Image via Wikipedia
Let’s face it, folks. Syfy has gone astray. They have lost the faith. They have sniffed the air of easy wrestling profits and been lured away into confusion and avarice. But they can be redeemed…through listening to the people that made them who they are today.
Right now, the Save SGU page on Facebook has 22, 453 fans. That is larger than the population of eleven sovereign nations. The Stargate franchise has run continuously for fourteen years. First the hit SG-1, which ran for ten years, expanded upon the mythos and gave us new heroes, villains, and stories. Stargate Atlantis took things to a new level and took the heroes to a new galaxy. Finally, Stargate Universe drew upon new inspiration, giving a grim, gritty, and a far more desperate situation for the heroes than ever before.
SGU drew its share of criticism. Some accused it of being a Battlestar Galactica clone, and I have to admit, there is a clear inspiration there. But that criticism holds little water when you look beyond the camera-work; Stargate Universe and Battlestar Galactica are as different as night and day when you look at their styles of character development, plot development, and story organization. While both series have that “dark and gritty” feel, BSG is about the fleet, about the Cylon’s Plan, and first and foremost, it’s a religious story: angels guiding the path of their god’s children, both human and Cylon. Stargate Universe lives in a different universe, one full of aliens, the remains of the Ancients, and human heroism on a level far beyond that of Battlestar. And SGU is more than that; it is the continuation of a fourteen year tale. When you become responsible for a franchise with as much power and following as Stargate, as Syfy did after SG-1’s fifth season, you take on a responsibility to do the franchise justice. And who really feels that Syfy is doing the franchise justice?
But the problem goes beyond Stargate Universe. Caprica, a prequel to the incredible (and incredibly popular) Battlestar Galactica, received about as little support as a show could while still being on the network. The series was smart, beautifully shot and acted, but just as the fanbase was really being established, it was cancelled. Sanctuary, the immensely popular show starring Stargate’s Amanda Tapping, has been moved to late evening Monday nights…a timeslot that can easily be the kiss of death. A “Save Sanctuary” campaign has already begun on Facebook, and already has over 300 fans. This group claims to know which way the wind is blowing and is preparing for the inevitable announcement. I look forward with trepidation to the new Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, another prequel to BSG set during the First Cylon War. From the evidence I have seen, if it doesn’t “do well enough” right out of the gate it will get less and less support from the network, get moved to less and less popular time-slots, and then finally get cancelled.
Apparently, Syfy’s new, ridiculous logic (to go with its new, ridiculous name) is that if a show doesn’t rake in money hand over fist right away, before it has even gotten a chance to establish its characters and story, then it’s deemed “not good enough” and the plan becomes “do everything that can be done to disrupt the series and assure that it will fail, then cancel it while feigning surprise that it failed”. And why are they doing this? Well, to any long-time fan of science fiction, this sounds like a very, very familiar logic. It’s the logic of Fox. It’s the logic that led to Firefly being shown out of order. It’s the logic that led to time-slots being changed. And it’s the logic that finally killed one of the best shows in years. It was the same logic used on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well, and Dollhouse. It’s almost like they want these shows to fail.
And perhaps they do. Fox filled its lineup with one reality show after another. Syfy is getting into the wrestling business. Is there a connection? Of course there is; these shows cost almost nothing to make, are very popular, and do incredibly well on normal television. And that is part of the explanation as well: normal television versus streaming and download services.
The networks claimed, each time, that the show just didn’t have the ratings. But ratings are done on television sets, and the audience is moving to computers and streamed services. I haven’t had cable for at least ten years, because cable isn’t worth the money and I can get my shows via streaming and download services without the commercials or the manipulations of the time-slot. The Nielsen Rating system doesn’t take anything except television into account, which means that shows that might be immensely popular look like they have little audience at all. Network executives (the same people who thought that alienating their own fanbase was a great idea) apparently can’t be bothered to keep up with all these new online systems of measuring popularity, so they increasingly target their shows towards what does well on Nielsen and ignore the rest.
Of course, what can you really expect from Syfy, whose reason for changing their name was because:
“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.”
Make sure you catch that loud and clear, fans and readers: the people who like science fiction and who the Sci Fi network built its business on are dysfunctional, antisocial boys living in their parent’s basements. This is what these people think of their own fan-base, the people who paid their bills and fed their children.
So can Syfy turn things around? Can they keep their fans, rather than turning into a wrestling, NASCAR, and reality-show clone? It all depends on whether they can stop looking at Nielsen and start looking at popularity tracking technology that was created more recently than the 1950s. The fans are here, the shows are popular, and if Syfy keeps them on the air and shows some loyalty to the franchises and to their fans, they will gain our support and (more importantly) our dollars. If they do not, if Syfy doesn’t regain the faith and come back into the geekdom fold…it will go the way of Fox: never to be trusted (or watched) again.
Please show your support by liking the pages below:
And subscribe to their Youtube channel and like their vids: