Sure MTV doesnâ€™t show music, Tech TV has mutated G4, a place for videogames an odd mix of whatever shows the network can afford, but the Sci-Fi channel stays true to itsâ€¦ wait Syfy? Crap.
Just The Facts
- Science Fiction has no y's in it- two less than the word Syfy.
- Syfy, incidentally, has almost no science fiction on it.
- Sci-fi Channel: Short for 'science fiction', it was a channel where old sci-fi shows were displayed for fans of science fiction, including classic movies, B and otherwise.
- Syfy Channel: Short for 'syphilis for you', it is a channel where new sci-fi shows are created based on old sci-fi shows, retreaded and reassembled like crusty multi-colored play doh that is drying out. Also includes new movies where giant CGI animals are sent on a rampage after actors with no will to live (or act).
This Channel Gets Around
It really shouldn't be a surprise that Syfy has caught something considering how much she's been passed around. Starting as a venture of two entrepreneurs in 1991, it was picked up by the USA Network in 1992. Actually, this would've been the most ideal time for Sci-Fi to sell out- 1992 USA Network was a mess of game shows, court room dramas, and late night scintillating near nudity. At this point, it was a miracle Sci-Fi didn't produce the Twilek/Orion Slave Girl Late Midnight Party Hour, but somehow, despite being owned by a purveyor of midnight near porn smut, she was basically a straight science fiction channel, purchasing old shows. Was it good? Well, not really, but at least it was honest.
Later on, the chain of ownership becomes a confused orgy of corporate buyouts, involving Paramount, Universal, Viacom, Seagrams, etc. I think at some point, the channel had been exposed to enough Seagram's to blindly stumble into the arms of NBC, where it's been nursing it's hangover and puking into a toilet ever since.
In 2009, Sci-fi renamed itself as Syfy. The following quotes were made by Syfy channel owners about it (bold type added for emphasis):
"We'll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we'll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand."- Dave Howe, President of Syfy
"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...We spent a lot of time in the '90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it's called Sci Fi."- Tim Brooks, founder of Sci-Fi
So, between the President and founder, we learn a few things:
1. They are happy that people are watching and that they are successful
2. They do not consider the people who watch their channel human
3. They made a science fiction channel in an effort to separate themselves from science fiction, as science fiction fans are antisocial boys in their basements with video games and 'stuff'. Perhaps this explains music television?
4. They're willing to rewrite their own history.
My mind is still struggling to digest the sentence about calling the channel Sci-Fi to distance it from Science Fiction. It's like trying to separate your hands with a thin layer of super glue to keep them from touching. What was their motto in the nineties again?
I have no idea- but there was this advertisement. They were so shamelessly happy about what they were, they put together two and half minute montages of Science Fiction footage that's like a visual orgy for geeks, to rock music so hard, you'd be hard pressed to match it in any other advertisement you can find. All in all, you can tell this was a channel that knew what it was, what it was made for, and was willing to pump it into your eyes to wailing guitars.
Compare it to their new advertisements:
Anyone else find the ritual murder of the old logo to clown music kind of creepy? Still, imagine ROOMIER? Are they trying to sell me a car? Toothpaste? Last I remember, I didn't catch any sci-fi shows about pasty white CGI animals coughing up electronics, but who knows? Maybe they should make that series- as long as the animals are chasing around B-list actors to kill them, it might work.
Syfy presents- Rocket Horse. But I digress.
As I type this from my basement, surrounded by video games, I can't help but feel somewhat insulted by the blatant stereotype of sci-fi fans, my tentacles twitching with rage. If the Sci-Fi channel wasn't 'human friendly' before, it was certainly built up by the non-human, subterranean great race that's been tuning in over the years.
To Boldly Go Where Every Channel Goes Eventually
In a study of modern cable channels, the trend is obvious. Usually, a cable network is formed to provide some specific content- science fiction, music, technology information, etc. Over time, the channel will either die or thrive, but if it survives, there is no mission statement at a cable channel stronger than that of the almighty dollar- if it gets viewers, it is good, no matter what the show might be.
Syfy is not the first to fall, and it is in early stages- it might still turn around. However, one need only look so far as MTV to see the dissolution of a channel in late stages. Starting with music videos, it slowly showed less and less, making it's own shows, relegating the videos to TRL countdown, until this show too died. An entire MTV2 was created for music videos; now MTV 2 shows music videos only between the hours of 4 and 8 am.
We see similar patterns in G4, showing Cheaters and Cops in some desperate bid to find a demographic and capture an audience. G4 makes it a point to play Star Trek- much like a magic show that creates rating bumps, Star Trek is being shown on several diverse networks, including Lifetime and Spike TV.
It's like a world gone mad- Syfy moves away from science fiction, while every other channel moves towards it. We'll have the Food Network's Cooking with Worf in about five years at the current rate.
Imagine Greater? Imagine Worse
Take a quick look at Syfy's homepage- go ahead. While it might be different from week to week, you'll almost certainly notice one of the following things for the weekly line up.
- A Stargate or Battlestar Galactica Retread
- A Made for TV Movie with a Badly CGI'ed monster
- Something about chasing ghosts or monsters in the real world and never finding proof
- A cancelled show revived onSyfy
If you spotted all five, you just won Syfy bingo!
I don't care if you like any of these things or not- point being, at least two of them have nothing to do with science fiction and none of them are 'Imagining Greater'. It's imagining the same, over and over and over again. There are only so many Stargates to pop through, so many Cylon reveals, so many giant monsters to be eaten by, and so many body slams before you realize it's all the same, never gonna change, and has shown all the creative effort one uses to take a crap.
While Syfy's habit of saving lost shows is laudible, I do question it's wisdom- if the show died, perhaps, it died for a good reason?
So, there's a few people blundering around in the dark, more Cylons and Stargates than you can shake a stick at, some high flying muscle men, and dinocrocs- is it really that bad? Perhaps not, but these are merely the rumblings of the flutes of the angels, signs of the end times- the worst is yet to come.
I think she's a psychic- is that the premise? Putting in a reality show where we follow around a middle aged house wife and her family's antics- psychic or not, I can do that on any given weekend by visiting my aunt, why the hell do I want to see it on television? It'd be like putting together a Syfy show about a drive through with a speaker system that makes it's employees sound like Billy Mays- eerie, strange, but ultimately boring as hell.
I think I've rethought my position- I'm looking forward to the Stargate Wrestling Federation again.
Sad Simple Truth
Most of Syfy's schedule is their own original programming now. Most of it sucks. But it's theirs- it's their own crappy stuff which means they have to pay nobody but themselves for it. Many of their original movies don't even bother with writers. They'll replay the cheapest movies and shows they bother to shell out the money for the rights to over and over again, and do their best to turn a profit with minimum effort and investment for maximum gain.
Imagine Greater. An excellent slogan, because when watching Syfy, you always can.