ABC Steampunk Soap in Pre-Production

No matter how many times naysayers insist that steampunk – or at least its broad popularity – is dead, the genre simply refuses to lie down and die. Since Frankenstein’s monster is a cornerstone in steampunk, this really shouldn’t be such a surprise. The latest proof of pop culture’s enduring fascination with the subculture has manifested as a primetime steampunk ‘soap’ on ABC. We all knew it was only a matter of time before the great story-appropriator that is Disney took a direct approach to steampunk.

Although we only have one paragraph about the basis for the new series, tongues are wagging and keys are clacking. Set in San Francisco, the story features rival families struggling for power in an alternate reality. A protagonist who is set to change the world with her clever invention also appears in rumors. All very steampunk.

The two producers who first sold the story to ABC are the creative minds behind The Ghost Whisperer, Profiler, a television film of Frankenstein (fittingly), and the very short-lived Reckless – Ian Sander and Kim Moses. Playwright Michael Cooney has been given control of the script.

Since the first rumors of the series began circulating in 2012, courtesy of Deadline, the show has gone through three titles. Developers likely buried the show’s original title, Gaslight, due to the rising popularity of the term in connection with the 1944 film – and the associated term for mental abuse. After that, the show became Power. This name, however, was also doomed to the cutting floor as developers soon realized there was a show on a rival network with the same title. For now, we can refer to this show as Spark. But don’t get too attached.

Thus far, Spark has drawn flack and feedback based on its steampunk basis, but aside from the overt labeling, we know very little about the story. There aren’t even teaser concept images on IMDB to fill in the empty skeleton of a page the show currently displays. The series is slated to appear sometime this year. However, since it’s been in development hell for four years (that we know of), it’s entirely possible the series will not air for another year or two (or three – with another new name?). After the collapse of NBC’s Dracula in 2014, it’s understandable why a major studio would be hesitant to launch its own steampunk series. Recent media attention, however, may tilt the scales in the Spark’s favor.

Meanwhile, we must all brace for the inevitable storm destined to sweep social media. Is it a shame to see Disney stepping into a subgenre best known for its independent makers and dreamers ? Or is this a golden opportunity to rope in new participants who haven’t had a chance to experience steampunk before? Might we all just lather up and enjoy a good soap? We might find out later this year. Or next. Or, just, eventually.

M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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