Monday, January 07, 2008

An Open Letter to The Sci-Fi Channel

[Crossposted from]

Dearest Sci-Fi,

Why are you not way more awesome?

Don't get me wrong, when you're good—like with Battlestar Galactica or Eureka (and I'll even give you credit for Doctor Who, despite that being a BBC show you just imported)—you're a phenomenal destination network. But let's be honest here, there's not a lot of "good" on your schedule. The Stargate franchise is stale, Flash Gordon is a derisible, stillborn remake, and ECW Wrestling is…wrestling! (And I swore an oath never to speak of Who Wants to Be a Superhero again.)

The thing that infuriates me is that you have so much potential. We're living in the Age of the Geek, where pop culture has finally come around to our way of thinking. Where the most-watched shows on TV are geek-nip like Heroes, Lost, and Bionic Woman; where we buzz about movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Spider-Man, I Am Legend, and Iron Man. The audience could not be more primed for this material, so why are you offering them Ghost Hunters International and crappy "original movies" like Mansquito?

Again, why aren't you more awesome? Why aren't you adapting more classic sci-fi texts—like you did with Dune—into miniseries events? (Ones that, hopefully, will fare better than Tin Man.) Where's the Foundation saga, or Ender's Game, or Footfall, or The Man in the High Castle, or The Forever War?

Why aren't you engaging today's premiere purveyors of genre material and giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I'd watch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, Neal Stephenson, or China Mieville. The names alone would attract viewers by the truckload. And even if what they produced were failures, they'd be interesting failures—marked by reaching too far, instead of not far enough.

Why don't you try a daily sci-fi soap opera? Airing late at night, so people could actually be home to watch it—or DVR it. Why can't the same kind of serial storytelling that's worked for 50 years on shows like General Hospital be marshaled to create compelling science fiction? (Actually, I've got to give Evan Narcisse a tip of the hat for this one. Because I'm just that kind of bloke.)

Mark Harris was right when he said that science fiction needed to ditch the nostalgia if it's going to reclaim its integrity. Lucky for those of us who love sci-fi that there's a whole network devoted to it. I just want them to fulfill their mandate.

Imagine that. (No, seriously. Get to work imagining.)

1 comment:

Cunningham said...

To quote Dave Howe, General Manager at Sci Fi (From the 2007 AFM issue of C21 magazine)

"People assume science fiction is about space, aliens and the future, one that is dark, cold and geeky," says Dave Howe, general manager at Sci Fi,"But we took the decision to be none of the above, and attract a broader more mainstream audience."

"We are interested in character driven dramas, set primarily in the here and now on Earth or an Earth-like planet, creating situations that are contemporary and relatable to today's audience," explains Howe. "The show may feature characters and situations that are classed as sci fi fantasy, but they must be very grounded and real."

"What tends to do a lot of these shows in is that they rest on the cliche'd stereotypes of scifi and are over reliant on science, technology and aliens, " observes Howe.

Howe adds:"The more time I spend here, the more I realise the potential that the genre has for audiences and viewers who don't think it's for them."