Syfy Channel Falls Short of the Genre

by Shannon Baldo
Columnist

I’ve said it a thousand times before, and I’ll say it again — science fiction is one hell of a genre. It allows writers to delve into the most extreme and strangest parts of their imaginations, to find something fabulous that would never fit into ordinary contexts, to push their characters and their writing far beyond anything that an average series could possibly hold. This is why some science fiction shows are so incredibly amazing, like “Battlestar Galactica” or “Doctor Who” — the genre itself allows them to stretch into new and phenomenal directions.

So why, for the love of God, can the Syfy channel not understand this?

And I’m not just talking about the Syfy channel original movies here, which I think are universally accepted as terrible and loved in spite of it. (Yes, there is some sort of market for absurdly conceived, badly made movies about “dinocrocs” and “robogators,” and, if nothing else, at least they provide untalented special effects artists a steady income.) And I’m not talking about Syfy’s original series reality shows, like “Ghost Hunters” or “Destination Truth,” because those sadly enough often outdo their brethren on Discovery.

No, I’m criticizing Syfy because of its fiction television, which has certainly fallen short of its professed genre and is making me wonder what happened to all of the great writers who could actually handle science fiction.

Take, for example, the latest Syfy show: “Haven.” FBI agent Audrey Parker travels to the small town of Haven, Maine, for work and instead stumbles upon the area’s biggest secret — that something in the town causes its residents to have supernatural powers. From drawings coming to life to shape-shifters, from a boy who can’t feel pain to a murderous shadow man, nothing in Haven is what it seems — but even less is unexpected. The concept is trite at best, the acting unfortunately mediocre and the scripts even worse. Given the impressive marketing scheme, it seems a fair chunk of Syfy’s budget has gone into this show, but none of it was spent on making it worthwhile.

Even “Eureka,” the Friday block companion to “Haven,” hasn’t shown much promise. Though it has previously stood as one of my favorite current shows, with clever writing and an inventive concept, “Eureka” has entered its fourth season without a strong direction, and even its opening time-travel twist seems less clever than clichéd. Gone are the silly antics of the town klutz, the main character’s awkward attempts to solve problems and even the likeable minor characters of previous seasons, all of which is now replaced with more dramatic plots, more menacing undertones and more severe dialogue. The show certainly can still be saved from its downward spiral, but it may take a lot more work than the channel is willing to fund.

The only saving grace for the network is “Warehouse 13,” a show gleaming with clever writing, great acting and its own goofy, quirky atmosphere one can’t help but find enchanting. Recently finished with its second season, “Warehouse 13” is the unsung hero of the Syfy channel, having gotten better and more popular with each episode since it first premiered. Yet, despite these great ratings, a third season has yet to be announced, and, given all this hesitation, there’s a good chance it will fall in with the rest of science fiction’s tragic cancellations.

Syfy, please snap out of your complacency. You have trademarked a genre for the name of your channel and you are not living up to its reasonably high standards. Stop making awful shows, stop marketing them to death and stop canceling the few shows that viewers actually like.

Syfy, for the love of God, stop making me work so hard to defend you.

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