Tag Archives: Television

Profile: ‘ER’ TV Writer/Advisor Channels Storytelling Towards Social Activism

Television writer, producer, activist and practicing pediatrician Neal Baer, MD.
Television writer, producer, activist and practicing pediatrician Neal Baer, MD.

It has become compulsory for modern medical (or scientifically-relevant) shows to rely on a team of advisors and experts for maximal technical accuracy and verisimilitude on screen. Many of these shows have become so culturally embedded that they’ve changed people’s perceptions and influenced policy. Even the Gates Foundation has partnered with popular television shows to embed important storyline messages pertinent to public health, HIV prevention and infectious diseases. But this was not always the case. When Neal Baer joined ER as a young writer and simultaneous medical student, he became the first technical expert to be subsumed as an official part of a production team. His subsequent canon of work has reshaped the integration of socially relevant issues in television content, but has also ushered in an age of public health awareness in Hollywood, and outreach beyond it. Dr. Baer sat down with ScriptPhD to discuss how lessons from ER have fueled his public health efforts as a professor and founder of UCLA’s Global Media Center For Social Impact, including storytelling through public health metrics and leveraging digital technology for propelling action.
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Podcast: “The Expanse” of Sci-Fi Colonization

The Expanse poster and stills ©2015 NBC Universal, all rights reserved.
The Expanse poster and stills ©2015 NBC Universal, all rights reserved.

Space exploration is enjoying its greatest popularity revival since the Cold War, both in entertainment and the realm of human imagination. Thanks in large part to blockbusters like Gravity, The Martian and Interstellar, not to mention privatized innovation from companies like SpaceX, and fascination with inter-galactic colonization has never been more trenchant. Despite the brimming enthusiasm, there hasn’t been a film or TV series that has tackled the subject matter in a nuanced way. Until now. The Expanse, ambitiously and faithfully adapted by SyFy Channel from the best-selling sci-fi book series, is the best space epic series since Battlestar Galactica. It embraces similar complex, grandiose and ethically woven storylines of human survival and morality amidst inevitable technological advancement. Below, a full ScriptPhD review and in-depth podcast with The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar.
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Guest Post: Ray Bradbury Still Alive Through “The Whispers”

Ray Bradbury in front of an array of his books.
Ray Bradbury in front of an array of his books.

Ray Bradbury, one of the most influential and prolific science fiction writers of all time, has had a lasting impact on a broad array of entertainment culture. In his canon of books, Bradbury often emphasized exploring human psychology to create tension in his stories, which left the more fantastical elements lurking just below the surface. Many of his works have been adapted for movies, comic books, television, and the stage, and the themes he explores continue to resonate with audiences today. The notable 1966 classic film Fahrenheit 451 perfectly captured the definition of a futuristic dystopia, for example, while the eponymous television series he penned, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, is an anthology of science fiction stories and teleplays whose themes greatly represented Bradbury’s signature style. ScriptPhD.com was privileged to cover one of Ray Bradbury’s last appearances at San Diego Comic-Con, just prior to his death, where he discussed everything from his disdain for the Internet to his prescient premonitions of many technological advances to his steadfast support for the necessity of space exploration. In the special guest post below, we explore how the latest Bradbury adapataion, the new television show The Whispers, continues his enduring legacy of psychological and sci-fi suspense.
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Editor’s Selection: Robots Invade Summer Television

Image ©MIT, all rights reserved.
Image ©MIT, all rights reserved.

From a sci-fi and entertainment perspective, 2015 may undoubtedly be nicknamed “The Year of The Robot.” Several cinematic releases have already explored various angles of futuristic artificial intelligence (from the forgettable Chappie to the mainstream blockbuster Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron to the intelligent sleeper indie hit Ex Machina), with several more on the way later this year. Two television series premiering this summer, limited series Humans on AMC and Mr. Robot on USA add thoughtful, layered (and very entertaining) discussions on the ethics and socio-economic impact of the technology affecting the age we live in. While Humans revolves around hyper-evolved robot companions, and Mr. Robot a singular shadowy eponymous cyberhacking organization, both represent enthusiastic Editor’s Selection recommendations from ScriptPhD. Reviews and an exclusive interview with Humans creators/writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent below.
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REVIEW: SyFy Channel takes off with “Ascension”

As part of an ongoing recommitment to its sci-fi genre roots, SyFy Channel is unveiling the original scripted drama Ascension, for now a six hour mini-series, and possible launch for a future series. It follows a crew aboard the starship Ascension, as part of a 1960s mission that sent 600 men, women and children on a 100 year planned voyage to populate a new world. In the midst of political unrest onboard the vessel, the approach of a critical juncture in the mission and the first-ever murder onboard the craft, the audience soon learns, there is more to the mission than meets the eye. Which can also be said of this multi-layered, ambitious, sophisticated mini-series. Full ScriptPhD review below.

Ascension poster
Ascension poster and stills ©2014 NBC Universal, all rights reserved.

