One of Suvin's main defining points of the SF genre in his 1972 essay "On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre" is "[t]he world of a work of SF is not a priori intentionally oriented toward its protagonists, either positively or negatively; the protagonists may succeed or fail in their objectives, but nothing in the basic contract with the reader, in the physical laws of their worlds, guarantees either" (378). While I realize Suvin isn't speaking to the sci fi tv shows of his day or that would follow, I wonder how his definition translates to a storyline with multiple installments. I suppose this works with written stories as well, though you don't have the added element of "that actor's contract isn't up yet, he'll make it through at least the end of the season" with the written story.
I guess you could argue that Suvin assumes a certain immersion in the world, ignoring things like "the book still has another hundred pages), but I feel a totally accepting immersion counteracts the cognitive estrangement and the bit about sci f that forces the reader/viewer to think.
It is entirely possible that I am trying to take his argument to a far too literal level. Part of it might also be that I can't think of any SF work where the protagonists decidedly fail--I feel like everything I've read or seen has some element of victory and/or promise of hope, however bleak it may be. Feel free to tell me I've been reading all the wrong stories and/or am looking to pick an argument where there isn't one.
I also get the feeling that we're reading this bit of theory at the beginning of class because, as we progress, the stories will deviate farther and farther from this definition...