Sunday

What’s Next for SyFy?

With the announcement that Warehouse 13 will be wrapping up next year with a six episode final season–months after Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome wasn’t just not picked up to series, but first saw the light of day on the online channel Machinima Prime–I couldn’t help but think about what’s on the SyFy Channel.

Defiance has already been renewed for a second season. Merlin is wrapping up its final season now. Continuum starts its second season soon. This fall Haven will start its fourth season. Lost Girl will be coming back for a new season. Being Human will be coming back for a new season. Two series premiering this summer, Sinbad and Primeval: New World–shows that originated in the UK and Canada–were cancelled in their home countries after one season, making it unlikely they’ll be back after their initial runs.

Other than those shows, though, what is on the SyFy channel anymore?

Eureka and Sanctuary ended. Blood and Chrome, the network’s second attempt to launch a spinoff of Battlestar Galactica, this time focusing on a young Adama and the war, will not be going to series.Alphas was cancelled after two years. There are plenty of reality shows and Saturday night movies and reruns of different series but otherwise we’re talking about the network having six series on the air in the fall. Five, once Warehouse 13 ends. And of those five, two are Canadian shows being re-broadcast here in the states. Making new dramatic series is not a priority for SyFy, it seems.

By comparison, FX Network has four drama series with another premiering soon, seven comedy series and two comedy talk shows with more scheduled in the near future. HBO and Showtime have ten scripted series. TNT has eight. USA has seven with one ending and one debuting this summer. TBS, Starz and A&E have few scripted shows as does AMC, but those channels are mostly focused on other projects.

Battlestar Galactica was the channel’s flagship series for years, but it was never typical of what was on SyFy, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there is no longer a show that’s managed to make that much of an impact, has represented the channel and made a bigger cultural impact. Or to phrase it another way, what is the channel’s identity? I understand that they changed the named because they no longer wanted to be thought of solely as a channel focusing on “SciFi” - though I don’t think anyone ever did.

I want to offer a few ideas that might help SyFy going forward.

One, import more series from around the world. Lost Girl and Continuum, in case you weren’t aware, are Canadian series. Merlin and Sinbad are from the UK. Why don’t we get more shows from overseas. Why is a show like Misfits on hulu and not Syfy? Why is a show like Dirk Gently–based on the books by Douglas Adams and starring Stephen Mangan (also currently starring on Showtime’s Episodes)–not available in the US? Why isn’t SyFy chasing after the producers of Metal Hurlant Chronicles to air the anthology series? With news of producers developing a series based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, why isn’t SyFy negotiating to produce and air such a series? There are 24 hours of programming space a day and lots of material being being created around the world, why not take advantage of this?

Two, A fantasy series. Something between Legend of the Seeker and A Game of Thrones. If you’re interested in following the lead of those shows, there are plenty of books to mine for ideas by a lot of talented writers ranging from Terry Brooks to R.A. Salvatore to Lloyd Alexander to draw from.

Three, a western–A weird western. A steampunk western. A remake of The Wild Wild West tv show (which will have nothing to do with that movie). I’m open to different possibilities. Admittedly this is a subgenre that over the past couple decades has been the subject of a few television series which tend not to last long (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. with Bruce Campbell lasted a single season and Legend, starring Richard Dean Anderson–post-MacGuyver and pre-Stargate–and John DeLancie didn’t even last that long) but it’s fertile territory and it’s one that people can be passionate about.

Four, a series set in space. C’mon. This one should be obvious.

Five, something for younger viewers. As a kid I always hated shows that were aimed at kids, but something that could air in the afternoons or early in the evening and can be watched by younger viewers or for all ages would be great. I mean Warehouse 13 is fun, Alphas and Lost Girl are not meant for younger viewers, and it would be nice to have something an eight or ten year old could watch.

Six, something set in Eastern Europe. The film industry in Eastern Europe has made a lot of progress over the past two decades which can be seen by the number o big budget and low budget productions that shoot there, including a number of the SyFy Saturday night movies. What about setting a story in the region and find a way to incorporate a different culture and different setting than many North Americans are accustomed to.

Seven, something animated. It’s been years since the pilot for The Amazing Screw-on Head. It would be nice to see some more animation on the network.

Eight, a cyberpunk series. Again, like the space series, should be obvious.

Nine, can we declare a moratorium on show where the heroes chase after some kind of mutants/abnormals/alphas/aliens? Seriously. I’m begging. I ask this both as someone who read Norman Spinrad’s novel The Iron Dream when I was young and it changed how I looked at many science fiction and fantasy tropes, but also as someone who is sick to death of that formula. I understand the reason for the formula. That kind of procedural offers a way to make the concept open to new viewers and allows the creators to introduce the mythology of the show over time, but it’s tired.

Any other ideas for what the SyFy channel should or shouldn’t do?

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