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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

because Syfy really hates sci-fi, and its viewers

Okay, I’m a dork: I know this. But I’m typically out most nights of the week at screenings, and I really look forward to vegging on the sofa on Friday nights. Of late, this has involved some Syfy original programming: Caprica, Eureka, Stargate Universe, etc.

This will soon end (via the L.A. Times blog Company Town):

Syfy Channel has pinned a deal for “Smackdown.”

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc’s “Smackdown,” which for years was a mainstay on the UPN and CW networks before moving to News Corp.’s My Network TV, is now headed to NBC Universal’s Syfy Channel, people close to the situation said.

Although “Smackdown” is more than 10 years old, it still does very well with men, particularly the 18-34 demographic, and generally averages about 3.5 million viewers overall. “Smackdown” will continue to air on Friday nights when it moves to Syfy later this year, most likely in either late September or early October.

(emphasis mine)
More details from Airlock Alpha:

So Syfy, in picking up the show from its previous home on MyNetworkTV, keeps its commitment to having wrestling on a channel that’s supposed to be about science-fiction, but now has to find a new home for its Friday original programming.

The new home? Tuesdays.

That’s right, beginning in October, shows like “Caprica,” “Stargate: Universe” and “Sanctuary” will no longer be found competing against the junk that makes up Friday network programming. Instead, these shows will have to go against the “NCIS” and “Grey’s Anatomy” of the world.

Perhaps Syfy should consider yet another name-change: maybe “Unsyfy”?

I can pretty much guarantee to Syfy that I won’t be watching their original programming on Tuesday nights: I’ll still be watching it, on my DVR, on Friday night.

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

(Thanks to Ken for alerting me to this atrocity.)



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  • bronxbee

    i still recall my excitement when back many, many years ago (mid 90s?) the flyers and ads for the SciFi channel started appearing at conventions and in my sunday paper (i know… a paper!) and how i was sooo hoping my local cable channel would pick it up and there would be eternal re-runs of Star Trek and Quantum Leap and Twilight Zone… not to mention the excitement of “original” programming. i hoped for mini-series or even season long filmd versions of my favorite scifi books. hah!

    and now…what? no more Doctor Who (and my cable doesn’t get BBCA) and we’re reduced to wrestling? wrestling? i despair, really.

  • Keith

    We should start calling it “The channel formerly known as Sci-Fi.”

  • Maybe we should trade the wrestling for a 4 hour block of music videos that MTV doesn’t want to show anymore.

    We need the FCC to first ensure Net Neutrality, and then get back over on the cable networks and straighten this mess up. What’s next, “Ashley Judd In Danger” Lifetime movies on ESPN?!

  • This is the final hint that SyFy is uninterested in any sort of SF programming, but in fact is looking for the stupidest demographic. Reality shows and wrestling ought to get those room-temp IQs glued to the set. Looks like even poorly rendered giant bugs chasing screaming girls is too sophisticated for their desired audience.

    Which is OK – lately the only show I’ve been interested in is Eureka, but god knows what heinous product placement deal is going to make it a 13 episode commercial this season.

    Forget it SF, I’m headed over to BBCA where they have TNG reruns and Who. I’m sad for those of you stuck in NYC with no BBCA.

  • Vader77

    … this started about three years ago when you were finding NON sci-fi shows and programming on the then Sci-Fi channel…. It has come to the basic premise that this “channel” is more concerned with numbers, than the shows and programming that once gave “US” our unique own channel……. make me sick that this happened, used to love the quircky original shows, as well as Battlestar and Warehouse 13…… I would very much like them to COMPLETELY change the name of the station to NOTHING resembling Sci-Fi….. change it to NBC-Lite or CW-NBC, or Craptastic television. XD

  • Dave

    I truthfully haven’t watched anything on SyFy in years. I never could get into Battlestar or Stargate and honestly the rest of their schedule has been junk for a long time. I long for the days when they’d show a run of an old one season Scifi show every day of the week and then move on to the next. Where else am I going to see Automan or Manimal. Sure they were terrible shows but they are millions of times better than those horrible movies they make now.

    The funniest part of the WWE deal is that one of the reasons they said they were changing to SyFy was to attract more Women because alot of women are supposedly not interested in SciFi (there words NOT mine) I’m sure that Smackdown has a great womens demographic. That’s almost as funny as when E! dumped Howard Stern saying they were moving to a more highbrow schedule and then put on things like The Girls Next Door.

  • FunWithHeadlines

    What is it with TV networks? Either stand for something, or admit you’ll show anything for money.

