The debut last night of ABC’s space opera Defying Gravity raises a philosophical question of TV reviewing: is it fair to say that a show is lousy compared to one with a similar theme, or is it enough to say the show is lousy on its own?
If you’ve seen Fox’s superior Virtuality pilot, which is apparently going to die on the vine, then this superficially similar astronaut drama about a deep-space mission is kind of a kick in the teeth. Focusing heavy on pat personal demons, interplanetary romances and unplanned pregnancy—star child, never meant to be!—it’s banal where Virtuality was thought-provoking. But if Virtuality had never been made, I might have given Defying Gravity credit for at least trying a different setting for a primetime drama. I don’t know if I’d have liked it any better, but I’d have given it credit.
I’m waiting to see the ratings, but to become the rare drama to survive a summer launch and make it onto the regular season schedule, this show (a cost-saving Canadian-German coproduction) will have to defy not just gravity but inertia. Did it charge your rockets?