I’m happy with the increasing availability of SciFi tv shows.
Special effects have improved and maybe they’ve become easier or cheaper to use in a regular show. Even many major SciFi movies in the past seem a lot less impressive compared to how much more realistically and seamlessly special effects can be used today. Special effects have essentially made SciFi mainstream. In the past, people had to use their imaginations to a greater extent. Shows on tv now present a much more immersive experience and I suppose big screen tvs help.
I’ve also heard the theory that during socially difficult times people prefer shows that help them escape reality. Maybe that explains part of the popularity of several recent SciFi shows.
I think, however, that there must be more to it than just those factors. I think this is part of the larger cultural shift that is happening. I suspect the very large Millennial generation is fueling much of the popularity, but of course it began long before. As a GenXer, I grew up at a time when SciFi and comic books were becoming mainstream. This largely had to do with society becoming less oppressively controlling of public entertainment (e.g., the ending of the Comic Book Code). It’s interesting the relationship between freedom of society and freedom of imagination.
There is one particular example of social change. The Millennials are the first truly demographically multicultural generation and I think this explains the greater variety of cultures seen on tv. In the past, other cultures were always seen as other and characters from other cultures tended not to have major parts. This is most clearly shown in terms of language as English is the default language of US entertainment even though a large part of the US population speaks other languages.
But SciFi has especially played a role of creating the first major bridge across cultures. There are three popular SciFi shows that have featured Japanese characters speaking Japanese for extensive periods of time: Heroes, Lost, and Flashforward. The last two are both ABC shows and so maybe someone in management is Japanese or likes Japanese. I also wonder if this is an attempt to develop shows that could be popular with a wider audience base as SciFi is very popular in both the US and Japan. Anyways, it gives a glimpse of the ever-increasing global media.