    TV Exec 1: “Wow, puppy videos are huge in the 18-34 demo! Let’s put on a puppy bloc on Fridays.”

    TV Exec 2: “But we are the Cat Channel.”

    TV Exec 1: “And?…”

    They have a name for people who do anything for money…

  • They have a name for people who do anything for money

    Politicians?

    Here’s a suggestion, kiddies. Call your cable provider and see if we can switch out Not-SciFi as it’s now useless and see if we can get the Anime Network instead.

    What do you mean, Anime Network is only showing golf tournaments?!

  • Didn’t SyFy change its name so it wasn’t stuck doing JUST sci-fi/horror stuff? That’s what I thought their intention was.

    And as apparently the only wrestling fan that reads this site, I’m not mad at all with that change. Wrestling guarantees SyFy ratings, and it costs next to nothing. I admit wrestling has been going down a bad road since 1998, but to imply it’s “stupid” is insulting. There’s a lot more there than you realize.

  • Knightgee

    I don’t mind this if it means SYFY has more to work with money-wise, which can lead to more original programming. I don’t watch SyFy the channel anyway because I don’t have the channel at university and I haven’t for years, using mostly online providers, like the recent Hulu, to watch their original programming, so maybe that’s why I’m so apathetic about this. Call me when they decide to flat out cancel a show in favor of something like wrestling and then I might start accusing them of betraying their fanbase. Until then, this just seems like SyFy trying to make a little cash, which I don’t have a problem with. It’s not like these programs won’t be run and re-run a gazillion times.

  • allochthon

    Ug.
    I’ve been following Craig Engler (a senior VP at unSyfy) on twitter (http://twitter.com/Syfy) and he’s recently written some posts on BoingBoing about how the industry “works.”

    While I understand where he’s coming from (“this is how the business works, sorry”) I’m incredibly sad that he and the channel aren’t doing more to change it. So much for Imagine Greater [sic].

    They pander to all I hate about Science Fiction (i.e. big boobs and steroided, chisel-jawed white-boy heroes), and only rarely focus on the good (eg. BSG).

    They’re losing their young, smart, disposable income viewers with all this crap. Losing them to Netflix and torrents. If *anyone* needs to figure out how to monetize streaming video, it’s them.

  • allochthon

    A nice rebuttal to the last BoingBoing post, by SF-Fandom.

    Money quote:

    “It’s not the [SF] fans’ fault that the television networks and studios still cannot figure out how to do 21st century marketing.”

  • Maybe if SyFy’s original programming is going up against major network programming it will spur them to make better programs. Friday night is a death slot for science fiction, as Joss Whedon shows on FOX repeatedly prove. Maybe this is a sign that SyFy wants to grow up and compete against the big boys.

    Or it will spur them to replace their original programming with cheaper reruns.

    I’m not exactly holding my breath for the first option, but I don’t think this is necessarily the disaster everyone claims it is.

    Besides, wrestling is totally SFnal.

  • Addendum, re: Dave:

    The funniest part of the WWE deal is that one of the reasons they said they were changing to SyFy was to attract more Women because alot of women are supposedly not interested in SciFi (there words NOT mine) I’m sure that Smackdown has a great womens demographic.

    Actually, wrestling has a huge female fanbase, about 40% according to the reports I can find easily.

    I’m not a wrestling fan myself, but I’ve got some exposure to it. You should take another look — it’s more complicated than you think. This podcast about a talk wrestler Mick Foley gave at MIT may be a good place to start:

    http://cms.mit.edu/news/2007/04/the_real_worlds_faker_than_wre.php#more

  • Todd

    Another WTF: Why exactly is BBC America showing Star Trek: TNG? Is it just because Patrick Stewart is English?

  • RyanMcN

    Well, if you’re looking for a real scifi station, I recommend bugging your cable provider to carry Space, the Canadian scifi network.

    It’s run by people with respect for their viewers and their programming. Everything they air is clearly aimed at scifi/fantasy/horror fans…

  • BBQ Platypus

    What? You mean the executives of the Syfy channel made a boneheaded decision?

    I’m shocked.

  • MaryAnn

    Well, if you’re looking for a real scifi station, I recommend bugging your cable provider to carry Space, the Canadian scifi network.

    If only that might actually work. But I’ve never heard of an American cable company carrying a non-American network.

  • robinhood

    Why should everyone be surprised about the Sci-fi channel showcasing wrestling? A&E and Bravo has culturally deprived us with those stupid reality shows. The Style channel has nothing to do with fashion. Once Sci-fi changed it’s logo to SyFy, red flags showed have gone up. What the hell is a Syfy?

