An Open Letter to the Sci-Fi Channel

Flash_lDearest 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 (left) 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? After the jump, some friendly advice.

Why aren’t you adapting more classic sci-fi texts—like you did withDune—into miniseries events? (Ones that, hopefully, will fare betterthan Tin Man.) Where’s the Foundation saga, or Ender’s Game, orFootfall, or The Man in the High Castle, or The Forever War?

Why aren’t you engaging today’s premiere purveyors of genre materialand giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I’dwatch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, WilliamGibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, NealStephenson, 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, sopeople could actually be home to watch it—or DVR it. Why can’t the samekind of serial storytelling that’s worked for 50 years on shows like GeneralHospital be marshaled to create compelling science fiction? (Actually,I’ve got to give Evan Narcisse a tip of the hat for this one. BecauseI’m just that kind of bloke.)

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

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


Comments (410 total) Add your comment
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  • Julie

    Hear, hear! Perhaps it’s money that holds SciFi back. Prime example of squandered opportunity: Dresden Files. Those books are awesome, Butcher is a gifted writer of dialogue, character, and action scenes. Yet the TV series so altered his work that it was unwatchable. The plots were borderline, the characters completely different from Butcher’s vision, and the SFX were totally low budget. Every time I read a Butcher novel I think, “This would make an awesome film/TV show.” Yet the TV series’ dismal quality soured that potential over and over. SciFi: you gotta SPEND money to MAKE money. Suck it up and make the effort or you’ll never run with the big boys.

  • Laura

    I’m still part of the camp who thought Sci-Fi should’ve adopted Firefly.
    And yeah, the idea behind and casting of the Tin Man mini were awesome but the execution was just…blah.

  • Binky

    Mark Harris is wrong that nostalgia is the problem. The problem is that sci-fi movies and TV right now are stupid. A faithful adaptation of “I, Robot” would make a great TV movie, but the version we got on film had all thought removed.
    My fervent hope is that, as the cost of special effects goes down, we’ll see more and more ‘independent’ sci-fi films and TV – low budget sci-fi that concentrates on ideas, with decent-enough special effects to keep us from groaning.

  • Court

    Why didn’t Sci-Fi save Firefly and Journeyman? Those would have been right at home there.

  • Steve from Yellowstone

    While I agree with almost everything you say, Stargate Atlantis has been consistently solid over the course of its run.
    And amen to whomever said SciFi needs to pick up Journeyman!
    Also, why not a “canceled too soon” type of thing where they can run shows like Strange Luck, Brimstone, Cupid, Now & Again and so many other great genre shows that were killed before they had a chance?

  • Michael

    Yes Firefly would have been a great addition to a channel that needs an infusion of quality. The Sci-Fi channel has been around long enough to realize it’s mistakes, but sadly it hasn’t.
    It keeps churning out crap made-for-tv-movie after another. If they were to pick up a handful of good and great shows that were brimming with quality and possibilities, then we could be seeing the premiere channel to watch great Sci-Fi and Fantasy shows that people in this day and age truly want to watch.
    I agree with everything in this open letter. Stop wasting time making crap and start making something we don’t roll our eyes at (after watching it for five minutes) and turn the channel to something better(usually anything)

  • Jennifer

    My dissapointment w/the SciFi Channel is one of the reasons I cancelled my cable. I can NetFlix everything sooner or later adn I never have to see ads for wrestling. Or MANSQUITO.

  • RP

    I’m also with Laura, Court, and Steve. There are plenty of recent sci-fi shows the Sci-Fi channel could, and should, save. No wonder all of the science fiction films lately are remakes! Almost everything that’s been new and original has gotten canceled.
    A sci-fi soap opera would be freaking awesome!

  • RP

    Oh, and Jennifer makes another excellent point: the d— banner ads! Nobody wants to see an ad on top of the show they’re watching. Cut it out!

  • alm034

    Am I the only person who finds watching low-budget horror films like Sasquatch Mountain hilarious? I mean, I’m not going to rent them, but if they’re on SciFi I stop for a few minutes, catch some bad dialogue and a poorly done special effect, chuckle, and move on.

  • Stardreamer

    I would agree over all although I think B/Z grade movies have a place, they just shouldn’t dominate the lineup. Everyone on the Sci-Fi staff who thought ECW was a good idea should be fired immediately. They have no idea what the network is about.

  • Ames

    Over the summer CBS ran some sci-fi shows adapted from classic novels. They didn’t promote them, and aired them in some dead zone, but I thought the idea was good. And I wondered why Sci-Fi channel didn’t do it, but then promote it properly. I think Sci-Fi channel gets science fiction confused with the “big rubber monster” genre. But really, they are not the same.

  • Morjana Coffman

    Marc,
    While I agree whole heartedly with you regarding Flash Gordon and ECW — dude, seriously, you have NOT been watching the same Stargate Atlantis as I have.
    Stargate Atlantis is a quality, suberb, excellent, marvellous and entertaining television series.
    SciFi Channel is blessed to have this series. We’re (as in the royal fans “we’re”) blessed to have this series.
    For penance, please watch the amazing “Be All My Sins Remember’d” which repeats this Friday at 9pm, followed by the NEW episode, “Spoils of War,” at 10pm.
    On the SciFi Channel!
    Morjana

  • Lyle

    The Sci-Fi Channel did have a soap opera a decade ago with the FTL Newsfeed. I’d love to see a revamped FTL Newsfeed return.

  • Suzi

    There is so much great science fiction out there that could be adapted into shows, mini series or movies Why hasn’t anyone ever done “Stranger in a Strange Land”, for example? That’s just one great novel that could be adapted. They could be showing “The Man that fell to Earth” which I just Tivo’d off one of the HBO or Showtime channels the other day. There are other great scifi movies including animated ones that they should be showing and are not. This channel could blow our socks off if they really wanted to.

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