police drama and later on ended up with episodes about robots and witchcraft and such.
posted by octothorpe at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2012

The common thread here, by the way, is mainly JJ Abrams, so we should be asking Why *didn't* "Felicity" turn to SF? Or did it?
posted by Sunburnt at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2012

Why *didn't* "Felicity" turn to SF? Or did it?

Actually, [OH SUCH A SPOILER] "Felicity" does turn into sci-fi/fantasy when she time-travels back to her senior year of college.
posted by Elsa at 3:02 PM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Haha, Felicity does in a way! The last few episodes are undone by magic (through Felcity's roommate) and she gets a do-over so the audience sees two timelines play out.
posted by ejazen at 3:02 PM on November 13, 2012

Dollhouse starts off as sci-fi, but it's relatively "light" sci-fiā€”once you accept that minds can be rewritten and transferred, it's basically a mystery-of-the-week show in a world recognizable as our own. Then the show starts looking at the deeper consequences of the central technology, and the show's world makes a sharp turn away from our own.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gilligan's Island ?
posted by anon4now at 3:19 PM on November 13, 2012

Soap introduced an alien abduction sub-plot at one point.
posted by Egg Shen at 3:32 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eureka was sci-fi and then kicked it up a notch or two.
posted by notned at 4:06 PM on November 13, 2012

Happy Days featured the arrival of a certain fun loving alien from the planet Ork.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:09 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for Felicity, Abrams didn't like the direction Felicity was going early on, but couldn't do anything to change it, and that was the birth of Alias.
posted by markblasco at 4:09 PM on November 13, 2012

The 4400. At first, it's mystery at best, the 4400 returnees aren't immediately labeled as "time travellers", "alien abductees" or similar, and the government starts an investigation. It only takes a full turn to scifi/fantasy when the first people discover superhuman abilities, but it takes a few episodes.
posted by MinusCelsius at 6:49 PM on November 13, 2012

Community? The first season was at the most just heightened reality, like the Office, and each season has seen a noticeable increase in fantastical weirdness, for better or worse. (Evil timeline = cool. Imaginarium = arggh)

And maybe the original Transformers cartoon. While it's always dealt with robots from Cybertron, most of the action took place on contemporary Earth (84-86). Then the third season took place in the "future" (2005/6), on Cybertron. And the newer characters were more sci-fi-ish and less sports car/semi/F-14-ish.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:12 PM on November 13, 2012

Can't believe Family Matters hasn't come up yet. It went from being a tame sit-com to crazy when Urkel moved from science to Mad Science.
posted by Garm at 7:13 PM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: Can't believe Family Matters hasn't come up yet.

It did, up-thread a bit.
posted by klausman at 7:22 PM on November 13, 2012

I feel like every anime I've seen does this. Or, it starts off as sci fi/fantasy and then suddenly just explodes into crazy time. I'm thinking of Death Note in particular.
posted by hishtafel at 8:59 PM on November 13, 2012

Heroes takes a couple of episodes to get... super hero-y.
posted by cmoj at 9:31 PM on November 13, 2012

Adventure Time started off looking (at least superficially) like light kids' fantasy, but the world's underpinnings are getting more and more SF-like. And definitely darker.
posted by Lazlo at 10:40 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fantasy Island. At first, the "fantasy" bit was all about luxury, but then all kinds of weird shit like magic rings and psychics started turning up in every episode (maybe starting in the third season?)

"Happy Days" added the alien Mork from Ork fairly late in the show's run (which spun off to "Mork and Mindy").

"The Flintstones" added an alien at some point.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 PM on November 13, 2012

Carnivale, the HBO series, is a lot like that. There's all kinds of crazy weird stuff in the beginning, but it still seems to be based in reality. The supernatural elements are then added in very slowly. It's a really great show - one of my all time favorites - but it was canceled after two seasons, and ends very abruptly.
posted by Sibrax at 11:25 PM on November 13, 2012

Strangely enough, I actually got this experience from Game of Thrones. It starts out very historical/period (though set in a fictional country) and gradually as the episodes progress, hairline fractures start to appear in the historicalism, and start to get wider, and start to look less like oversights, and you start suddenly realising things like there is magic!

Ok, the entire series starts off with a intro scene (in the frozen forest) that indicates some kind of fantasy humanoid monster, but then it went straight into period/historical stuff hard enough that my mind edited that out. I don't think the series would suffer if that scene was edited out, and the fantasy allowed to percolate back in over time.
posted by anonymisc at 11:37 PM on November 13, 2012

Didn't NBC's The Event start off as some kind of terrorist attack, but took some turn to show that it was aliens? I can't remember. That show was turrrrrrible.
posted by General Malaise at 5:53 AM on November 14, 2012

Brisco County Jr! Started off as a comedy western and turned into a sort of proto-steampunk SF.
posted by emyd at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2012

I think Smallville did this too. Started out being pretty true to the Superman story, but started getting lots of supernatural stuff in later seasons.
posted by CathyG at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2012

Second "Brisco County Jr." and I'll add the 1960s series "The Wild Wild West." TWWW was basically plausible; President Grant assigns two federal cops to a special detail of... fighting special crimes or something. It was very much Star Trek at times; one episode featured a man who built, essentially, androids (yes, in the 1870s), including a dancer and some henchmen. How did he do it? Powered by steam, of course-- "small invisible, high-pressure steam lines" (which even today would be a brilliant invention). Definitely some SF in there that could be called proto-steampunk. The movie version featured some outrageous technologies-- (supermassive mechanical spider, again steam-powered) which were not, frankly, far removed from the imagination of the original show, IMO, though well beyond their abilities.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2012

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