  • Dave

    re: Kevin – I know they have a large fanbase RAW is always the number 1 cable show and I’m sure it will increase SyFy’s ratings. That wasn’t my point. My point is one of the reasons they said they were changing from SyFy is because they weren’t attracting enough women. I don’t have the numbers but I’m sure that WWE draws at least 75% men and probably more. This either means they’ve given up trying for the hard to get women or lied the first time.

    Also I’ve watched wrestling in the past and hold nothing against it except that like Soap Operas they keep retreading the same storylines with different people in them. I happened on one of the shows about a month ago and literally it could have been a show from when I was watching close to 10 years ago.

  • markyd

    lol at the guys claiming there’s more to wrestling than we think. wtf?! Sure, there’s all sorts of behind the scenes work that goes on to make sure the play runs smoothly, but COME ON. What you see on your tv screen is nothing more than a goofy soap opera with guys pretending to beat each other up. I know because my brothers and I actually watched this crap when we were kids. The whole Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant era. We were entertained. Nowadays I demand a bit more from my entertainment. I truly wonder about those who don’t.
    One of my favorite channels is Chiller. Not exactly sci-fi, but they play nothing but horror and horror related shows. Some if it could qualify as fantasy and/or sci-fi. Good stuff.

  • RyanT

    Maybe they thought now that Lost is gone, there’s a vacuum on Tuesdays for some sci-fi/fantasy fans. Plus Buffy the Vampire Slayer was also a staple on Tuesday nights back in the day. So maybe it’s not AS left field as everyone’s thinking.

    I still agree with those that think wrestling on SyFy is ridiculous, but it’s not as if they’re outright canceling sci-fi original shows either.

  • stryker1121

    You are not alone, J Sullivan…there is another wrestling fan on this site whose IQ is at least slightly above room temperature.

    FYI–this is not the network’s first foray into wrestling. For several years on Tuesday nights, SyFy had an hour of another WWE property, Extreme Championship Wrestling, which was recently cancelled.

  • Dave, as I said, the numbers I was able to find suggest that the WWE’s audience is about 40% women. Consider this data for the wwe.com site, which I can’t find any credible reason to believe would significantly differ from the audience for the show:

    http://adsales.wwe.com/research/
    http://www.quantcast.com/wwe.com

    And in fact one of SyFy’s stated reasons for adding the WWE is that it’s popular with the female demographic.

    The fantastical thrills of ‘Friday Night SmackDown’ provide an ideal addition to the Syfy slate, as it targets the younger male and female demographics, which are the fastest growing categories for WWE. With Tuesday night, a proven winner for our original drama series including ‘Warehouse 13,’ there is bigger opportunity for series such as ‘Stargate Universe,’ ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Caprica’ to thrive on a night with a significantly larger number of viewers available to watch live.”

    I really don’t think this is the disaster you’re saying it is.

    MaryAnn: If only that might actually work. But I’ve never heard of an American cable company carrying a non-American network.

    Is BBC America a counter-example to this? (Clearly the Canadians need to start Space America…)

  • bronxbee

    My point is one of the reasons they said they were changing from SyFy is because they weren’t attracting enough women.

    from everything i read, the reason for the change was to enable the station to do more “branding”, which would give them a wider scope for product tie-ins, original materials, and other things that they could then make a profit from, which they couldn’t do using the common phrase “scifi” — not to attract more female audience members. why would anyone — even a marketing person — think that “SyFy” would attract women? it looks like shorthand for an STD… better programming (like BSG, SG:U and Caprica) *that* would attract women. (at least smart ones with disposable income, anyway).

  • Dave

    “The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

    That’s just the first justification quote I could find. I’m sure there are more.

  • Only 40%? I remember reading an article (too long ago to find it again, sorry), that at one point women made up 60% of Pro-W fandom. That was why they started wearing the costumes and added story lines for emotional context to the fights; to appeal to their female fan base.

    I wonder if they ever just went ahead and named a Pro-W “Alpha Male.” That’s what it’s all about.

  • @markyd

    There’s a whole psychology to HOW they pretend to beat each other up and it’s an actual artform, whether you want to believe it or not. The way characters are created and the way matches are set up is to provoke an emotional response, they aren’t fake fighting for the sake of fake fighting.

    As an example, think about the Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant feud to begin with when you were a kid. Andre was a larger than life character both figuratively and literally, undefeated but beloved by everyone. Then he decides that one day it’s not good enough for him. He’s never going to get a shot to become World Champion, something that has eluded him his whole career, if he plays by the rules and stays friends with Hulk Hogan, who is the champion and main guy at the time.

