About a year ago, I was planning on writing a piece where I had to take issue with Den of Geek for their constant droning on about how’s there’s no Science Fiction on the SyFy channel. Things happen, life gets in the way and I kind of lost interest so it never got written. That being said, I’m really glad I didn’t, because I have so much more information and insight into the current situation at SyFy than I did last year, that it really makes more sense for me to address the lunacy of the self-important SciFi fan, now, than it did then. Before, there were just general complaints, but now, it’s the foaming-at-the-mouth over the lack of solid details regarding an air date for the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome. Note, there is nothing really new about any of these complaints, it’s just that B&C has become the poster-child for the cause d’jour and it really it is about time that they were all called out for it.
Since Giant Freakin Robot is the most recent outlet to be on our radar regarding this issue, I decided to comment personally on their site with their piece, Editorial: Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome Could Save Syfy’s Soul and I want our readers to see their short-sighted take and their readers equally short-sighted comments, as well as our take which we’ll post below. Please, understand, I actually like GFR – a lot – but they are so off the mark on this (as are most SciFi fans) that they needed to be called out.
Hey, Syfy, how’s it going? Yeah, I know, I don’t visit as much as I used to. Sure, I still swing by for Alphas each week, but I know you’re really busy these days, what with all the wrestling and the ghost hunting and the game shows about people bumping into things in the dark. I don’t want to take up too much of your time here, but we need to have a little talk, you and I. It’s about Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. I think it could save your soul.
Look, Sci-Fi… can I call you Sci-Fi, just like in the good old days? No? Fine, “Syfy,” whatever. So here’s the thing. Yesterday your official Twitter feed told us that the incredibly awesome-looking Battlestar Galactica prequel spinoff, Blood and Chrome, was not dead, but would indeed air at some point, in some form. Probably. And while it’s great to hear that Blood and Chrome hasn’t been relegated to the trash bin, I have to ask…what the hell are you thinking, man?
Earlier this year, when the Blood and Chrome trailer hit the internet, the fans started frothing at the mouth because it looked badass. I’m actually one of the people who liked a lot about the admittedly flawed Caprica, but there’s no question that Blood and Chrome looks a lot more like the BSG spinoff fans were hoping for. Space dogfights. Human-on- Cylon carnage. That sucker has hit written all over it. With the right writers, it could still maintain the depth and humanity of its parent series, but up the action quotient to a degree that would keep fans hooked and coming back.
So where the hell is it? We’ve watched over the past couple of years as an exciting project has dwindled further and further every time there’s an announcement about it. First it was going to be a full series. Then it was going to be a web series. Then maybe a one-off TV movie. And now? Now all it is is “air date to be decided.” A solid concept for what could be an amazing show molders on the shelf while you keep churning out one shitty new show after another. For the love of god, Syfy, you’re about to premiere a show that airs “viral videos.” You do realize we all have the internet, right?
Look, you wanted to branch out and not be defined solely by science fiction content… fine, I get that. With the ever-increasing media landscape, you want to be able to attract as many sets of eyeballs as you can. But does that mean you have to abandon the one thing you’ve done really well several times over the years? You’re the network that gave us Farscape, for crying out loud! Does anybody seriously think Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica could have found a home anywhere but on your airwaves? And without you there’s no way Stargate would have flourished into multiple spinoffs as it did (even though you did cancel Stargate Universe awful quickly, as the show’s fans often remind me).
I realize you make all the reality shows and contest shows like Face Off because they’re cheap. That’s fine. But why not use some of that budget you’re saving on flotsam like Viral Video Showdown to greenlight one or two really strong science fiction shows? The sort of show that can be your flagship, earning critical praise like you did with BSG. The sort of show that defines Syfy as a brand. A show like Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. Because honestly? I haven’t got a clue what that name is supposed to stand for. It just looks like somebody shook the cable landscape and all the shitty shows that weren’t properly secured slid down into your schedule.
And here’s the danger. Time was, the Sci-Fi Channel was one of the only homes for projects like Farscape or Battlestar Galactica or Stargate. But look around you. AMC, the channel that became a success on the shoulders of Mad Men, is earning dynamite ratings and acclaim with a zombie show based on a comic book. HBO, one of the most respected sources of cable programming around, is riding high with a series based on a dense, convoluted series of fantasy novels. Starz is developing a military science fiction series with the guy who created Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Those were all projects that, back in the day, we would have thought would be perfect matches for the Sci-Fi Channel. But the stigma around genre content is fading. The Avengers has made $1.5 billion worldwide, and now more and more exciting genre projects are going to other, more respectable networks, while you introduce yet another show about haunted tchotchkes.
