Aaron R. Davis
Do you know, I’ve just realized that I’ve been complaining online about the SCIFI Channel — excuse me, Syfy (*rolls eyes so hard my head hurts*) — for about a decade now? Even after I stopped writing for their short-lived website SCIFI NOW, a job I lost mainly due to an editorial miscommunication, I was enthusiastic about them. It wasn’t really until they renewed Farscape, my favorite television show of all time, and then abruptly canceled it so they could make more StarGate, that my hatred of the channel and their executive structure really came forward.
10 years. Wow, that’s a long time to have reasons to complain about a cable channel, especially a cable channel that’s mainly devoted to wrestling, “bad on purpose” schlock movies and reality shows about things you’d think a channel about geeks would have a better understanding of, like cosplay.
I refused to watch Syfy after they canceled Farscape. A year later, they aired a miniseries that resolved the cliffhanger of the final episode and settled the story’s main overarching plot, at which point I decided it was okay to watch the channel again. And then I never did, because I don’t care about poorly made reality shows where people think every weird noise is a ghost.
Fellow geeks, why do we keep returning to Syfy? Is it because we remember how great the channel used to be, a long time ago, way before it was ever owned by Universal, when it was a neat little niche channel for us? Is it because we remember actually getting to see episodes of the classic Doctor Who or the original Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes movies and Harlan Ellison hosting Prisoner marathons? Do we just hope that our channel is somehow going to snap back to what it was? Do we just love the channel’s annual Fourth of July and New Year’s Twilight Zone marathons? Or is it because they show just enough interesting content to draw you in long enough to get annoyed by the channel’s lack of standards?
Let me ask you another question: do you laugh every time you read a story about how Syfy wants geeks to start watching again?
Yeah, me, too.
They don’t want us back. That’s a lie. They want people who enjoy cheap reality shows — and I’m not judging, because I’m obsessed with the Abby Lee Dance Company on Dance Moms the way some of you are obsessed with your home football team — and big, highly-rated events like Sharknado 2: The Even More Arbitrary One That We’ll Call Bad on Purpose Instead of Just Inept and Witless But Hey, Tara Reid with a Buzzsaw Hand Is Legitimately Amazing. They want the unsustainable glory of having the most tweets once a year, not an actual, dedicated viewership.
And I do like some of their shows. That’s the thing about being a genre fan, there’s enough there that you can pick what you like and ignore the rest. I enjoy Defiance. I absolutely loved Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, and if, after canceling Farscape, they can win Brian Henson back, then maybe I can lighten up a little.
But did Syfy have to cancel The Wil Wheaton Project?
I read about it over the weekend, and that’s just disappointing as hell. Seriously, if Syfy wants its geek cred back, why do they keep canceling the shows aimed at us? Especially a show that was cheap to produce and so much darn fun?
In a post on his blog, Wil Wheaton says that he felt the show wouldn’t be coming back because there wasn’t much promotion (true — I mainly knew about it because I follow Wheaton on Tumblr) and because executives in New York didn’t get it. What’s to get? It’s The Soup for geeks. That is literally the entire premise. Why do people insist on acting like being a science fiction fan is something that takes intensive training, a degree and several languages to be a part of? Do you like Marvel movies? Congratulations, you’re a science fiction fan. How is this daunting?
I really liked The Wil Wheaton Project. It was like hanging around with a science fiction fan who gets really enthusiastic—you joke around, you laugh, you groan, you roll your eyes, you make fun of the stuff you hate, you make fun of the stuff you like, you have a great time, and you just walk away feeling like other people understand you. You feel like your world is a little bigger because, hey, I remember when liking all of that stuff made me feel like an outsider, but there are other people who love it, and one of them used to be on Star Trek.
Was The Wil Wheaton Project the best show on TV? No. That’s not the point. The point is that it was a fun place to hang out and feel like you belonged, and that’s what Syfy and NBC Universal and Comcast don’t get. The SCI FI Channel stopped feeling like a place where I belonged a long time ago. It’s new incarnation Syfy never has, either. And it’s frustrating that this cable channel that’s supposed to be for us, isn’t. It’s just another way to exploit our love of the genre.
Having Wil Wheaton around made it feel a little less mercenary and a little more like home.
The fact that Syfy doesn’t get that says everything you need to know about their commitment to that core audience they say they want to grow: they just don’t care. Quit pretending otherwise, guys.
Until next time, Wil. Until next time.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org