Why SyFy Needs a Eureka Moment

If you are a geek, the news that SyFy cancelled Eureka probably isn’t news anymore (If it is, well, better we ripped that band-aid off before you kept reading).  And you likely know that the PTBs have “graciously” granted the show an extra episode in it’s sixth season to wrap everything up.  Which, quite frankly, is the least they could do, considering they waited to announce this decision at the end of shooting for Season 6.

The cast and crew of Eureka have publicly been very positive about the whole thing, despite some of them finding out about the cancellation via Twitter (sorry, Erica Cerra).  And really I would expect nothing less from the people that have entertained me so well over the seasons.  They are consummate professionals, wishing to leave the series with their heads held high and not mired in acrimony.  Being neither professional nor answerable to SyFy, I don’t have that problem.  So speaking only for myself, but likely echoing a number of Eureka fans, I just have to ask:

What the @%$# is your problem, SyFy?

Eureka is one of their most popular shows, with (if the reaction to cancellation is an indicator) a varied, enthusiastic and loyal following.  Even SyFy acknowledges that, claiming the only area in which Eureka under-performs is cost.

Okay, valid point.  No matter how popular the show, if it costs too much to make then SyFy has to drop it.  Sure, I can buy that.  It isn’t as if there were other projects that could be down-sized or even scrapped in order to free up funds for a more popular show.  After all, how could we expect them to put aside quality movies like Meteor or Stonehenge Apocolypse in order to properly fund a series watched as more than drinking-game fodder?  Why, that kind of thinking would have deprived us of Killer Mountain, premiering this Saturday.  And obviously they should cancel Eureka before losing any of the three Ghost Hunter shows they carry.  God bless SyFy for keeping us safe from the phantom menace (though not from The Phantom Menace, sadly).

Or could it be that Eureka got cancelled because it was so popular?  It doesn’t take a GD scientist (pun intended) to see that Sci Fi…sorry, SyFy, has been re-branding themselves.  Bad enough they shame-changed their name. (SyFy? Really?  That’s like that annoying kid in your high school named Steven who spends one summer break in Europe, and insists his name is now pronounced “SteFAWN”.)  But the addition of shows like WWE Smackdown and a kludge of paranormal/urban legend “reality” programming shows that SyFy’s heart just isn’t in science fiction anymore.  And if it continued to carry a great sci-fi show like Eureka, they might be in the awkward position of supporting something they don’t really care about anymore. Heck, we geeks might even insist they make more great sci-fi, and then they’d really be in trouble.

So for me, it comes down to one of two possibilities. Either the people in charge at SyFy are making a tremendously stupid business decision, or they are following their re-branding strategy.  I could be completely wrong on both counts, and there could be a third or fourth possibility I don’t see from my position outside looking in.  But for right now all I see is a station cancelling a hit television series based on their bad economics.  Whether that’s from stupidity or malevolence, doesn’t matter much to me.

But SyFy, I think you need to take a second and consider your future.  There are already many stations carrying the reality-porridge you are so eager to add to your line-up.  And there will always be people ready, willing and able to make bad sci-fi, disaster and monster movies (cthulhu bless them!).  But there is no one out there doing what you used to do, back when you went by Sci Fi; you wowed people with your Dune mini-series, for instance.  You have a chance to create truly unique programming, about subjects and in ways that both entertain and make people think.  If you were truly focused on your job, we’d be watching Walking Dead and Game on Thrones on you, or some other equally amazing series we hadn’t heard of yet.  Maybe you need to take some time to think about that.

Maybe you just need to take your own slogan to heart, and imagine greater.

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Comments? Counterpoints? I’d love to hear them!

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3 thoughts on “Why SyFy Needs a Eureka Moment

  1. The thing is, though… Eureka ISN’T a hit. It’s a moderately successful basic cable show. Why does Ghost Hunters survive? Because it pulls in about an extra half million or more (~25% Eureka’s) viewers a week for less money.

    None of this means that Eureka isn’t a great show. Lots of great shows have died. However, it does mean that the economics behind it are less straightforward than you might make it seem. Nobody’s jumping to pick it up. That could mean something.

    Ultimately, after all the dust has settled, this might just have to be a lesson that geek outrage doesn’t mean anything. We like to think it does. We like to think we “run things now.” It can seem like we do when we follow a lot of popular geeks like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton on Twitter and other cool people we like talk to them. In reality, movies like Spider-Man and the Dark Knight don’t break box office records because geeks see them; they do it because everybody ELSE does. No matter how much geeks complained, The Last Airbender still made $320 million despite some geeks organizing a boycott. And that’s the reason why the bulk of the top-rated shows are what they are.

    In the end, when it bows, Eureka will have been on the air for 7 years. That’s pretty cool.

    • Ultimately what I’m most concerned about is not the power of geek outrage; I long ago stopped believing that did anything. I’m concerned at the dumbing down of a genre that I love, and SyFy’s decision to cancel shows like Eureka (and Stargate Universe before that) in favour of reality television and low-quality movies is propagating a trend that disturbs me.

      Do they have the right to do it? Absolutely. It’s their network (well, NBC’s, actually) and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise. But I think that constantly moving away from the type of programming that got them started and made them popular is a mistake. And one that will ultimately cost them in the end. This was the network that brought us Battlestar Galactica, after all, arguably one of the most compelling sci-fi series in the last decade. That was the type of programming that got them noticed and talked about. When was the last time anyone lauded them for Ghost Hunters International? It’s also interesting to note that in 2010, they had no show listed in the Top 20 Primetime Original Series (and yes, that includes Eureka). Given the trend, is that any surprise?

      When it comes down to it, I wrote my blog post because I like Eureka and I’m sorry to see it go. But underlying that is a bigger issue that has nothing to do with geek outrage or accommodating us. Of the thirteen shows SyFy is looking to launch next, nine of them are reality shows. This, from a network that brought us BSG and Dune, once upon a time.

      So ultimately, I’m disappointed in a network that has pissed away its chance to be something great for a shot at rank mediocrity. Because that choice, as much as it is their right to make it, deprives us of some truly great stories.

  2. Good points! I agree with you that they used to be something. I also think they could be the leader in science fiction. They have allowed other networks to steal the thunder, when they have a booming market. With the recent success of Lost and movies filled with amazing science fiction, they should be capitalizing on it. Glad to see there are others out there fighting the good fight!

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