Sci-fi and fantasy fans are still licking their wounds from the "Eureka" cancellation last year, only to have "Sanctuary" canceled, as well. The cancellations of "Awake" and "Terra Nova," and a brief final season of "Fringe" does not help matters. Why do so many sci-fi shows have short lives? Why does the one channel sci-fi fans would like to look to for great sci-fi in America play wrestling, reality shows, and cheesy monster movies?
Cost and profit margins
The cancellations of "Sanctuary" and "Eureka" have been blamed on low profit margins. Basically, they are expensive to produce. A show would have to knock ratings out of the park in order to create the level of profit everyone wants to see, and sometimes more than one company is involved. For example, SyFy blamed Comcast, its parent company, for the cancellation of "Eureka."
There are just too many hands in the pie and too many mouths to feed for shows that are not either enormous successes, or extremely cheap to produce. Low-budget movies and reality TV may or may not get more viewers than a fantastic sci-fi show, but they are certainly cheaper to license and produce.
Just not cool enough?
Back when Sci Fi became SyFy, the reasoning was that they wanted to make it seem cool, with SyFy president Dave Howe mentioning that SyFy is how 18-to-34 year olds would tweet the name. One of the channel's creators even mentioned science fiction as being "associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that."
SyFy has not made a very good case for moving away from geek culture to cool Twitter culture when they play a series of movies, such as "Sharktopus." That is exactly the type of movie one would imagine would be watched by antisocial boys in basements.
A much better route would be to make sci-fi cool again. A good sci-fi show is cool anyway. Sci-fi and fantasy shows are the only shows that allow a full range of imagination. True-to-life dramas just aren't enough for sci-fi fans. Sci-fi and fantasy fans want to escape reality for an hour, not see more of it.
Sci-fi TV shows should be marketed as shows that will expand one's imagination, allowing one to not only escape but become more creative, as well. Sci-fi should be billed as important for its thought provocation.
Can they be saved?
All the popular sci-fi shows have strong "Save..." pages on Facebook and other social networks. SaveSanctuary and SaveEureka are already gaining a following. Heck, even the decade-old "Firefly" still has an active petition page. The strongest of these is SaveSGU, with well over 75,000 followers. Even TiVo recognized the fact that "Stargate Universe" and other "Stargate" shows continue to be DVR hits when it comes to 2 a.m. recordings. Even so, none of the networks, nor Netflix, seem to want to budge on these expensive shows.
Maybe (hopefully) one day, a billionaire who truly loves sci-fi will come along and create a new network for sci-fi addicts. Maybe he or she will save some of sci-fi fans' favorite shows and encourage the creation of mind-bending new shows, which will be proudly advertised and shown in prime time. Until then, proud sci-fi geeks will be relegated to scrapping for the last vestiges of sci-fi they can find on BBC America, SyFy, and the other networks.
Image source: SANCTUARY -- Pictured: (l-r) Agam Darshi as Kate Freelander, Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman, Amanda Tapping as Dr. Helen Magnus, Ryan Robbins as Henry -- Syfy Photo: Pete Tangen, Airdates: Fridays on Syfy (10-11 p.m. ET), © NBC Universal, Inc.
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