So I was watching the new season of Sanctuary (pretty good show btw) tonight and it got me thinking about why I like the show's look even when the production values aren't that high, for me I think it comes down to my catch phrase of immersion.
Sanctuary uses a lot of file footage and artist renderings for outdoor shots to give the feeling they are in a huge city or an exotic local, even when the set is obviously on a lot some where. It just helps me keep into the show.
Also I think it helps when they use realistic travel times when they aren't zapping around via teleport.
Then you've got shows like last year's Legend of the Seeker, I really really wanted to like the show, it had a pretty decent story, so-so acting, but the fact that it kept shattering immersion just broke it for me.
I call it the Hercules / Xena problem, yea okay we know one town in whateverland 200 BC looked the same as another, but it's hard to imagine a town with a dozen wood huts is actually a town worth defending/attacking.
But here's the thing, you could have those same shots, same wood huts, spend a few hundred dollars on an artists time and do an over-view of the same town, only expanded so that it actually looked like a fucking town.
It doesn't have be ground breaking CGI, just a plain old painting works perfectly to give the world a sense of scale, then fade in to the actors on the wood hut street.