Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is ABC becoming the new SCI-FI Channel?

I guess the handwriting was on the wall when SCI-FI channel changed their name to SyFy in July 2009. As a critic of science fiction, I find myslef watching the Syfy channel less and less. Why you might ask? They're simply not offering things that peak my interest. More than that, most of their prime-time shows are NOT science fiction in nature, not even a stretch.

Some years ago, when The Nashville Network (TNN) became The National Network, it's attempt to shed it's country music origins. TNN later became SPIKE, and their programming only got worse. They should have changed their name to TNA (T & A). Back to Syfy.

ABC, on the other hand, has at least four popular science fiction shows. On Tuesday night there's "V". Akin to it's 1984 predecessor, V is about Visitors from another world that came to Earth with the announcement "we are your friends".

On Thursday night there's "Flash Forward". This show is one of my favorites. It's set in Los Angeles in present time. One day the whole planet "blacked out" for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During that time, everyone experienced 2 minutes and 17 seconds of their future from April 29th 2010. The show does an excellent job of intertwining the personal lives, realities, and investigation into the "flash forward". "Lost" is coming back in the Spring of 2010.

Another series that aired on ABC, but has not returned is "Defying Gravity". It's about an interplanetary space mission set in 2051. It's also intertwines the personal lives of the astronauts, their families, the politics of the time, and the journey through space which is set to last 6 years. The science fiction elements to this are elusive, but there are forces at work behind the scenes pulling the strings. The rumor was that ABC canceled Defying Gravity after 6 episodes. That's simply not true. ABC does not own nor produce Defying Gravity, which is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, and produced by a conglomerate consisting of Fox, BBC, and Canadian TV, and others. The official story was that ABC needed the Sunday Night 10PM slot for something else. In all Defying Gravity aired 13 episodes, just not on ABC.

Let's see what Syfy has on their primetime lineup.

Monday - Ghost Whisperer. While ghosts and the like are not my thing, Ghost Whisperer is a popular science fiction show both in re-runs (on ION) and new episodes (CBS).

Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday - Something between Scare Tactics, Ghost Hunters, and Destination Truth (where's the science fiction?)

Friday - This is the closest this channel comes to redeeming itself. Sanctuary is "fair". Stargate: Universe is totally off the grid. They went way too deep and way off the beaten path. They need to taken a big step back and look at their ancestors, look at the beginning of the Stargate SG1 and evaluate where they're going. Stargate: Universe is a one season show in my book.

Saturday - is all about death and destruction, horror, and all the ugly sci-fi stuff. Sunday too for the most part.

During the weekday, Syfy does have some good all day marathons. But they have this misguided notion that people really like "ECW" and James Bond movies.

I think the network is still limping from the loss of popular shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Stargate. Meanwhile other networks are giving them a run for their money, such as ABC and CBS. NBC has Heroes and Chuck. Fox has always been a contender in the sci-fi world, their big show is Fringe. Fringe is currently my favorite science fiction show. The USA Network has Psych. Ironically, the main character in Psych is not psychic at all, but he has an almost a supernatural ability for attention-to-detail. CBS also has "NCIS", one the top-rated shows this decade, which is also doing very well in reruns on the USA Network and ION. It's not classified science fiction, but I think it's close. Gibbs has to psychic. He knows stuff he could not have found out otherwise. And there are frequent references to his "knowing" things, like if an agent has been killed or died.

We can only hope that new shows (maybe Caprica) will pick Syfy out of the basement. There's also the return of Eureka and Warehouse 13, and shows Syfy does not produce Dr. Who and Primeval.

Eureka and Warehouse 13 are OK, but not big hits. Dr. Who is really not intersting. Primeval, on the other hand, I used to watch on BBC America. I think the trail has gone cold on it too though.

Do you suppose Syfy is being forced to air non-science fiction shows because they are part of the NBC-Universal conglomerate? Will Syfy turn out like SPIKE, a smathering of crap that has turned away from it's roots, and the many fans that tuned in and made it what it WAS? Will NBC Universal's overtake by Comcast make things better or worse?

John Crawford

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