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NBC Tosses the Latest Hat in the Sci-Fi Ring with 'Debris'
March 1, 2021  | By Mike Hughes
 


Debris
 arrives Monday, with all the advantages.

It has an engaging story, full of wow-factor moments, strong craftsmanship, and a comfy timeslot, right behind The Voice. And a big promotional push.

It also has one huge disadvantage: Science-fiction fans don't trust the big broadcast networks.

Sci-fi prospers on cable, on streaming, and on the CW, a smaller broadcast network. But the big broadcasters keep introducing shows filled with clever concepts then canceling them without resolving key questions.

Now Debris tries to break that trend. It's "the kind of cable-level sci-fi that we've become accustomed to," Jonathan Tucker, who stars, told the Television Critics Association (TCA).

NBC programmers seem eager, said writer-producer J.H. Wyman. "Literally, they said, 'Hey, we're looking for things that break boundaries.'"

He's had one sci-fi show (Fringe) that managed to last five seasons on Fox by working the X-Files formula: Have a self-contained story each week, then overlay it with broader questions.

That's the same approach Debris has, Wyman said.

"You'll have a week-to-week show that people can come back to. But the real, hard-core fans . . . understand that there's a plan."

The basic notion is that an alien spacecraft has exploded, scattering its remains over the Western Hemisphere. Those pieces have varied effects on Earthlings, Tucker said. "Scene to scene, the debris allows people to go through walls or manipulate weather or ESP or doppelgängers" or more.

Bad guys want to grab the Debris and harness its energy. For the good guys, an international task force tries to find and store the pieces, while keeping it all a secret, with two people in the frontlines.

Brian Beneventi is a former Special Forces soldier. He's "going through a rather profound PTSD ride," said Tucker, who plays him.

Finola Jones (Riann Steele) is from the British agency MI-6 and is the daughter of the scientist who created the task force. "She's just lost her mother and father," said Steele. "But, through duty, (she's) taking on this challenge to continue his work."

They're a little like Mulder and Scully on X-Files, except that neither is a skeptic.

"They are believers," Steele said, "but they believe in very different ways . . .. Finola was probably the child who spent her time looking up at stars. (She) approaches things through (her) heart."

That fits the opening episode, which debuts at 10 p.m. ET, March 1. It has plenty of whiz-bang special-effects but emerges as a self-contained story about grief and loss then adds a closing twist to stir sci-fi fans.

There seem to be a lot of sci-fi shows these days. The genre is "no longer 'alternative,'" said Wyman.

That's obvious during the week when Debris debuts. On Monday at 9 p.m ET, the USA Network has a pivotal Snowpiercer episode; Tuesday, The CW has the Flash season-opener – with big special effects and a major character change – at 8 p.m. ET, and the second Superman & Lois hour at 9 p.m. ET. Then Syfy has the quirky Resident Alien at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, and the season-opener of Wynonna Earp at 10 p.m. ET. Friday, the same day Disney+ concludes its much-praised WandaVision.

Those other shows, however, are all in places that fans seem to trust lately – cable, streaming, The CW. Now NBC attempts to join the burgeoning sci-fi party.

 
 
 
 
 
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