23 March 2011

Rage, Rage Against the SyFy

There once was a time when I clicked to the Sci-Fi Channel with anticipation and happiness and the knowledge that I was about to watch programming that I would love. Now I click to the Syfy channel with the hope that a program that has at least something to do with science fiction is playing. And, to a extent, they’re not regurgitating Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus for the one thousandth and eleventh time.

I remember, not too long ago, when the Sci-Fi Channel was one of the awesomest stations on the tele, when it was the premiere station for the genre I love, dedicated to showcasing, celebrating, and honoring the science fiction (and sometimes horror) genre. That network no longer exists.

It’s difficult to not blame the name change. After all, it does feel like these massive channel overhauls happened during the time of their monumental “name-branding”. But the truth is signs of the channel losing its steam happened a bit before that. The channels great anchor shows were Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: Atlantis, and they were preparing to close up shop. In response they picked up a few other shows, but nothing really remarkable. And then the unthinkable happened: wrestling.

They introduced wrestling. On a motherfrakking science fiction channel.

I do a lot of channel surfing, and (of course) flip past Syfy, except I didn’t realize it. When I go back just to make sure I saw what I think I saw, my worst fears are confirmed. The once go-to channel was sci-fi was hosting Jack Black’s School of Rock, and (later on) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End [which arguably falls under the category, I suppose]. Not to forget mentioning I recall seeing anime played; leave that for Cartoon Network.

Never was a fan of Thanksgiving, but it did provide the opportunity for some sort of themed all day marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. A particularly fond memory of one of those days is when they played a good six or seven Godzilla movies back-to-back, as well as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other beastie films. Those were the good days, when they played black & white science fiction and horror, and television shows like Dark Shadows and Twilight Zone…a lot.

And they never failed to have really spectacular promo ads. For example, there’s this one ad I remember and will remember for a long time coming: it was a futuristic setting, some girl in a tight suit was running away from some blokes, jumps off a platform, and lands on some sort of levitating computer board and controls it by some sort of digital pop-up screen. I surfed around YouTube looking for it to embed here (if you find it, let me know!), but those thirty seconds or so were genius and awesome and brilliant. I want some of that brilliance back. Hell, I would love to see a full blown TV show made out of that.

With Battlestar Galactica done and over with, and a rather brilliant prequel series Caprica canned and Syfy’s only remaining flag series Stargate canceled with only seven episodes left, where does that leave us? Well, first, let’s take a second to see what was lost. In regards to Stargate: Universe, I understand it. The show simply hasn’t executed its premise nearly good enough, and as a result, fans and general audiences alike just aren’t getting into it and thus tuning in to make it a ratings success; so I get why that was canned, unfortunate as it may be [so bring back Stargate: Atlantis, dumbasses!]

But Caprica? Sure, it was probably an expensive show with a small group of faithful followers, but it was the most original, most brilliant, most science fictiony show that channel had. Caprica gone from the airwaves was a nearly unforgivable decision. It was a show that perfectly blended what the channel was promoting: real, human characters, themes that reflect contemporary questions and problems, and some serious hardcore science fiction imagery, motifs, and stories. What more, creativity-wise, could they ask for? Notta.

If one show were to survive, audience be damned, it should have been Caprica.

Now with the exception of Being Human and, to a small extent, Face/Off, the Syfy Channel is a pale imitation of what it used to be, that greatness I always looked forward to watch. Hell, those two shows can hardly be considered sci-fi at all.

Recently the channel announced SyFy Channel Original Movies and reality and scripted series that are being put into production now for the Fall 2011 slate. There are some possibilities of interesting properties, but nothing that really grabs my attention. The early renewal of Being Human for a season two doesn’t even strike me as all that spectacular, good news as it is.

Maybe it’s not just the Syfy Channel. Maybe the demand for science fiction shows has decreased in the last few years, and the channel is making do with what they have. In that respect, I understand their decisions, and can possibly commend them for surviving this long. But something needs to change. A re-dedication to their name brand, perhaps, fully immersing themselves into the genre they promote.

Show us those old 1940s, 50s, and 60s black & white/color movies. Show us the films many grew up watching and falling in love with. Air repeats of long dead sci-fi shows like Sliders, Farscape, The Chronicle, Doctor Who, Special Unit 2, Xena, Hercules, Highlander. Be more diverse in programming instead of Star Trek: Enterprise and super crappy Z-movie repeats, please.

I want to love you again, Syfy Channel. I want to be a proud supporter, to tell my friends that “Syfy is cool again!” and “dude, did you check out that awesome show on the Syfy channel?” Lame Hallmarky examples, I know, but it conveys my point neatly.

Just wish things were different.


M. Hufstader said...

Word to everything said here. SyFy bleeds anger into my soul. Come baaaack, Sci-Fi! At they could spell.

Dixie said...

AHHH!!! It's so true! Why kill Caprica?! Why?

And no, the want and need for science fiction goodness has not decreased, it's just the idiots who have taken charge of the station have their heads in the stations toilets day in and day out and can only come up with CRAP ideas!
(Warehouse 13 not withstanding)

Fletch said...

Your mention of them airing POTC and School of Rock struck a chord with me. The cable channels regularly do this, and it manages to still piss me off every time. We have this system of audience fractioning set up where we have hundreds of niche channels. Some become successful in their own right, like you might aruge Sci-Fi/SyFy was once upon a time.

But they all get greedy, and they all ditch their identity in search of great numbers, shooting themselves in the feet in the process. You mentioned the Cartoon Network. I still love them and they're pretty loyal, but not long ago, I saw a live-action movie (sans animation whatsoever) airing. SyFy airs School of Rock. The TV GUIDE Channel (it's in your fucking name!) airs movies. E! airs movies, VH1 airs movies (ok, so the MTV family ditched all semblance of sticking to their identity eons ago).

They all do it. They all air movies in the hopes that we'll stumble upon and watch them. But you know what? Unless you're gonna air it unedited and sans commercials, I think we have enough of these damn channels, what with TBS, TNT, AMC, etc., etc. Stick to your identity and stop pissing off your real fans in favor of fleeting potential success.

End rant. :)

Andy the Time Lord said...

Fletch - That rant was epic and brilliant and awesome.

I never knew TV GUIDE plays movies. That just baffles my mind. And Cartoon Network...that channel has gone as downhill as Syfy. There's enough rant material about that channel to write another whole blog post. The only nice thing I can say about their live action airs is that when it's their own productions - like a BEN 10 or SCOOBY-DOO live action film - is at least they're based on cartoons and still hitting their target audience. Otherwise, yeah, Cartoon Network is no longer the channel I used to watch Friday evenings [when new episodes aired].

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