Except when its Stargate.
This is a long over due blog post. News of SGU’s cancellation has been a bit hard to swallow, despite having some predictive indicators that that was where things were heading.
SyFy is not to be trusted. Indeed I haven’t graced their network with my viewership since they announced the cancellation. There are still 5 unwatched episodes of Caprica on my DVR. Another show killed without giving the production a chance to wrap it up.
On the one hand, I fully appreciate the realities of television. Shows are not produced simply to entertain me. They’re produced to make money. Its the way of our world. Mostly I’m okay with that. I understand that a show I really enjoy may not translate to mass-appeal. It may well end before its run its natural course. So be it.
The problem I’m finding is in the shift toward more serialized television. The days of self-contained-episodes is drawing to a close. Shows where each episode are stand-alone are becoming an endangered species. We have reality television which got us hooked on following a ‘story’ week over week. Then we got shows like 24 and Lost that were huge hits, and mandated tuning in each week to follow along. Casual viewers really don’t have a lot of options these days. I have to pick and choose what shows to invest myself in.
Shows such as SGU or BSG require more than a casual commitment. There are big arcs that spread over multiple seasons. Such shows call for a deeper investment by its audience. Investment. Investments are risky, and the more investment a show requires of you, the bigger the potential pay out. The bigger the disappointment too. I get a much richer story experience out of them. Its why I make that investment.
I understand the networks make an investment into the series they broadcast as well. Sometimes those investments don’t pay out the way they would like. Its not wise to keep pouring money into something that isn’t performing to expectations. You can retool, but if its television, you have a bit of a wait before you can analyse the results of your tweaking. Sometimes the wait itself is just too costly.
What annoys me though, is that networks are making the decision to enter into riskier formats of television without altering how they mitigate that risk. The industry is not adapting to how people like me consume their television anyway. The old formulas simply do not work anymore.
They’d like to blame the DVR, but they overlook its predecessor. When I was moving back in December, I cam across a box of my old VHS tapes. All my weekly rotations for my VCR to record all my shows, so I could watch them at my liesure. (Kinda interested to know what’s still on them… must find a working VCR.) This viewing habit may have skyrocketed as DVRs became more and more prevalent (no more needing to remember to put the tape in), but its a viewing behavior that is now 20 years old. We were doing it in the 90s, we’re doing it today. Why isn’t the industry catching up to its consumers’ behaviors? Talk about capitalism being broken.
Yet this doesn’t play into ratings. We don’t get counted unless we tune in live AND have a nelson-box. For serialized television shows, the liklihood of delayed viewing over a DVR increases. Its not uncommon to queue up several episodes and have a mini-marathon over the weekend. Especially with something like BSG or SGU that always ends the episode with a ‘now what’ moment. You’re hooked and you want more. A sign of a successful episode, really. What got me into shows like the Sopranos was viewing it on DVD, which may well then lead me to tuning in on television (often by subscribing to a premium channel).
The downside, potentially, to making such an investment of yourself into a story is that by becoming a dedicated (vs. casual) viewer, you’re investing more than just your time. Every week you have a group of characters come into your home. As you identify with and relate to them, you’re getting emotinally entangled (sometimes without realizing it). Sooner or later all shows must come to an end. What does that mean when you’ve forged a connection with it?
When BSG reached its conclusion, I literally went through a period of mourning. I recall having to force myself awake one morning because (having some degree of lucidity in my dreaming) I realized my dream was about BSG and it was making me sad. Really sad. I needed to get out of that and into something happier or risk having a moody day. The characters you have come to know (and perhaps love) are not coming over to visit anymore when a show is done. Its as if you had a group of friends who were all in a freak accident together and got killed. That can be a bit devastating if it were the real world.
We can thankfully console ourselves that we’re mourning fictional people, but it only takes some of the edge off it. That anyone would experience this over a TV show, probably sounds silly. Though anyone who mocks me over it is someone I would likely find to be a very sad individual. How disconnected they must be from life to not be able to relate to some degree. Basically, to have me choked up over a TV show just means the people who wrote it did their jobs right. Its supposed to touch you on an emotional level. Its what makes it worthwhile. (Mind you, I just don’t enjoy mindless entertainment, which kills most television for me.) Its what also makes it annoying as all crap when that cancellation order comes in.
I wouldn’t mind my shows being cancelled so much except for how SyFy goes about it. Repeatedly they’ve ordered full seasons, allowed them to all get written, filmed, and be well into post-production when they say, “Sorry, but you’re not coming back for another season.” Caprica, Stargate Alantis, and now Stargate Universe. Three strikes for SyFy, and I’m out. Each one cancelled without affording the prodcution the opportunity to even try and wrap the story up.
Now I’ve seen a few shows over the years where they were given this time, and frankly, the ending was a bit rushed and clunky. But at least they gave it an effort to resolve the story for me. A bad ending is still and ending. I’d rather have that than a story that stops in the middle. (Of course then we have things like the X Files that ran longer than they should have… that ending should have come sooner.) But that is not to be with SyFy.
So its with sadness that I tune out of Caprica (with five episodes to watch) and SGU (with ten episodes left to air starting in a couple of weeks). I suppose in the end, I’ll probably pick it all up on DVD and eventually watch them. I watched Crusade knowing it got canned before its first season was up. Left me a lot of unanswered questions in the Babylon 5 universe, but at least filled me in on some things I was unaware of in that playground.
With Caprica and SGU, it doesn’t feel like a freak accident ended the lives of my fictional ‘friends.’ It feels like SyFy murdered them. That’s harder to cope with. I genuinely feel like a crime was committed and justice will not be done.
The impact for SyFy may be more dire. I’m hoping this is antoher trend I can set. But i am resolved to NOT watch Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. Despite my fanaticism for the BSG series, and my deep desire to explore the first cylone war… I’m not doing it if SyFy is involved. I can’t trust them to order their episodes and make their decisions in a coordinated fashion with the production studio. I don’t want another great story to start and cut me off just as I become inextricably hooked.
This also means I won’t be returning for Sanctuary (this one, at least, I’m taking myself out of the investment before SyFy ends it without a conclusion). Haven, which got off to a slow start, was kind of picking up in the end. It interested me, though perhaps not as deeply as some other shows. Certainly makes me want to read the book its based on. But I’m not tuning in for the second season of that either. Eureka? Warehouse 13? Shows that are great fun (and a bit more geared for casual viewing) and that I really like and that will not be getting my viewership.
I’ll stick to my video games to get my story-fixes. And books. At least those all have a begining, middle, and end. No one is putting out a half-written book, or a half-finished video game. Its either complete, or not for sale. One day, television will be this way too.
Rise up, oh masses, and herald the new era sooner, rather than later. Oh, and don’t watch SyFy. They should be punished harshly. Really, thats what its about for me. Boycot them. Doesn’t matter that they still have some shows I really enjoy, and some stories I’d like to finish. Burn me, and I will excercise all my power as a consumer by making my investments with your competitors. I encourage all of you do follow suit.
Or maybe instead of just abandoning my stories, I’ll just start picking them up on DVD instead. SyFy gets no revenue off that unless they happen to own the show outright (most they license the show from its true owners). For Stargate, my DVD money goes to MGM who has been staunch supporters of their property.
In closing, I wanted to share what really is one bad-ass little fan video showcasing my beloved Stargate franchise. If you’ve never seen any of the Stargate shows, then I’ll be particularly interested in hearing from you after you’ve watched this. I think this vid is sure to peak your interest in Stargate (unless you’re just boring).