Unlike millennials, my childhood was not heavily influenced by technological play. Sure there was Pong, Pac Man and Donkey Kong, but I always preferred comic books, cartoons, science fiction and kung fu shows. These were the things that fueled my imagination; they brought me to worlds far from my NYC playground. As an adult, the SyFy Network once fueled my imagination, but it has not done this for some time. In this five-part series I review their scripted programming, analyze why the network is failing and propose a new model for the network’s future.
- Hits and Misses
- 7 Reasons Success Has Eluded the Network
- Rebranding to Reclaim the Throne
- Development Failures and Missed Opportunities
- Saving the Network, Notes From a Sci-Fi Fan
SyFy HITS AND MISSES
In the zombie apocalypse, Lt. Hammond (Kellita Smith) assembles a team of everyday heroes to transport the only known survivor (Keith Allan) of the zombie virus from New York to California in hopes of using his blood for a vaccine. Though this show’s ratings dropped in its second season from 0.48 rating in the 18-49 demographic with 1.42 million viewers to 0.33 rating with 880 thousand viewers in its second season, it will return for a third season. This is a pure fun zombie show; it is unique in its ability to kill major characters and use varied storylines from nuclear outbreak to a Spanish cartel led by La Reina (Gina Girshon). Z Nation balances of the gore and fun of zombie movies. HIT
Based on the 1995 movie with Bruce Willis, 12 Monkeys follows the journey of time traveler, James Cole (Aaron Stanford). He travels from 2043 to present day to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will nearly destroy the human race. He battles with The Army of the Twelve Monkeys to complete this mission. He is helped by virologist, Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) and a troubled math genius, Jennifer Goinees (Emily Hampshire). The show averaged 0.25 rating in the 18-49 demographic with 790 thousand views in its first season. Though not a ratings juggernaut, this show will return for a second season in April 2016. Like Helix, this show is more thoughtful and complex than the rest of SyFy’s scripted programming. This show is the antidote to multitasking. It requires and rewards your attention! HIT
Killjoys is a science fiction bounty hunter show with an unlikely trio, two brothers and a female commander. They travel the Quad, a planetary system on the brink of interplanetary class war. Each has a past they are trying desperately to leave behind or uncover. The cast includes Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane. It is great to see the network champion a female led show with a woman of color. The show is one of the SyFy’s best performing shows. In its first season it averaged a 0.23 rating with the all important 18-49 demographic and 950,000 viewers. This is a fun hit largely because of the cast! HIT
This sci-fi story is set on a derelict spaceship with a six-person human crew and an android who wake-up with no memory of who they are or how they got on board. They name themselves One through Six in the order to awake. On the Raza, the crew attempt to uncover their pasts and work with the mysterious Ferrous Corp and Mikkei Combine to stay alive. In its first season Dark Matter averaged a 0.24 rating with the 18-49 demographic and just over a million viewers. From performances to, production and even the title there is nothing unique or extraordinary about this show. It feels rather plug and play or development by committee even though it is based on a comic book series. It is predictable and lacks diversity, but the storylines are not well-integrated. Its saving grace is that its star/leader is a bad-ass fighter and the stock characters have distinctly different memories/lives to uncover. If it were not sandwiched by rather similar shows conceptually and thematically, this show’s flaws would be less evident. So while the is show has been renewed, it falls on the wrong side because of its uneven performances and production. MISS
It is based on the James S. A. Corey book series and set centuries into the future. Police detective Miller (Thomas Jane), Jim Holden (Steven Strait) and politician Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), try to solve a conspiracy which may result in interplanetary war. Like its poster, this show uses familiar concepts (too many) and its delivery is lackluster. In short, the characters are just short of caricatures; the dialog is bloated; and the numerous storylines are too disparate. Though the world is thirty billion years in the future and humans have colonized the solar system, Expanses’ world is limited to three perspectives, Miller, Holden and Avasarala’s, which fails to give us any insight to how the colonization occurred or what it really looks like. Defiance achieved this beautifully. The Expanses‘ goal this season will be to help the viewers connect with the characters and the world they are fighting to save, so far they are failing. With a 0.22 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 740,000 viewers for its first seven episodes, it is unlikely this show will should a second season. MISS
Based on Lev Grossman’s best-selling books, this supernatural or fantasy drama is set at the secret, Brakebills University for students of magical ability. When grad student Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and his best friend Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), are transported to Brakebills for an entrance exam, their world change, forever. While Quentin’s magic is revealed, Julia’s isn’t and as a typical type A personality she obsesses on her failure, magic. She is lured into the web of ‘dark magic’ and unknowingly aligns with the one who is out to destroy Quentin and the other magicians at Brakebills.
The Magicians is SyFy’s best new series with 0.2 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 920,000 viewers for the premiere. It veers away from the space travel lore that has been the focus of the majority of new series to one more focused on the supernatural with really cool special effects and the fictious world of Fillory and Further. While Jason Ralph doesn’t quite nail the lead and the cast isn’t really diverse, at least the characters are not mere sketches; they are more developed than expected and may anchor the show to success for the network. HIT
Classified as a fantasy drama, Olympus tells Hero’s (Tom York) journey to unlock the home of the gods — Mount Olympus. The show is generously sprinkled with Greek mythology, but the poor production and use of CGI does not bring the myths to life. Hero, prophetess, monsters and CGI oh my! With an average 0.14 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 550,000 viewers for the first season, this show deserves cancellation. While B movies can be fun escapism when done right, when they fail they are excruciating in their attempts to impress. REDICULOUS MISS