I realize that a lot of people -- to me, a surprising number -- either hated it, or had no reaction at all. I'm not sure if that had something to do with what people were expecting or what, but I thought it was a fantastic finale. And what Ron Moore was able to do with the twisted mythology of the show was remarkable. Y'know, all the stuff we heard from Anders, about loving perfection and numbers and all that, actually dovetailed into how simple the final explanations were. It was like a unified field theory, where the more dimensions/plot complications there are, the simpler the explanation. Ron Moore did something with the finale that physicists have been trying to do with our universe for decades.
He dealt deftly with philosophy, with Aquinas, Plato and Aristotle in particular, with the different theories of God and creation, like the clockmaker hypothesis, in fieri and in esse. He handled determinism, free will, aspects of reincarnation, Hinduism, Gnosticism. We got the logos, the elohim, deism, theism, Iamblicus. All synthesized and contained and character-driven. I thought it was magic. The circle of life really is a circle. But he also pays lovely homage to the original series, with the fleet moving towards the Sun. The music swells and it's the original score. And the ship configuration is exactly the same as the opening credits for the original show. Not only fucking great, but also something that's emotional and affecting even if you didn't know that.
Galactica ending also signaled the end of the SciFi Channel, at least as it's called the SciFi Channel. As I'm sure everyone knows, they have changed their name to SyFy. According to some focus groups, SyFy sounds cooler than SciFi, proving that focus group people are fucking stupid. They sorta had to change their name, on account of them being sued and not being able to trademark or copyright or whatever the fuck. But they didn't say that. The press releases all talked about how they really wanted to change their name.
But this assumes that the folks at formerly SciFi thought there was something to fix, which makes their job a lot harder. It also opened the floodgates for asshats like Tim Brooks, who used to work for SciFi but doesn't any more. I think you'll see why:
"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," Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel, told TVWeek. "It's somewhat cooler and better than the name 'Science Fiction.' But even the name Sci Fi is limiting."
Oh, Tim. Tim, Tim, Tim. You endless fool.
First of all, SyFy isn't cool because the only thing it stands for is a Polish venereal disease (it's true). SyFy, in English, doesn't mean anything at all. More on that later, though. Let's spend some time taking great offense at what Tim says about science fiction/genre fans.
According to Tim, science fiction is only associated with geeks and dysfunctional boys and video games (how random!). He specifically removes women from people who watch/read science fiction. But look at the genre shows that are on other networks. Take Lost, for example. That's a show that, according to SciFi's parameters, they would put on (and they are airing repeats). Women watch Lost. Women do not, and never will, watch Mansquito. Women did watch Battlestar Galactica. But I doubt very much that the ancient Neilsen system is going to tell you that. Just going by a decades-old ratings system isn't going to give you real information. Grabbing people off the street isn't going to do that, either. What might help, though, is gathering female genre fans and, you know, finding out what THEY like to watch.
Shows like Lost, Buffy and X-Files can serve as gateway shows to SciFi/SyFy. Cable doesn't air the same stuff network does. Cable shows are clearly delineated from network shows. Shouldn't the SciFi/SyFy channel be running the cable versions of shows like Lost? Or Heroes? Or Fringe? Or Sarah Connor? Shouldn't SciFi/SyFy have been the place for Pushing Daisies? Assuming, right out of the gate, that women hate science fiction and only psychopaths watch it is why Mansquito's on. If you make Mansquito, then you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy there, aren't you? People who love the genre thought SciFi was created to avoid the cheesy shit but instead, it's all cheesy shit.
There's nothing limiting about science fiction. Well, I guess there is, if you think it's all about space and ships and mansquitos. But the tagline,"imagine greater," has some issues, in that I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. "Imagine greater" than what? What are you telling me to do here?
I would think they'd be focused on holding the departing Battlestar Galactica audience. Maybe Caprica will do it, but Galactica existed outside the realm a little bit, because it was a remake of another show. It wasn't something a writer came and pitched. It was a property they owned. I dunno. Maybe they should just rifle through the library and reimagine everything. Maybe the tagline should be "reimagine greater."
