My guess is what I posted above about simplicity of premise + lots of mayhem. (And that's being optimistic and assuming there isn't something about outer space and aliens that is inherently off-putting.)
Sci fi's trouble is that the young male demographic has abandoned TV in favor of movies, video games, etc. Then along comes The Walking Dead
and gets great male demos - why? Because they saw "zombies" and figured there would be crazy fun bloody mayhem, like a video game. The fact that the show is actually much better than that sounds is icing on the cake - it means people will watch even if mayhem isn't a particular draw. But the mayhem is what got a large number of viewers to sample it to begin with.
If I were launching a new space opera series, I might swipe the basic premise of Lockout
with a two-hour premiere episode that's an aggressive, bloody story about an outer space prison riot, maybe with some aliens or mutant humans in the mix who have dangerous and scary abilities. Our Heroes are the Starfleetish characters who have to put down the riot and restore order.
After that episode, the story follows the Starfleetish people as they attempt to enforce law and order in an insane, out of control frontier area of space. Basically, take the TOS aspects of RHW's premise but strip away all the nice, polite, sane, broadcasty aspects in favor of violence and action, interspersed with character and plot development.
Emphasize the camaraderie and idealism of the Starfleetish characters, so that the underlying tone is more optimistic than BSG
. Go easy on liberal breast-beating and political metaphors. Include strong and interesting female characters and make sure the male characters are at least passably attractive, so you can lock in the female demographic, too.
I honestly think this approach is the best shot at getting a space opera back on TV, with good enough ratings that it can afford the expense of decent production values. (If they can't afford decent production values, it's a non-starter.)
If anyone wants to take a crack at How I'd Get Space Opera Back on TV, the floor is open to spitballing.
Where are you getting "violence and graphic mayhem" from?
That's not from his description. That's my theory on what's needed to lure the young male demo back into the fold. Without them, it's going to be hard to make a go of it. SyFy already has the female demo with their sci fi cop shows. My theory is that you need both to get the numbers up to a level that can support an expensive production.
I'm not sure it's necessarily a "cop show" either. If anything, it sounds kind of like what Andromeda might've been under Robert's guidance after the Commonwealth was restored -- a show about a starship bringing civilization to a post-collapse frontier. And I'd imagine that's not just about arresting bad guys, it's about helping the local worlds set up their own legal and judicial systems, like the way US forces in Iraq guided the Iraqis toward self-sufficiency.
The sherrif patrolling the frontier part is what I'm calling a "cop show." I'm not thinking of a police procedural, more like what Kirk & co were doing when they were visiting Federation outposts - they're checking to make sure law and order is being upheld because there's no other authority out there on the frontier.
Setting up legal and judicial systems sounds interesting to me, but I don't think the show can afford to get too bogged down in non-action-based story elements. Besides violence and gore, the other important factor is simplicity. The young male audience is antsy and quick to change the channel when they feel the least bit bored. When The Walking Dead
slowed down this season, the audience numbers dropped, then surged at the end when all hell broke lose.