Criticizing the Syfy channel in the SF community is almost like fulfilling a requirement for entry. After all, the channel plays more wrestling and phony ghost-hunting/crypto-BS than any other channel on cable, which makes it really easy to hate if you’re not into such things. It wasn’t always that way, though. I remember watching old science fiction classics on Scifi (the name it used to have before they went moron and came up with Syfy). Godzilla, cheezy 80s flicks, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. All of those wonderful shows were there. Now? Not so much.
But is Syfy detrimental to science fiction as a genre? Kyle Mizokami thinks so. One of his recent tweets reads as follows:
Syfy’s express purpose seems to be to destroy the genre of science fiction.
Mizokami is certainly being facetious here, but it might be worth wondering whether Syfy, in a general sense, is good for science fiction. I highly doubt the creators or its current “controllers” intend to destroy SF, since that would make their station pointless, but they certainly have made many decisions which many would consider damaging to SF, or, at the very least, damn well questionable.
In defense of Syfy, I think it’s necessary to point out that they are the only station dedicated to
producing original SF/F television. They’ve brought us the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and various incarnations of Stargate, saved Sliders from certain incomplete death, and created numerous other wholly original series (some of them, I’m told, are damned good), movies (most of which aren’t so great), and so on. True, they’ve resorted to playing wrestling and other garbage, but it’s the only channel that actually plays science fiction on a routine basis, and maintains SF/F series as part of its “package.” Most of the major networks haven’t a clue what to do with genre when they have it and that means most of the genre shows that appear there are canceled in quick order. I’d argue that cable television is where all good genre television goes to live, while network television is where it goes to die.
That said, I do think we have a lot to be concerned about with Syfy. Rather than play SF/F classics in poor-performing slots (to boost ratings, as I see it), they’ve gone towards “popular” things like wrestling, paranormal investigation nonsense, and so on. I think this is a bad thing for the station in general, but it is also worrying for SF/F fans, since it means the one network devoted to what they love is putting too much attention into junk that should show up elsewhere. Throw in the fact that their TV movies are more often than not just this side of kill-yourself-awful and it’s hard to think of Syfy as a channel that knows what it is doing. Quality television and quality re-run selection is absolutely crucial for SF/F.
In general, I disagree with Mizokami. I don’t think Syfy is damaging SF…yet. But it has the potential to ruin genre television if it isn’t careful. It’s hard to call Syfy the worst TV station on cable when it wasn’t all that long ago that the greatest science fiction show in the history of television graced their channel (BSG). But when you watch something like Battle of Los Angeles, which is possibly the worst film ever made, what else are you supposed to think other than “they really don’t give a crap?”
What do you think? Is Syfy bad for science fiction?