May 262015

When it was announced in the early 1990s that there was going to be a cable channel devoted to sci-fi programming, I just about flipped my gourd. Such news was received with rapture as finally geeks were finally going to get some love in the form of their own channel. That channel was, of course, the Sci-Fi Channel, which is now known as SyFy. Thus began my SyFy love/hate affair that carries on this very day.

It may be hard for today’s generation of geeks to understand the bleak landscape of sci-fi/fantasy tv back in the 1990s, but there were very few offerings available. Network tv carried absolutely nothing, and there were only a handful of syndicated shows out there. Into this void stepped the SyFy Channel, and the initial offering was pretty good. While there was no real scripted tv shows, the bulk of the programming was taken up with reruns of older shows that had been cancelled. This was an absolute godsend as many of those shows only had six, ten, or twenty episodes total. As such, this meant that they were not syndicated and meant that very few fans got the chance to see them after their initial run. The channel also had some fun by having a fake news program that was about three or four minutes in length that featured items from a futuristic society. One good show was Sci-Fi Buzz that went to conventions; talked about new releases for books, toys, comics, and movies; and featured news and info about things that impacted geekdom. Sadly, those innocent days were not to last.

After awhile, SyFy began to create original programming or work in collaboration with some other networks. They also began to showcase original movies, which have now become infamous. I must point out that the movies made originally were not the crappy monster movies we get today (such as giant anacondas or giant gators) but were the typical B movies of yesteryear. The special effects may have been poor, but the filmmakers actually tried to tell a good story and got inventive with the plots.

The Chronicle
The reason for my SyFy love/hate relationship is that the channel seems to never support their shows or geekdom in general. They’ve actually released quite a few excellent shows that my friends and I (along with my dad, the original geek) were happy to sit down and watch. The rub was that it seemed that every show got yanked pretty quickly. It was rare for a show to reach a second season and almost unheard of to reach a third. The litany of shows I really liked is a sad testament to shows cancelled long before their time: The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, The Invisible Man, Good vs. Evil, The Chronicle, The Dresden Files, First Wave, and now Helix.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why SyFy does almost nothing to promote their shows. They had some genuine hits with shows like Farscape, Eureka, and Warehouse 13, but they were constantly moved around the schedule season to season. Another irritating factor is that they would usually just show the episodes once (with a repeat later that night) and then yank the show off the air until it got close to when the new season was to premiere. Then we would get a week or two of the show being shown again or a marathon the weekend before. I hate to break it to you, SyFy, but that doesn’t build an audience. Repeats are not a four letter word, and you get more bang for your buck if you re-run theĀ  episodes throughout the year. This allows more people to become exposed to the show and maybe, oh my stars!, become fans. The channel also has a lamentable policy of shoving most of their money into a yearly mini-series to generate critical buzz and hype. Newsflash to SyFy – your geek viewers don’t give a damn what the New York Times or Variety thinks about Alice of the Tin Man. Instead of worrying about what entertainment insiders think (who normally despise geek programming), how about concentrating all that money and effort to making better shows and supporting them? Such a thought may be too radical for corporate Hollywood types.

I don’t even want to touch wrestling on SyFy or the insipid reality shows about people hunting ghosts. I understand that those shows are really cheap or bring in a lot of revenue (wrestling), but they really don’t fit the brand in my opinion. There’s really no voice on SyFy by the fans and for the fans like the original Sci-Fi Buzz. The closest they got was the recent Wil Wheaton Project, which was okay but way too snarky and adult for younger viewers to watch. I would love to see a show that once again discussed fandom, gaming, conventions, cosplay, and the latest in geek news.

The sad thing is that there are good shows on SyFy right now, but I’m afraid to invest myself emotionally in them. Haven has had a good run, but new shows like Defiance and Dominion are not guaranteed to stick around. Olympus is okay, and Z Nation is utter crap. Their original movies on Saturday night are a running joke. The only notice I get about a show coming back is some ten second commercial a month or so before it happens, and who knows if it’ll be in the same time slot?

I feel sorry for SyFy as they really missed the boat. When they launched, they had the entire fandom of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and anime as a captive audience as virtually no one else was putting out any programming for the geek audience. Instead of being aggressive and committing to shows for the long haul, they were quick to dump shows or throw away a chance to pick up a cult favorite (Firefly). Now they have a lot of competition for geek entertainment, and it seems that they always come up short. Yet my SyFy love/hate relationship endures as they will put out at least one interesting show per year that makes me hope and drags me back in.

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