The fall of Sci-Fi on SyFy

On the heels of the recent announcement of Eureka’s cancellation, I decided to look into something that had been irking me for a while.    One of the joys of finally getting cable in college was the inclusion of certain channels.  SyFy used to be a channel that you could almost always assume would be on in my room/apt/house.  Very few channels could be said of that for me, the only other coming to mind being Food Network.  I enjoyed the large amount of programing based in Science Fiction.

As time has gone on, this because less and less the case.  I thought perhaps that I was just losing interest in Science Fiction. But with each release of something new in the Sci-Fi genre, I’d hope on board and at least give it a try, with most of these shows gripping my attention.  So that couldn’t be it.  Perhaps I just have a faulty memory of what I used to watch.

This because even more pronounced when they started adding WWE to their Friday night line up.  And then Ghost Hunters, and Competition shows.  Shows like SG1, Atlantis and Galactica all getting canceled, while non-sci-fi shows were taking their place.

But then when sci-fi decided to change its name over to SyFy, it struck me as a clear definition of the change that I’d been seeing over the years.  SyFy was gripping for more viewers and as such had been slowly, but surly, moving away from sci-fi based programing.   They still claimed to be supporting and pushing sci-fi  shows, but in addition bringing in other realms, most notably fantasy and reality shows.  But it definitely seemed that They were moving away from their SyFy roots.

So with the most currently notice of the upcoming cancellation of Eureka, I took it upon myself to actually take a look at their programing.  Between SyFy’s own website and the Book of Knowledge (wikipedia) I broke down what SyFy has had a hand in producing, what they’ve aired in syndication only, and things they have produced.  I threw out everything that was strictly syndication, cause there was no point as these were canceled before SyFy ever had a hand in its production.  Al;so dropping out anything that SyFy doens’t have control over like Doctor Who/Torchwood. That leaves 51 shows.

Some fall outside the “normal” of their program.  Things like a comedy animation (Tripping the Rift), or Documentaries.  But the majority of all their shows fall into one of three main categories: Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Reality Television.

SyFy shows All Current
Reality television 18 10
Sci Fi 15 1
Sci Fi/Fantasy 13 5
Sci Fi Comedy 2 0
Interstitial 1 0
Documentary 1 0
Comedy 1 0

Notice whats on the top of that list?  You’d think that a TV channel, called SyFy, would be well… centered on Sci-fi.  Even if you ignore the  “all” section, things that have been canceled cause they just have run their course, or things that were tired and didn’t succeed, you still have the same basic view-point. Let’s take a look at the results.

Of the three categories that are still airing, pure sci-fi is lowest on the list.  Or should I say at this point, not on the list.  That sole “1” is Eureka, which at this point has now been canceled.  True they have the rest of this season as well as 13 episodes next season.  But for all purposes it’s been canceled.  Which means at this point after going into the back half of 2012, there’s now pure “science” fiction.

Now that’s not to say there is no Sci-Fi-ish things on.  There are 5 in the camp of Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Problem with this category is that these shows sorta… walk the line between fantasy and sci-fi.  They blend science with fantasy.  Closest on the Sci-fi side is the new show Alphas, but you also have in there Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Being Human, and Haven.  All which put their toe or even a foot into the Sci-fi camp, but have their other foot solidly grounded in either horror, fantasy, or some weird blend.

But this still only accounts for 1/3 of SyFy’s current “new” programing.  Among those that are currently listed as still in production are: WWE SmackDown, Face Off, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, WCG Ultimate Gamer, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Destination Truth, Hollywood Treasure, Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, and Scare Tactics.  Can someone please explain why these would be on a show dealing with sci-fi?

There are some I can really stretch my brain that make some sense.  Face Off has the behind the season of sci-fi approach, Hollywood Treasures deal with old lost or cool props from sci-fi items, I even can kinda understand Marcel’s Quantium kitchen… even though it’s  a cooking show.  But WWE? really?  And to take the solid Friday night spot.  Seriously… what other excuse is a geek going to have for not going out on a friday night?

For those saying, “But I still watch Star trek, or Stargate, or Firefly on SyFy, what about those?” I answer with – they are re-runs.  Their either shows that either SyFy picked up well after the fact, or shows that have been canceled and now they are just living off the memories.  In this day and age that doesn’t hold up anymore.  If I want to watch old shows, i can do so at a click of my mouse on sites like Hulu or Netflix.  The appeal of having a network showing older sci-fi shows doesn’t hold up, when compared to being able to do that, and choose which episode, on demand for a minimal effort.  Network shows need to be about new content, not holding on to nostalgia.

Perhaps this is just a current tread in all TV that’s been going on a while.  Reality shows are cheaper to produce, faster to produce, and for the most part don’t need writers to think up stories.  Why write long overarching stories when for a 1/10 the price you can make almost the same money in advertising.  And since there’s no story to tell, if you get bored and cancel it, no one will complain at not finishing the story.

And that perhaps is the biggest complaint I have with sci-fi’s abandonment of sci-fi.  Why should we watch the few shows that have good story telling, and large over arching stories when networks pulls them before we can reach a conclusion?  SyFy’s slow removal from sci-fi shows only reinforces the issues that drove them to SyFy in the first place.  Main stream networks deemed sci-fi not “mainstream” enough, and SyFy took that mantel and carved out its niche.  Sci-fi watchers embraced them and put them up on a  pedestal as the oasis of smart science TV for more than a decade.

But that niche isn’t apparently good enough for them.  Or perhaps the cost of producing shows that sci-fi fans want to watch have become no longer profitable.  Or perhaps other networks are realizing they can do smart shows too and are drawing away SyFy’s viewers.  Or the internet, or podcasts, or… the list most likely goes on.  Perhaps we’ll never know. All I’ll I know is, what once was a staple on my house’s TV, now is just an occasion blip on my DVR.

Categories: OpinionTags: , , , ,


  1. Thanks for looking it in, they should change their name to “Reali-tee” because there is nothing really work watching. Oh, new slogan for that channel would be “Nothing but…”

    I honestly think before they cut it off, SGU had something going for itself. Like it was a new refreshing take on the series with a lot of character development. Probably with season 2, it had enough to spark 2 more seasons. Now we’ll never know.

    Hopefully people stop subscribing to their channel and any sister stations.

  2. Wow, You nailed it. Same story here, but add TLC, Discovery Channel, Adult-swim (cartoon network), ad Funimation Channel to build a list of dead channels. SyFuy drove me away with all the wrestling, reality shows, endless Re-runs, and the switch to which took the smart sounding SiFi and turned it into Internet Stooped. Syfy. They also have Barf-Tastic movies of the week that look like cheap chinese clones of New BlockOffice movies. They have the quality of the Japanese StarWars.

    Funimation rerun’s the same material over and over again in an endless loop. Often cutting off the final episodes. Adult-Swim also re-ran the same show and then cut off the final episodes. Theres nothing but Seamen and Lumberjacks on my old second favorets.

    I have been lucky enough to have been blessed with some relief from Falling Skies and Walking Dead. I’ll just keep playing video games and renting movies until a new good series comes out.

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