A decent brand name goes a long way in television, as evidenced by the four-decade success of the Star Trek franchise. Along with syndication, most TV series these days are planned with merchandise-able characters and spin-offs in mind. We have no complaints regarding such long-term strategies for the small screen if it means consistently good viewing but there are times when quality plays second fiddle to what amounts to little more than elaborate PR exercises. Luckily, in the case of Stargate Universe (above; Syfy, Mondays at 11pm), the much-anticipated revival of the Stargate franchise, creators Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper are focused on compelling storytelling. The series follows the adventures of a present-day, multinational exploration team unable to return to Earth after an evacuation to an unmanned spaceship named Destiny, whose galaxy-hopping course was set long ago by its alien creators.
Future tensions between leaders Everett Young (Canadian Louis Ferreira), representing the military, and scientist Nicholas Rush (Scot Robert Carlyle; The Full Monty) are easy to predict from the way the two glare at each other, when they aren't busy ensuring the survival of the 80-member group of army grunts and civilians. The three-episode pilot takes its time setting up the dynamics of the ensemble cast but if Destiny keeps its course, we are in for an exciting and nuanced ride.
CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) is another long-standing franchise involving technology-based crime-solving in eastern, western and southern cities of the United States. In their 10th, eighth and sixth seasons, respectively, CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY have joined forces to bring us the CSI trilogy (AXN; Wednesday at 10pm), a three-episode special in which the teams work together to uncover a cross-country human-trafficking enterprise. Head of the Las Vegas team, Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne; the Matrix trilogy) acts as the link, popping in to the other series to share intel as they chase the bad guys. Sounds interesting - like a person meeting two other selves from parallel universes, right? The power of three would create something much greater than the parts, right? Not really.
The strength, if you will, of the CSI brand is its unwavering loyalty to formula. They arrive on the scene, photograph, swab and test evidence (to an electronic soundtrack that's short-hand for 'super-hi-tech science-lab stuff'); the boss says something poignant in alto-basso; and then they get their man. Beyond putting the series leads in the same scene, the trilogy doggedly sticks to the old tried and true. The result is just more of the same, like buying three Happy Meals from McDonald's in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Sha Tin.
Lastly, it was only a matter of time before Jack Osbourne, Ozzy's youngest, was going to do a reality series. In Jack Osbourne: Adrenaline Junkie (BBC Knowledge; Wednesdays at 10pm), Osbourne trades his well-publicised drug habits for a different kind of rush. Watch as the baby-faced twentysomething sweats off the pounds in Thailand in preparation to scale California's El Capitan mountain, in Yosemite Park. Spiritually lost children of rock stars may not make the best-mannered, most insightful TV personalities, but we do have a soft spot for wee Jack.