Galactica had a huge uphill road just to get an audience, though, and I wish the network saw that and appreciated it. Because it wasn't the name recognition that made the show something to talk about. It became that IN SPITE of the name, because it had to overcome an expectation of cheesiness. What worked with the show wasn't distinctly about spaceships or special effects. It was about characters, and writing. Because science fiction is ALWAYS about characters. If you don't know this, then you aren't paying attention. Now, the network doesn't want to do another show like Galactica and on some level, I totally understand why. They really did love the show, and they desperately wanted it to do better. It didn't, so as a money-making venture, as a business, they don't want that business model.
I'm sorry serialized drama doesn't do better and I know they want shows that are more episodic and close-ended, but they're still a genre network and genre works best when it's serialized. I don't know if there's any way to come to grips with this, to strike some sort of a balance, but I think it's important. The network distinguished itself critically with Galactica, even though the fucking Academy and all those assholes didn't acknowledge it. I'd hate to see them cut off their nose, etc.
The advantage of a cable network, especially with genre, is that they'll leave shows on. A lot of fans won't bother to watch genre on a network, especially in the age of DVD. Why invest, when a network's so quick to cancel a show?
Here's an excerpt from an interview with SciFi president David Howe:
As the SCI FI Channel, we've always defined the sci-fi genre very broadly. Some of you may disagree, but we believe that sci-fi includes fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, superhero, horror and quite a lot of speculative action and adventure. Since we launched 16 years ago, we've always carried this broad range of sci-fi/fantasy programming on our air. So the mix of shows isn't new and won't change in the future.
The challenge for our brand is that many non-SCI FI Channel viewers think "sci-fi" is only about space, aliens and the future. (Those are the actual words many people use in focus groups.) They still only expect to see reruns of Star Trek on something called the SCI FI Channel.
So we believe that by evolving our branding, we'll be able to encourage more viewers to check us out and watch the broad range of shows on our air. And that includes our hit reality shows—such as Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth—which are rooted in the supernatural: ghosts, myths and legends. And because our new brand is less literal than the letters "sci-fi," it's actually catching up with our current range of programming and makes more sense to new viewers. And by expanding our audience, this will help us grow as a business.
When the public reads this, they think, "Gee... I like all that stuff. But it's not on the SciFi Channel." And it's true. Every network, even a cable network, has a mandate, a list of things they're looking for. You would think that you COULD pitch all of these things to the SciFi Channel but the reality is, you can't. Their paradigm doesn't include supernatural shows, or horror. They don't want superheroes, vampires or werewolves. Yet, what's funny is, they will air Lost, Moonlight and Haunted. That conflict is a bigger problem than anything else.
If they put on a supernatural show, or a horror show, or a time travel show or whatever, then people would start to think of SciFi as more than spaceships and aliens. Put on the supernatural equivalent of Battlestar Galactica. Break boundaries. Look at AMC, for example. Nobody knows what the fuck their brand is, but they have two of the best -- if not THE best -- dramas on TeeVee.
Their miniseries get huge numbers. That should tell them something. It also gives them a new way to develop, to try stuff out. Order a limited series -- a mini, or a six hour -- and see what the response is. See if it's a viable series. You know it'll most likely get great numbers, so you're already making money there. And with the added possibility of an actual series, well... seems like a win-win.
Yes, we did extensive research with our core audience. Here are three quotes from sci-fi fans that are a good summary of what we heard:
"SCI FI sounds very generic, sounds basic. Syfy sounds cool, cutting edge, ... the cool thing you want to be associated with."
No. IT SOUNDS EXACTLY THE SAME!
Look. If focus group testing worked, then any show that was a hit with thirteen people in a flat little room would be a hit with everybody. But we know that's not the case. It's also dangerous because you're asking them to think about something they have never thought about. Nobody goes, "Gosh, I'd watch that channel but the name doesn't sound very cool and I don't like spaceships." You are forcing them to articulate an instinct, something for which they literally have no words or thoughts. And then you base your network on that.
Another way to get genre fans to the network -- the first step on their way to growing the audience -- is to get the right people selling shows. In genre more than anywhere else, fans revere their creators. If they get JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, other Trek people, anyone considered a star of the genre, the fans will follow. Obviously, the work will need to be good to keep them, but getting them there is the first step, yes?
I desperately want this network to succeed. I shower them with kudos for Battlestar Galactica. And I only hope that they don't stop there.
np -- some bizarre distant hammering. WTF?