Boston Globe article on Sci-Fi channel

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason Seaver, Mar 16, 2003.

  1. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/07...riction+.shtml

    Yeah, I'm quoted - first line of the article, even. Yikes! Still, Ms. Ryan apparently hadn't been aware of how upset the Farscape cancellation had made people before we talked, and it wound up being a major theme of the article (kind of gutsy, considering my copy came wrapped in a Children Of Dune ad).

    A couple issues:

     
  2. SpenceJT

    SpenceJT Second Unit

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  3. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    I haven't had a chance to read the Globe story yet, so I'll have to limit my comments for now.


    SpenceJT wrote (post #2):

     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Jason, I wonder how many members here know who John W. Campbell was. Care to enlighten them? (My wrists are tired.)
     
  5. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    John W. Campbell Who? ...goes there.
     
  6. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    So, I've read it. Disheartening, but not unexpected.

    I can't help making these small comments on what's actually nothing. (It's a sickness.) Please bear with me.


    Quote:



    Sci Fi officials, pointing to flagging ratings, say Farscape must go to make room for new and higher-profile programming





    Translation: "more easily marketable programming".



    Quote:



    "Tremors looks like it's going to stink."





    And you were expecting from a series about bug farts . . . ???


    Quote:



    "And just what does Scare Tactics have to do with science fiction anyway?"






    Absolutely nothing. But it has everything to do with what they're really after: "market share", i.e., the highest viewership possible, "science-fiction purity" be damned. (Ir)reality-tv is "hot", these days. Haven't you heard?

    Do you watch professional football at all? I used to watch it religiously. And over the time that I did I began to see fashion shows (first via Phyllis George), mini-"rock" concerts, stand-up (actually "sit-down") "comedy" (via knuckle-headed announcers, almost all of whom were (and are) ex-jocks or washed-up coaches), and more creep into the network sportscasts. Why, why, why, you ask? To draw in larger audiences composed of a whoooole lot o' people who aren't particularly interested in football. The same's going on here. It's no mystery. The object of businesspeople is to make more revenue and more profit. There is no loyalty among them to "ideological purity". ("'Niche' schmiche.")


    As the article says:


    Quote:



    "[Scare Tactics] will pull in more random viewers who aren't science fiction fans but will tune in because it's a reality show."







    Quote:



    "Many of the top-grossing movies of all time are science fiction. We're realizing there is a huge audience to explore," says Bonnie Hammer, president of the 24-hour basic-cable channel, which is available in 81 million subscribing homes nationwide. . . . . While in the past, Sci Fi was primarily a rerun channel, Hammer says, the mandate now is to "define ourselves as a front-runner in original programming."





    Bugfarts, weepy crystal-ball gazers, and screaming teenies or co-eds; reeeallly "original".



    Quote:



    In April, Sci Fi will premiere Scare Tactics, a Candid Camera type reality show in which friends will stage elaborate science fiction-style hoaxes on other friends, from a Bigfoot sighting on a campground to a baby-sitting job in a haunted house. Shannen Doherty will host the show.






    Doherty's a totally repugnant personality, but just the fitting host for the no-shame ("See my boobs. See my buns.") generation.



    Quote:



    . . . . director Greg Yaitanes says [Children of Dune] is really a story about powerful women and a dysfunctional family.

    "I looked at this as a story of a family, not a science fiction film," says Yaitanes, . . . . "What's great about the film is there are empowered women in it. Science fiction traditionally has had a male appeal to it. . . . There are real human emotions, which is very, very rare in science fiction."

    That's just what Sci Fi executives want to hear.






    "It's not really science fiction . . . " Hmmmm. Now, where have I heard that before? . . . . .

    "Dysfunctional family", "empowerment of women", "healing"; real "here-and-now" issues. Now everyone can relate to that, can't they? "Worm holes" (NOT the kind in Tremors or on Arrakis!!!), "folding space", "immortality" (and its consequences for human evolution and society), etc., etc., etc. . . . those are just incidental to the story (!)



