Caprica canceled: What the frak is happening to sci-fi TV?
So Syfy has officially canceled Caprica, citing poor ratings and a decline in viewership leading to viewing numbers too low to justify more episodes. In what seems like a little bit of a “Frak you” to fans, Syfy has also announced that, effective immediately, they will not be airing any of the already-produced episodes, instead choosing to burn them off sometime in 2011.
The popular thing these days when a show is canceled is to start a fan campaign to try to get the network to reverse the decision to cancel the show. Fan campaigns, with the notable exception of the resurrection of Jericho, are largely unsuccessful. Sci-fi fans are notoriously dedicated to their favorite shows, though, and there are already several fan campaigns in action to try to “Save Caprica.” Whether or not the show can be saved remains to be seen, but the cancellation of Caprica is indicative of a larger problem for sci-fi fans: Why do our shows keep getting canceled?
Critics of the re-branded SyFy channel generally have the same (valid) complaints. First and foremost: shouldn’t a channel positioning itself as the place for science fiction actually, you know, have some science fiction programming? A look at their program lineup shows, among other things, WWE wrestling, a couple of reality-type shows, and four different versions of Ghost Hunters. Their original movies are awful almost to the point of intentional parody of the genre, their miniseries have been hit-or-miss, and their original series are uneven at best. Battlestar Galactica was arguably their biggest hit and their most well-made, well-written, well-produced, and well-acted series of all. The network was clearly trying to capitalize on BSG‘s success with Caprica, as well as the upcoming Blood & Chrome, both taking place in the BSG-verse. The only current original series I’m enjoying are Warehouse 13 and Eureka. Haven is getting better, but took most of a season to really get into its own groove.
I’m sort of conflicted as to whether or not I want Caprica to be “saved.” It took me a while to get into the story, and it often more resembled a soap opera than science fiction, but I’m an ardent believer in producing and supporting as much sci-fi on TV as possible. There has to be a smart, engaging alternative to the endless number of reality shows and dozens of versions of procedural dramas that make up current TV viewing options. Trying to build support for shows outside of those formulas takes a little extra work, though, and things like lengthy mid-season breaks, changing broadcast days and times, and showing more promotional support for professional wrestling and paranormal reality shows on your own network don’t help build a strong, loyal audience. There’s a market for quality sci-fi TV series, but it seems with each cancellation that networks are unwilling to give shows a chance to find their footing, and to give the viewership a little more credit than to assume that sci-fi, excuse me SyFy, fans don’t want more, and better quality, science fiction TV. Every time a sci-fi show gets canceled prematurely, I fear we’re taking another step away from an entertainment culture that produces and supports programming that’s outside of the reality show/procedural norm.
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