Greetings, prisoners of gravity. This is commander Rick.
July 25, 2009 8:01 AM   Subscribe

"Prisoners of Gravity was the most thoughtful and creative television program ever produced anywhere in the world about the literature of science fiction, and it was a substantial Canadian success story. In first-run, it was one of the most popular series on its originating network, TVOntario, lasting for five seasons and 139 installments." Here are a few of them, with more being added every now and then.

Inspired by autodidact's comment, which reminded me that I had long ago planned a post based on the youtubed episodes linked above but never got around to it.
posted by aldurtregi (31 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of those things that gets mentioned periodically around here but that I never quite get around to looking up - now I have no excuses. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on July 25, 2009

I used to enjoy that show, thanks for reminding me about it. Host Rick Green had previously been a member of the sketch comedy group "the Frantics".
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:11 AM on July 25, 2009

This is awesome--thanks!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:14 AM on July 25, 2009

This is one of those things that gets mentioned periodically around here but that I never quite get around to looking up

Ditto. Thanks for the post.

And speaking of science fiction-themed Canadian television shows with "Gravity" in the title*, anyone remember The Anti-Gravity Room? Is there any modern equivalent to these shows? I'm sure there's a market.

* Of which, there are many, I'm sure.
posted by brundlefly at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2009

God, I loved this show! I wish the YT archive was larger, but even this much is great.

"Attention, convention goers. Harlan Ellison will be autographing people's stomachs with a pen-knife in the hospitality suite."
posted by maudlin at 8:59 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this. I grew up on reruns of Prisoners of Gravity on cable.

I'm always amazed at both the quality of the interviews and the variety of people they were able to get. This is a show that had almost every major figure in written Sci Fi in from the 80's and 90's and it was produced on a shoestring budget.

The show also had a real point of view, it wasn't afraid to call out sci-fi sub genres or trends that it found objectionable.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a weekend to loose re-watching these.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2009

Awesome, I was just starting to get into this show when it disappeared from TV.

I think it might have been in an episode of PoG where I heard Spider Robinson say that after he got a degree in English, he discovered he didn't actually like driving a taxi.
posted by FishBike at 9:22 AM on July 25, 2009

I would tune in occasionally to watch it but every episode I saw was so male-focused (really - there are no good women SF writers to interview?). Maybe I missed it but out of twenty or so episodes I saw I don't remember there ever being a woman on. Which is a shame, because the interviews seemed interesting, if a little fanboyish.
posted by saucysault at 9:34 AM on July 25, 2009

Anyone have recommendations for installments which shine out above the other ones? There's an awful lot of them, and I'm having a hard time deciding where to start.
posted by ErWenn at 9:35 AM on July 25, 2009

Anyone have recommendations for installments which shine out above the other ones? There's an awful lot of them, and I'm having a hard time deciding where to start.

I myself was quite taken with the episode devoted to Watchmen. I recall it fondly from seeing it years ago, and it was the first thing I watched here. Alan Moore give good interview.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:42 AM on July 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nice, I got mentioned in a FPP!

I was channel surfing late one night in the early nineties and caught the opening title sequence caught. That is some good comic sequential art! At the time I was always reading something by Arthur C Clarke or Ben Bova, as well as a regular pull at the comics store, so the show was completely fascinating for me. From then on, I tried to catch every episode. I saw Rick Green in person once, sometime in 2002, perusing right next to me in the magazine section of a Chapters in Oakville. He has a very distinct look.

It would be great to see this series return in as close a form to the original as possible. No over-the-top production values.. go with the same damn opening credits and just have Rick Green, or someone equally as insightful, witty, and self-effacing, interview great minds in all things related to speculative fiction.
posted by autodidact at 9:52 AM on July 25, 2009

Ugh.. "good sequential art", I know it's not "comic sequential art".
posted by autodidact at 9:53 AM on July 25, 2009

Brundlefly, I remember the Anti-Gravity Room. I remember watching it on Saturdays or Sundays before MST3K came on and trying to get out of going to church with my mom. I feel like this kind of content is more likely to be produced in the video podcast realm than broadcast TV these days.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:55 AM on July 25, 2009

He looks like this guy. This is great stuff that I had never heard of or seen before. Thanks!
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2009

just have Rick Green, or someone equally as insightful, witty, and self-effacing

That's a pretty tall order.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:04 AM on July 25, 2009

really - there [were] no good women SF writers to interview?

At the time, in their defense, I don't think that there were that many. The gender mix of SF has changed a lot in the past two decades. Rick had people like Judith Merrel on as much as he could, but the fact of the matter was that it was very much a boys' club in those days. I certain he would have been delighted to have more female authors or artists to talk to.
posted by bonehead at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2009

Best show ever! I loved everything about it. The host, the setting, and of course the incredible array of authors they would manage to include.