Oh, there are still some promising lights on the horizon. I’m hoping that Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Defiance will recapture some of the old Farscape magic and become something truly amazing. I’ve got every finger crossed that you find a way to make your Blake’s 7 remake something other than a regrettable and ill-conceived footnote. You do still have a handful of genuinely good shows, like Alphas and Being Human. But with Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, you could make a statement. You could declare that you are about more than just cramming as many horrible paranormal “reality” shows as possible down our throats. That you still have what it takes to stand behind ambitious, well-written genre content.
It’s time to stop settling for mediocrity and aim higher. It’s time to take your own advice, Syfy: Imagine Greater.
Seriously, you guys (both the writer and the commenters) need to get over yourselves. SyFy has a grand total of TWO hours of wrestling per week, so can we stop bringing that up? What next: Bill Clinton is a draft dodger? These arguments are getting seriously dated. Here’s the the thing: SyFy is doing better now than they ever have been so feel free to leave because you won’t be missed. But, waitaminute…. surprise, surprise, it’s their core SciFi series of Alphas, Haven, Being Human, Lost Girl and Warehouse 13 that are their biggest hits. And sorry, but Game of Thrones, due to its content and its production costs, could never see the light of day on SyFy or any other basic cable channel.
Where exactly are you getting this notion that “B&C was destined to be a hit,” David? If it was destined to be a hit, it would already be on the network. Here’s the reality: space-themed SciFi has been dead for a long time on television… period. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. For crap’s sake, BSG (which is the greatest show ever on television) was a ratings disaster in its final season, save for the series finale. [Stargate] SG-1 was on its last legs as was [Stargate: Atlantis]. Is it really a surprise that both [Stargate: Universe] and Caprica failed so miserably, so quickly, despite having the crap promoted out of them by the network? It shouldn’t be. You’re living in an era where a Star Trek series couldn’t last more than four seasons. One of your biggest mistakes in the piece was suggesting that SyFy didn’t want to be solely associated with Science Fiction. Nonsense. They were specific that when they changed the name that they didn’t want to be associated EXCLUSIVELY with space-themed science fiction and time travel and wanted to be all-inclusive in all areas of the genre. Look it up… after all, you’ve made a point to bring up the fact that you do have the Internet.
This isn’t SyFy’s fault, this is simply the fact of the ever-changing landscape of the 18 – 49 demographic. They simply have no interest in space-themed SciFi on television (for the most part… I’d say TNT’s Falling Skies might be the exception but that’s more [The Walking Dead] with aliens than it is space-themed SciFi) and attempting to force yet another quality BSG spinoff down the throats of an audience that has no interest in it only to placate a small amount of fans is not only foolish for the network from an immediate standpoint, but it’s ultimately damaging to the series and the franchise, as a whole. And make no mistake about it, BSG is their biggest property and they aren’t going to wreck it so the fanboys can get their fix on a basic cable network. At this moment in time, though there are signs that interest is growing again, space-themed SciFi on the network is far too risky (especially with their biggest property).
Taking this a step further, B&C isn’t dead, it’s just not going to be on TV (or if it is, you’ll only see the pilot. Bear McCreary told us that he has heard rumors that the two-hour pilot is going to air on the network within the next four to six months, which was something we had already surmised based on the grumblings of our inside sources and now, IMDb has it listed as March 2013, too). You folks need to understand that the television revenue model is changing and that SyFy is one of the innovators in the new marketplace. You’re going to get BSG:B&C but you’re probably either going to have to subscribe to Hulu for it or have an XBOX Live account to view it on the SyFy app or just pay for it from iTunes or Amazon and that’s how it’s going to go. The new world of television is not dependent on the traditional standard of Nielsen ratings, exclusively, anymore. It’s becoming dependent on direct targeting of niche markets and then repackaging the content for non-exclusive digital and international distribution deals. What do you think the “transmedia” Defiance is all about? Try to think outside of the box, folks. Even the aforementioned Game of Thrones has only been getting renewed due to its international distribution deals. What… do you folks think that there’s that many more people subscribing to HBO because of Game of Thrones? Holy crap, you probably do.
Also, you might want to actually keep track of the network press releases, as well. SyFy currently has 13 straight-up SciFi scripted series (including quite a few space-themed series) in development, plus two more imports within the next year (Sinbad and Continuum). So what it really comes down to is that SyFy has plenty of Science Fiction, it just doesn’t have the series that you want, right now, therefore, they aren’t truly a Science Fiction network and you’ll just bash all of their other programming… that has actually made them successful. Genius and completely rational.
Here’s the complete rundown of all of SyFy’s scripted series in development. Scroll down for the complete press release.