saving SGU

As a follow-up, here’s a thoughtful post about what comes next for Stargate: Universe. The key point is that SyFy doesn’t own the franchise, MGM does, and there is precedent for a series to jump channels. I’m not holding my breath, but there’s more passion for SGU than any series out there since Firefly. Who knows?

Well, Syfy doesn’t actually own Stargate Universe, MGM does. From my admittedly limited understanding of TV legalese, what this means is that MGM takes care of producing the actually show and has some sort of broadcasting deal with Syfy whereby the channel gets to air the first run of the show. While this may at first seem trivial consider two facts; One, the Stargate initially aired on the premium channel Showtime before it was “canceled” and then saved by Syfy (then the Sci-Fi Channel) and Two, MGM itself has issued no statement regarding the future (or not) of the series. I think this is significant because there are many more broadcast options available for the series in today’s market and there are perhaps other channels that would be interested in a series that already has standing sets and a built-in audience.

Below, I’ve included address for some of these channels to write to in order to express interest in watching Stargate Universe on their channel. I’ve also included the address for Syfy. I honestly don’t think there is any chance that they would reverse their decision, but there is the small possibility they could be persuaded to commission a mini-series or movie to wrap up the storyline. This happened when the network canceled the series Farscape, so there is precedence. Obviously, a full season of 13 or 20 episodes would be ideal, but I think it would be worth expressing the desire to have a wrap-up to the show in whatever form we can get it.
The remaining ten episodes of Stargate Universe season two will air on Syfy sometime in 2011 and this would be a great opportunity to increase the ratings to show Syfy and/or any other potential suitors how popular the show is. Pop Culture Zoo will continue our usual coverage of those remaining episodes so please stay tuned for that.

I’m reprinting the contact information for the various execs as well:


Mr. Mark Stern
Executive VP Original Programming, NBC Universal – Syfy
100 Universal City Plaza
Bldg. 1400, 14th Floor
Universal City, CA 91608

Dave Howe
President, NBC Universal – Syfy
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10112

Thomas P. Vitale
Senior Vice President, Programming and Original Movies, NBC Universal – Syfy
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 21st Floor
New York NY, 10112


Charles E. Cohen
Senior Executive Vice President, MGM Finance and Corporate Development
MGM Television Entertainment
10250 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA, 90067

and so, the (Stargate) Universe ended

In the Beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. — The Hitchhiker’ Guide to the Galaxy

This is pretty depressing news – Stargate: Universe seems to have been canceled. They are midway through their second season run and the final ten episodes will air in the spring, they will also modify the plot to wrap up the storyline early (since it was originally scripted for a five year run).

That shows like ST:Voyager get dragged out for years but the great shows like Firefly and SGU get dropped before they’ve had a chance to build a wider following is massively frustrating to me. It’s amazing to me that Galactica was permitted to survive long enough to finish. Sadly, most science fiction (and SGU was no exception) have tried to imitate Galactica’s formula of oversexed characters to try and draw in the mainstream male demographics. I expect the lesson of SGU’s demise, as far as TV producers go, is that there was too much plot and not enough skin. SGU was one of the few shows out there that could credibly be called a successor to Galactica; even Caprica Galactica’s own designated heir already got the axe. The future of American science fiction is dim.

We still have the British franchises, namely Doctor Who, and if the stars align more of Sherlock. And Warehouse 13 seems to have survived the chopping block, though for how long?

Meanwhile, the SyFy rebranding is revealed to have indeed been appropriate. SyFy doesn’t have the patience that Sci-Fi channel did for good science fiction. They just want shows that look like science fiction. It’s just “siffy” now. I’m disgusted, and if I had the option to choose cable channels a-la-carte I’d drop Siffy entirely.

Incidentally, this is an example of why cable should indeed be a-la-carte. Niche channels will regress towards the mean of television norms instead of staying faithful to their niche as long as they are subsidized by general cable premiums. If these niche channels must justify their existence, however, to the niche audience, they will take more risks – and the niche audience will be more willing to pay. Right now I pay about $40 for hundreds of channels; I’d happily pay $50 for just a handful, and Siffy could get a much larger share of my money.

I hope at some point that we can skip able distribution entirely and see a future where TV shows are marketed directly to Netflix and Hulu plus.

At any rate, the long drought of American science fiction has begun.

Sherlock: No sh$%

Sherlock (BBC)I returned from a lengthy trip and caught a few episodes of the Grand Moffat’s latest series, Sherlock, on the flight. This particular reimagination of Sherlock Holmes is unique in that it is set in the modern day rather than the Victorian era, which for me was like a revelation. The Wikipedia entry describes the series development and inspiration in detail and makes for good reading in its own right, as a case study in adaptation of a literary masterpiece to a different medium. For example:

The writers say that they didn’t want to force the modernity of the world onto the story. There were some creative challenges, such as the decision to include the sign “221B” on Holmes’ front door. Gatiss and Moffat reflect that in the modern world the door would only display the number of the house, and there would be doorbells for each flat. However, the full house number is so iconic that they felt that they could not change it. The writers also decided that the lead characters would address each other by their first names, rather than the traditional Holmes and Watson. Director Paul McGuigan came up with the idea of putting text messages on the screen instead of having cut-away shots of a hand holding the phone.

One of the modernizing facets of the show is that John Watson is encouraged to start a blog, as means of working through his adaptation to civilian duty and the psychosomatic limp. That blog is actually available online, and makes for great supplemental material to the show, as is Holmes’ own website and even the website of the landlady at 221b Baker Street! These tie-in websites are well done, if a bit amateur (though I am utterly spoiled with respect to
ARGs by Cloudmakers).

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re just getting introduced to the series), there were only three episodes made thus far. The series will be continued but our man Watson is off to New Zealand to play at Bilbo (which is also good news).

Frankly, the series was superb. So much so that if it continues, it could even eclipse Doctor Who. The parallels between the Doctor and Holmes are pretty amazing if you think about it (right down to the sidekick) and that certainly isn’t entirely coincidence. This is a great series. Between this, Dr Who, and Stargate Universe, it’s a golden winter for science fiction.

(and yes, I count Sherlock as science fiction. Discuss!)