When Syfy went through its rebranding a few years ago (which is what created the double Y spelling in the first place), part of the network’s restructuring involved moving away from hardcore, serious science-fiction and into more family friendly programming such as Eureka and Warehouse 13.
However, while that strategy worked for a while, audiences have grown weary of the network’s lack of serious offerings, as there’s only so many times you can get people watch Sharknado. Aware of that fact, the Comcast/Universal owned network, starting this year, has optioned to enter another dramatic restructuring back into the kind of content that made it a onetime genre television power-house.
Speaking with EW, Syfy’s head of original programming, Bill McGoldrick, stated:
In terms of where it was before with original content and some of the series that were on the air, maybe they were more procedural, more lighthearted in tone—and by the way, those shows worked really well for a long time. I’m referring to the Warehouses and the Eurekas. What we have in development now is more of a serious tone, more back to our roots.
But no one’s questioning the network’s new drive for serious genre content. The wonder on everyone’s minds is why it’s happening now:
I think when you look at the marketplace and you look at how passionate people are getting about shows—serialized shows specifically—the bar has been raised for the entire industry in terms of how well you have to execute your content to get that passionate core fan base that really acts as its own marketing in terms of word of mouth.
He’s not wrong. While their Nielsen data isn’t always consistently that strong from series to series, some of the world’s most talked about programs consist of genre-based and/or serialized content including Hannibal, Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy. All three of these examples (any others like them) have gotten their fanbases riled up in ways executives could have only dreamt of just a short ten years ago. While the concept of serialized television isn’t new, the concept of giving fanbases an easily accessible way to share in their love (such as Twitter) is.
It’s hard these days to get people excited for procedurals such as Warehouse 13 and Eureka like they are for Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. Even with great characters, a television series can only go so far on its own. Syfy needs that kind of passionate fanbase again in order to survive in the second coming of television’s golden age.
The ratings dip and eventual cancelation of Warehouse and Eureka is what showed them it was time to look at other ways of telling stories, and they apparently have found those other ways. Considering the network’s recent renewal of Dominion and growing popularity of Defiance, only now is television’s once great sci-fi home understanding what the people want in the post-Breaking Bad era. You can’t have good characters OR good concepts, you have to have both.
Luckily for them, with the upcoming premieres of Ascension and 12 Monkeys, in addition to what’s on the network’s current development slate including The Expanse, they should have no problems getting people interested in long-running, serialized sci-fi again. That should especially hold true for 12 Monkeys, a series whose creative team’s sole goal was to see if a serialized, time-travel thriller really could be done on television the right way.