The series finale of Stargate: Universe (SGU) aired earlier this week on the SyFy Channel. The finale of SGU heralds the end of not only the Stargate franchise, but a decade of quality programming on the only network dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. Care to take a sad look at where SyFy hyperjumped the shark? Then sit back, relax, enjoy and let The Beefboy do what The Beefboy does best… and that’s break it right on down for you!
The Golden Age
Over a decade ago The Beefboy caught a two-hour special broadcast of Farscape on NBC. I was impressed with the production design and quality of special effects, but I was particularly fascinated with the characters and writing of Farscape. I made the move to the Sci-Fi Channel and quickly became a fan of Sci-Fi Fridays. While Farscape was, and still is, one of my all time favorites, LEXX and Stargate: SG1 captivated me enough to take up that entire block of time and make that night special for me… and many other fans hungry for real science fiction.
Sure, we were subjected to the highs and lows of the Stargate franchise, and crapfests like The Invisible Man and Flash Gordon over the years, but then again we also got five years of the best television series of all time, Battlestar Gallactica! The Sci-Fi Network built a solid brand that kept me coming back every Friday night and, more importantly, courted my interest with new shows, no matter how wonderful or how abysmal they were.
Why Stargate Failed
Stargate: Universe was easily the most mature and developed of any previous incarnations. SGU gave us character development, modern direction, conflict and actors who were capable of delivering real drama. SGU deserved better, but was doomed due to series fatigue (Star Trek: Enterprise suffered from the same malady). What ultimately killed SGU though, was a failure of network branding and that goes straight to the nutsacks in charge of the SyFy network.
Syfy Executives Lose Their Mind
There are so many egregious examples of corporate ineptitude that I hardly have the time to list them all here. SyFy’s original programming has been in steady decline. Doctor Who and Torchwood rebroadcasts certainly propped-up their offerings for a while, but BBC America snatched new episodes for their own channel. Sanctuary is barely watchable and while Warehouse 13 and Eureka have some critical acclaim, they are largely forgettable. What is SyFy’s flagship program? Well now, it’s actually WWE Smackdown and that’s the biggest problem.
Before I get angry letters from pro-wrestling fans, I actually like the WWE, so save your breath. I realize that wrestling brings ratings to SyFy, but so would Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. Where do you draw the line? If you’re just looking for ratings at any cost then why not just create a cooking show with a science fiction theme? Oh… they did that?
SyFy executives are so anxious to spread their legs for anything that promises ratings that they have alienated their base (yes, I intended that one), and perhaps screwed away a decade of brand recognition. Seriously, what’s the difference between SyFy and any other network now? We should have seen the writing on the wall when they changed from “Sci-Fi” to “SyFy”.
Stargate: Universe suffered withering ratings because SyFy no longer had a flagship program, or even a predominant line-up that supported a loyal fan base. Science fiction fans didn’t leave Stargate: Universe, they fled SyFy, and will continue to do so.
The Death of Syfy
It’s with a heavy heart that I proclaim the death of the SyFy channel. As a sci-fi fan (small “s” and small “f”) I’m used to dealing with heartache over fat cats in leather chairs disrespecting the entertainment that I enjoy. However, the betrayal from what was, the network of science fiction and fantasy, is doubly pernicious because over the last decade sci-fi fans adopted the Sci-Fi Channel as our own guilty pleasure.
SyFy is the Sharktopus of cable television; a shitty pathetic knock-off enterprise, content to be nothing, to everyone. Congratulations SyFy, you have successfully captured the zeitgeist of the modern era. You have found a way to fragment and insult your loyal fans, and ultimately drive them to the internet, video games and anywhere else but your network.
I’m sorry to see SyFy become such a joke, but then again, I have so many other great entertainment options now it doesn’t really matter. Hollywood has discovered that geeks have deep pockets and a voracious appetite for fantasy and science fiction. It’s too bad that SyFy forgot that.