    Quote:



    To be sure, the channel has not abandoned the space odyssey. In December, it is rolling out the four-hour miniseries Battlestar Galactica based on the 1970s show. But the reality, Hammer says, is that Sci Fi must expand its reach.





    So, let me get this straight: Sci-Fi management's idea of "original programming" is a revival of a simply terrible, juvenilely insulting program from the late '70s/early '80s that was itself a(n, at the very least, spiritual) rip-off of that other thoroughly original Star Wars epic??? It is to laugh.



    Quote:



    The channel has realized, Hammer says, that traditional science-fiction shows that attempt to portray the future via space odyssies and gee-whiz technology are no longer as appealing to tech-savvy viewers as Earth-based twists on modern-day reality, such as "The Sixth Sense" and "The Matrix."





    Could some scientist- and/or engineer-types help me out here? My understanding of "tech-savviness" would lead me to believe that, in opposition to Sci-Fi Channel management's interpretations of these things, the audience they actually want is not "tech-savvy" at all. If a tool, instrument, or machine is hard to use because one needs a bit of technical know-how to operate or manipulate it, then it's what is called "high-tech", while, contrarily, technology that requires no special technical training to use is "low tech" (e.g., an F-16 fighter jet vs. a sports car). After, all, how "tech-savvy" does one have to be to use a cell phone? A bit of training ("Press button Z for . . .") should do it, I think. As a consumer item, it's designed not to require lots of training, no?

    I think they want the sports-car audience. That's the audience for which "traditional science-fiction shows that attempt to portray the future via space odyssies [sic] and gee-whiz technology are no longer as appealing . . . as Earth-based twists on modern-day reality", 'cause that audience has never been much interested in it.


    Quote:



    "Years ago, science fiction was based on all of these predictions about technology. Well, there is nothing new out there for kids who are so used to technology," she says. "People don't care about the future that much but about new perceptions on the here and now. We're trying to develop products that deal with that."





    Translation: today's young audiences can't think about anything but themselves ("here and now"). Their lives, their feelings, their this and that. ("'Science'?!? I've got my cell phone. Who needs science?!?") The kids have the "products"---to use a Hammerism---of technology, but how many of them have even the faintest idea of how most of it works? "Tech-savvy"? I don't think so.

    I have no love in me for Farscape, so I won't pretend I care about its demise. Nevertheless, even though I think it's been vastly overrated by its proponents, I'd still rather see a thousand Farscapes than this river of drivel (Tremors) or outright sewage (Scare Tactics, The Dream Team (with Screwball and Wimpy)---which seems, mysteriously, to have vanished from Sci-Fi's schedule) that is flowing our way from the "new Sci-Fi". Ugh!

    Haven't these people even a single clue from the fact that a (sort of) "space show", Stargate SG-1 is Sci-Fi channel's "top-rated show"?????

    Oh, it should be noted that almost all this "original" (scripted) programming is owned by Universal Vivendi or its subsidiaries. No accident.
     
  7. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  9. Bill Street

    Bill Street Stunt Coordinator

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    Another example of Lowest Common Denominator at work.

    Why should Sci-Fi show science fiction, why should American Movie Classics show classic movies, why should the The Nashville Network show country music programming?

    Grrr... I'm not saying they should show programming that loses money, they're not charities after all, but why be 105th channel to carry general interest 18-49 programming, rather than having a large niche audience, who have money and buy lots of things pretty much to themselves!

    They will tell you that they are trying to skew programming to the demographic advertisers want to buy, but I think it's ultimately just laziness. Why do real salesmanship and sell advertisers on your unique audience when you can program shows that will fool enough teens that they are watching USA long enough to last a commercial break?

    Oh well, didn't realize I was gonna rant, till it happened.

    Bill S.
     
  10. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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  11. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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  12. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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  13. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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  14. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    I thought that was you they were quoting in the article.
     
  15. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Well, the Sci-Fi Channel has never really been about science fiction. It's the Offbeat Channel slowly morphing into another USA, TBS, WOR, WGN, AMC, et al.
     

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