J’s Soapbox: Syfy – Self-Loathing and Lazy

syfyIt’s no secret that I’ve been upset with Syfy’s choices in the past year (not the least of which was the choice of the name ‘Syfy’).  It wasn’t so much that I had issue with the name change itself; it was the sentiment behind it, the feeling that a channel that supposedly caters to those who like speculative fiction and fantasy were actually ashamed of their own audience.  They didn’t really seem to want sci-fi fans; they wanted mainstream, which, for a niche cable channel, seems like a poor decision.

A year later and not much seems to have changed.  Oh wait, something has – I haven’t really had reason to tune into that channel more than a few times in the past year.  Battlestar Galactica‘s done.   Doctor Who is now on BBC America.  Every time I hit the guide it’s a marathon of D-movies, which wouldn’t be terrible except it’s the same ones every time (only so many times I can watch Atomic Twister, really).

And then E, who apparently loves to get me riled up, sent me an article that informed me that Syfy will be moving its Friday night programming to Tuesdays, replacing it with WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown.

Sigh.

First, I’ll try desperately to find the good.  I don’t believe Syfy is adding more wrestling, just switching out wrestling shows and moving them around.  I don’t particularly understand why they think moving their best/only shows to an already-crowded Tuesday is a good idea, opposite shows like V, but, um, at least LOST will be over?

And let me address the wrestling thing.  I’m not going to disparage wrestling, or people who like wrestling.  I know several young boys who are really into this whole thing, alongside Clone Wars and D&D.  I get that tons of little kids are really into this, that it’s practically live-action superhero stuff.  And as Syfy’s Craig Engler said:

“Basically, sports are GREAT for TV. Sports bring younger viewers and drive live viewing, and they bring in a relatively broad audience, i.e. more new viewers. We looked at a number of fantastical sports to see if they’d fit with our audience, including really fun things like Kaiju Big Battel. [...] We ended up trying wrestling out because it has larger than life heroes and villains and “fantastical thrills” as we like to say…”

I can see what they’re trying to do, here.  However:  Why did they need any sports in the first place?  So young people like sports – big shocker.  I don’t think Syfy has the programming to  lure new viewers away from WWE and on to their other shows.  Their numbers might go up because WWE’s substantial audience will tune in to see Smackdown – but let’s not kid ourselves here.  There’s not a natural progression from Smackdown to Stargate.

They want young viewers?  Then why did they not only let go of Doctor Who, but the geared-for-children Sarah Jane Adventures?  Are they specifically working on programming for young sf fans?  Why are shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender perfectly capable of being produced by Nickelodeon, but not Syfy?  Could it be, perhaps, that Nickelodeon does not condescend to its own audience?

Not only has Syfy become embarrassed of it’s own demographic, it’s become lazy, trying to take the easiest, most inexpensive way out.  When they actually produce something interesting – like one of their acclaimed miniseries – they’ll suffer because it will be hard to bring those viewers over to WWE, and vice versa.  They don’t have a cohesive feel that naturally brings viewers from one show to the next.  It’s becoming a dumping ground for the cheap and silly.

Such a disappointment.

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