    So Andre gives in to wanting the glory that comes with being a champion, aligning himself with a hated manager and turning his back on the fans BECAUSE he feels that is the only way he will get a shot. Furthermore, he turns on his former best friend and ally Hulk Hogan, which instantly gets him even more hated by the fans because that is THE guy and you don’t mess with him.

    That feud was built around many different ideas. First, you got Andre’s greed and quest for something he never attained despite being such a big attraction. Next, you have Hogan’s plight, which is twofold: first, his friend has betrayed him and he has to deal with that…PLUS since Andre has been near unbeatable his whole career, he has to deal with the pressure of being an underdog, which is something he has not had to struggle with since becoming a champion. Sure, he’s had other challengers, but this is ANDRE THE GIANT and no one beats him. No one.

    It’s a Davey/Goliath story with some added emotional impact. I admit the new stuff lacks the same oomph, but all the great feuds of the past (Hogan/Andre, Austin/McMahon) have been built on psychological grounds, either between the two competitors and of their fans as well.

    You may see it as just two people playfighting with hokey acting, but there’s more than that and once again, it is insulting to insinuate wrestling has no possibility of depth.

  • I_Sell_Books

    I gotta go with both MaryAnn and Jonathan on this one. I guess I’m just befuddled that this is the conclusion SyFy reaches, rather than going for original, if much cheaper, BBC-in-the-70’s style entertainment. Sooper dooper graphic effects aren’t the end all and be all of science fiction…

    …or hasn’t anyone told them that?

  • Well, there’s people who look to science fiction for wonder and imagination and people who look to science fiction for action movies with bigger explosions and badder ass bad guys. For better and for worse, the latter often seem to be the ones signing the checks.

  • CB

    It’s a Davey/Goliath story with some added emotional impact.

    Emotional and literal, physical impacts. Forget a stupid sling. That body slam will go down in effing history!

    I mean it’s easy to poke fun at how fake wrestling is (which is why I like doing it…). But Hogan actually picked Andre up and slammed him. That’s epic reality there.

    Well, there’s people who look to science fiction for wonder and imagination and people who look to science fiction for action movies with bigger explosions and badder ass bad guys. For better and for worse, the latter often seem to be the ones signing the checks.

    Is it wrong of me to want both? Like, a lot? Is it wrong if I’m willing to sacrifice a little on one to get the other, too?

    Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a fan of wrestling appearing on sci-fi. It was pretty awesome when I was 10, but now…

  • JohnnyInc

    I dropped my cable service when I moved into my house 3 years ago. I am all the happier for it. These days I watch shows the next day on Hulu or *cough* torrents. I gave up on sci-fi when they cancelled Farscape. I tried watching Sanctuary and SGU on Hulu but didn’t like them. SGU’s writing is just god-awful. I think Eureka is the only thing I watch that syfy makes.

  • AJP

    It’s a Davey/Goliath story with some added emotional impact. I admit the new stuff lacks the same oomph, but all the great feuds of the past (Hogan/Andre, Austin/McMahon) have been built on psychological grounds, either between the two competitors and of their fans as well.

    They’re not actually competitors, any more than Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed were competitors. They are actors in a badly written soap opera. The fued is just a script. The “champion” is just the guy that the writers picked for the part. The body slam looks cool, but it is just a staged stunt.

  • No one here is proposing that the fights are real, AJP; at least, I don’t think they are.

    There used to be a pro-wrestling camp for kids. They were taught how to fall without getting hurt, how to fight without hurting each other, all that stuff. My father walked through it and saw kids practicing their fake pain, literally rolling around making noises as if really hurt. At the end of the summer, parents were invited for a show, and it was considered a failure if at least one parent didn’t jump up and run to the ring, convinced that her son had been hurt.

  • CB

    The body slam looks cool, but it is just a staged stunt.

    And?

  • markyd

    Wow, Jonathon, that explanation was epic. Thing is…I understand what your saying. But if I’m looking for drama and a good story, Wrestling is certainly not the first thing that pops in my head. I’d rather read a book, watch a movie, or play a game. No matter how “good” the soap opera may be, it’s still wrestling.
    I enjoyed this stuff when I was a kid because I didn’t know any better. I had no idea all that was out there that was SO much better. Better acting. Better writing. Better everything!
    If some of you enjoy it, then more power to you. I just think there are far better things to spend my time doing.

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