The only other show that came close to that quality was Second Nature. Does anyone know whatever became of Enrico Gruen?
posted by CaseyB at 1:04 PM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some of you may not be aware, but Rick Green also play Bill on the Red Green Show. He was the star of the Adventures with Bill segment, where he seemed to have a pair of coveralls-of-holding, because he used to store miscellaneous large items including large tools and other equipment. Have a peek at Car Soccer, Crossbow Madness and Finding the Boat.

Rick Green also produced a wonderfully amusing yet insightful series called History Bites, that used to be shown on the History channel here in Canada. It explored the premise of "What if television had been around for the past 5000 years?". Some of my favourite segments were spoofs of a Martha Stewart-style hostess preparing period dishes as well as other spoofs of such media notables as Don Cherry, Seinfeld, Larry King, Oprah and more.

For a few tastes of the wonderfully warped History Bites, here's a selection of YT segments: Intro Segment to History Bites, Ceasar's Assassination/Who Killed J.F.C on Nightline, Ivan the Terrible on Oprah with Healer Phil and the Salem Witch Trials à la Judge Judy. Enjoy!
posted by Jade Dragon at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

This is the finest literature show I have ever seen. I once had the honour of seeing Mark Askwith (creator and interviewer) at a convention explaining how they actually did the interviews - basically grabbed every writer who came through town, interviewed them with every question they could think of, then spliced them into all the various theme-based shows. The result was astounding.
posted by jb at 5:37 PM on July 25, 2009

Jesus, what's happened to Clive Barker?! I haven't seen him since PoG, and I just watched him being interviewed by Craig Ferguson. Now that's scary.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2009

wow, thanks! bruces looks like he's four :P
posted by kliuless at 7:34 AM on July 26, 2009

Yep, great show. I never knew exactly when it was on (did TVO keep changing the timeslot?) but I always watched the Hell out of it when I could.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2009

^ For most of the run it was on at 10 or 11 PM Sunday nights. Then after a couple seasons they replayed it every night at 11:00.
posted by autodidact at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2009

At the time, in their defense, I don't think that there were that many [women writers].

Yeah, it is a real shame there weren't great women SF writers like Margaret Atwood, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Angela Carter (are her re-tellings SF?), Marge Piercy, Tanith Lee, James Tiptee, Octavia E Butler, C.J. Cherryh etc before the 1990's (I'm sure I am missing a tonne off that list - I am just trying to think of the ones I read as a teenager). If anything, I feel there were more "quality" women writers of SF in the seventies and eighties than I see today on the shelves.
posted by saucysault at 8:02 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

In all fairness, some members of your list aren't exactly SF, saucysault. Just picking. But I agree with you in the larger sense.
posted by newdaddy at 8:56 PM on July 26, 2009

The complete PoG episode guide is here. I skimmed the first twenty or so shows and the last twenty or so, and while there were a few shows with no women, and maybe a third that had just one, many shows included several women -- writers, artists, editors, etc.

I haven't yet run across a show, apart from a few focused on women and feminism, where half or more of the guests were women, so the overall numbers are still pretty dismal, and it would be very easy to dip in and conclude that women weren't welcome, but women weren't completely shut out of the show.

Out of curiousity, I checked saucysault's list, and two names made it:

Marion Zimmer Bradley (522813 TELEPATHY AIRDATE: JAN. 19, 1994)
posted by maudlin at 10:15 PM on July 26, 2009

I'm 95% sure that I saw Octavia Butler on the show, too.
posted by CaseyB at 6:41 AM on July 27, 2009

I saw Octavia, and Cherryh (often). I don't remember if I saw MZB. But we're talking about a show that interviews whomever comes to town. They weren't flying authors in. If Le Guin and McCaffrey didn't make themselves available, they weren't shot. Simple as that.

As for James Tiptree Jr., she died in 1987. The show started in 1989. Are you not being just a touch too demanding?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:06 AM on July 27, 2009

I, for one, think a good interviewer's repertoire should include at least one spell of necromancy.
posted by aldurtregi at 10:55 AM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Durn Bronzefest, I don't think saucysault was saying the specific authors she listed should have been interviewed: she was responding to the claim that there weren't many women writing SF in the 70s/80s/90s.

But even if Tiptree had been alive, it would have been one hell of a get for Alice Sheldon to have done any interview, I think. I haven't yet read this, but I've gotten the impression she stayed very clear of the media.
posted by maudlin at 12:02 PM on July 27, 2009

A little update here: at the time I made the post the youtube user hadn't uploaded any new episodes for almost four months but in the last few days she's uploaded nine new episodes.
Just in case anyone thought she'd given up on it.
posted by aldurtregi at 2:22 PM on August 16, 2009

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