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REVIEW: Wide ‘Awake’: New Sci-Fi Series Takes on Sleep Science

Awake, and all images and screenshots, ©2012 NBC Universal, all rights reserved

As far back as last summer, when pilots for the current television season were floating around, a quirky sci-fi show for NBC called Awake caught our eye as the best of the lot. Camouflaged in a standard procedural cop show is an ambitious neuroscience concept—a man living in two simultaneous dream worlds, either of which (or neither of which) could be real. We got a look at the first four episodes of the show, which lay a nice foundation for the many thought-provoking questions that will be addressed. We review them here, as well as answering some questions of our own about the sleep science behind the show with UCLA sleep expert Dr. Alon Avidan.
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REVIEW: ‘The Science of Battlestar Galactica’

"The Science of Battlestar Galactica" ©Wiley Books and NBC Universal, all rights reserved.

Battlestar Galactica is one of the defining, genre-changing science fiction shows of its, or perhaps any, time. The remake of the 1970s cult classic was sexy, sophisticated, and set a new standard for the science fiction shows and movies that will follow in its path. In addition to exploring staple concepts such as life, survival, politics and war, BSG reawakened its audience to science and its role in moral, ethical, and daily impact in our lives, especially given the technologically-driven era that we live in. “Writers were not allowed to jettison science for the sake of the story,” declares co-executive producer Jane Espenson in her foreword to the book. “Other than in specific instances of intentionally inexplicable phenomena, science was respected.” In an artful afterword, Richard Hatch (the original Apollo and Tom Zarek in the new series) concurs. “BSG used science not as a veneer, but as a key thematic component for driving many of the character stories… which is the art of science fiction.” The sustained use of complex, correct science as a plot element to the degree that was done in Battlestar Galactica is also a hallmark first. This is the topic of the new book The Science of Battlestar Galactica, newly released from Wiley Books, and written by Kevin R. Grazier, the very science advisor who consulted with the BSG writing staff on all things science, with a contribution from Wired writer Patrick DiJusto. Now, for the first time, everyone from casual fans to astrophysicists can gain insight into the research used to construct major stories and technology of the show—and learn some very cool science along the way. Our review of The Science of Battlestar Galactica (and our 100th blog post!) under the “continue reading” cut.
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Comic-Con 2010: Day 3

Street signs adorning the City of San Diego for Comic-Con 2010

Day 3 was Star Wars Day at San Diego Comic-Con International and we have something shocking to report, ladies and gentlemen. We did not see a single light saber, not one! Since we almost incurred an unfortunate eye injury last year due to an overenthusiastic Jedi, this was most welcome relief. For ScriptPhD.com, today was all about science and technology. In a day that could not have been more tailor-made for our website, we enjoyed panels with the eminent sci-fi television writers of today discussing writing for genre TV (a must-read for any aspiring TV writers out there!), a visit from the greatest science fiction writer in the history of science fiction, Ray Bradbury, a preview of next season’s sci-fi show The Event, and a panel on how exactly shows like CSI “tech” out with gadgets galore. Oh, yes, did we mention we got to hang out privately with the MythBusters?? With the help of our intrepid reporter Bryy Miller, we bring you the most complete Comic-Con coverage on the web. Plus, our Costume of the Day, after the “continue reading” cut!
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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Powering The Future

Wind turbines collecting energy that will eventually be converted into electricity and other fuel sources. This technology is widely discussed in the new Discovery Channel special "Powering The Future." Image courtesy of Discovery Channel.

Nothing has done more to reinvigorate discussions about energy and fuel dependence than the tragic oil spill currently afflicting the Gulf Coast [excellent resource for trajectory, timeline and news sources]. Though scientists and oil manufacturers continue to debate the validity of the “Peak Oil” theory, a very uncomfortable reality looms that oil production may not be able to keep up with thirsty demand. With an ever-increasing global population, a constant proliferation of technology choices and lifestyle improvements, and a rising middle class in third world countries, the factors contributing to fuel consumption may be the precipice of an eventual geopolitical crisis. In an effort to showcase their dedication to addressing the most salient energy and environmental questions affecting our generation, the Discovery Channel, backed by founder John Hendricks, is launching a revolutionary four-part documentary called Powering The Future. In it, they address a range of economics, national security, social and scientific questions related to energy and fuel all through the single focal point of searching for a modern, clean, limitless supply of energy. Our coverage of Powering the Future includes a review of the first installment and an exclusive podcast interview with the show’s host, lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy, Dr. M. Sanjayan. For full content, please click “continue reading.”
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INTERVIEW: Breaking Bad Creator/Executive Producer Vince Gilligan

Breaking Bad images and logo ©AMC Television and Sony Pictures, all rights reserved.

Last year around this time, ScriptPhD.com posted Breaking Bad, Chemistry Good, an in-depth article about AMC’s breakout hit Breaking Bad, and its stunningly accurate science content. Walter White, the show’s anti-hero, is a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking and dealing methamphetamine for financial security. In our article, we highlighted several clever uses of chemistry throughout the show’s run that not only integrated brilliantly into the plot but had realistic real-world applications as well. What a difference a year makes! Last week, Editor Jovana Grbić sat down with Breaking Bad‘s delightful Creator and Executive Producer Vince Gilligan to talk about the show’s origins, the science, and some behind-the-scenes secrets that will surprise even dedicated fans. We hope you enjoy reading our interview as much as we enjoyed chatting with him. The secrets of Breaking Bad, under the “continued reading” cut.

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