PASADENA, Calif. - Future prospects for Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" are not as bleak as the show itself, but they're not as bright as the supernova of media coverage the series has received.
Despite stellar reviews, ratings are down, not necessarily because fewer people are watching, but because so many viewers are watching on DVR or via iTunes downloads, not on cable. Sci Fi Channel executives hope to reverse the ratings trend by moving Galactica to 10 p.m. Sunday this weekend, but they're not ready to discuss the show's future.
"I can't talk about season four," said Sci Fi Channel executive vice president of original programming Mark Stern when I approached him at an NBC Universal party.
Because the contracts with the actors expire next month, Stern said a decision on renewal will come by mid-February.
Actress Tricia Helfer, who stars in Galactica as the Cylon Number Six, acknowledged that the current third season, which wrapped production before Christmas, doesn't end with "anything tied up, that's for sure."
"I think we all feel like it's coming back," Helfer said, "but we don't know. We're all looking at [this time as a break, not an ending], but in this business you never know."
If it's not wrapped up, Sci Fi Channel will be deluged with angry e-mail from fans, Stern acknowledged, but added, "Can it get any worse than when we canceled Stargate?"
Maybe he wasn't at the network when it canceled Farscape on a cliffhanger. I have to think those fans were even more outraged.
At least Stern and Sci Fi went to the Stargate producers in a timely manner before they scripted the last few episodes of the current season to let them know the show would end. (It may not have done much good; the upcoming Stargate series finale is titled "Neverending" and won't wrap up the story so much as set the stage for a series of direct-to-DVD movies.)
If Galactica is renewed, producers are talking about making a TV movie about the first and second Cylon wars that would air and be released on DVD before the start of season four.
As for the Galactica spinoff series, Caprica, Stern said that it will still be under consideration when network executives green-light new programs in March.
Sunday's episode is another strong outing for Galactica that dispatches one character and opens up new possibilities for the future of another.
Helfer said the move to Sunday is viewed by some as a death knell, because Sunday is more competitive than Friday. Others see it as potential salvation because more people watch TV on Sunday and might tune in.
"We're up against more powerful network shows, but there's also nothing like our show on that night," Helfer said. "Sunday is chick flick night, right?"
The final season of The Sopranos will begin airing April 8 followed by the remaining third-season episodes of Entourage. Nine, rather than eight, new Sopranos will air at that time, including the series finale, written and directed by creator David Chase. The fourth season of Entourage will begin this summer after a two-week break following the end of season three.
John From Cincinnati, the new drama from David Milch (Deadwood), will debut behind the Sopranos season finale, likely in early or mid-June. Big Love will also return in the summer. As for Deadwood, HBO CEO Chris Albrecht said Milch is writing the scripts for the two TV movies that will close that saga with an eye toward filming them this summer.
"It's our intention just the moment that we complete production on John to begin work on that," said Milch, who was working on the first Deadwood movie script Thursday. "If I'm given strength and time, we're definitely going to do more Deadwood."
HBO's John Adams, based on the Pulitzer prize-winning biography by David McCullough, begins production in February, filming largely in Colonial Williamsburg, Va. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney star as John and Abigail Adams with Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson. The mini-series will air in 2008.
Patricia Wettig (Brothers & Sisters) will reprise her role as the evil American president in one episode of Fox's Prison Break. She'll do voice-overs in a couple of others. ... When The 4400 returns for a new season this summer, Billy Campbell (who plays Jordan Collier) will be a series regular. ... Jane Seymour will guest star on three episodes of ABC's low-rated comedy In Case of Emergency beginning Feb. 14, assuming the show's still on the air.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen, the TV editor for the Post-Gazette, is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles.
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