Syfy orders some actual shows

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    Steve W
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    The only sci-fi from New Zealand I can think of off the top of my head is the movie The Quiet Earth.


    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. [LINK]

    Syfy’s Plan: More Space Operas, Less ‘Sharknado’
    The network shifts away from broad dramas and B-movies to its genre roots as it attempts to find the next “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones.”

    Like the hero in a time-travel story, the Syfy network sees its future in the past.

    Almost five years after a rebrand that abandoned the Sci-Fi moniker and enraged fans, NBCUniversal brass is aware that its attempt to lure a broader audience might have lost it some clout in the increasingly lucrative genre that shares its former name. Now Syfy president Dave Howe is trying to rectify the perception problem with changes in the executive ranks that will translate to new programming more familiar to its core audience.

    “We want to be the best science-fiction channel that we possibly can, and in some respects, that means going back to the more traditional sci-fi/fantasy that fans often say they feel we’ve exited,” Howe tells THR. “We’re going to occupy that space in a way we haven’t for the past few years.”

    Indeed, as Syfy attempted to broaden its reach with shows like the short-lived Alphas, the sci-fi genre exploded elsewhere on cable. AMC’s The Walking Dead remains the biggest series on TV in the key 18-to-49 demo, FX’s American Horror Story regularly scores more Emmy nominations than any series, and Game of Thrones has attracted such a fervent fan base, HBO is filling Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for its March 20 premiere. (Nevertheless, Syfy’s ratings are among the more consistent on cable — it remains a top 15 ad-supported network among adults 18-to-49, where it skews male.)

    But NBCU brass has higher expectations for the network, and it has not had a celebrated and commercial breakout since Battlestar Galactica wrapped in 2009.

    Syfy’s new executive vp original content, Bill McGoldrick, who joined in November from corporate sibling USA following the exit of Mark Stern, has two mandates: greenlight a space opera a la Battlestar and usher the network back into the golden age of high-profile, big-budget miniseries now duplicated by so many of its competitors.

    McGoldrick’s first pull on the scripted trigger is Ascension, a limited series for which Syfy is closing a deal and eyeing for the fourth quarter. Part Battlestar and part Downton Abbey, it follows the 100-year-long space shuttle of colonists fleeing an Earth threatened by the early Cold War. In success, this and other forthcoming Syfy miniseries will have series potential.

    Going forward, Defiance, the $100 million gamble with a video game tie-in, and recent debut Helix (from Battlestar co-creator Ron Moore) are being viewed as steps toward what Syfy wants creatively: provocative, allegory-filled science fiction, unlike Syfy’s lighter, more procedural formats of current Stephen King adaptation Haven or exiting Warehouse 13. New York-based Howe joined McGoldrick in Los Angeles during the first week of March to communicate their new wish list for originals to the major talent agencies. (The duo is less clear on unscripted plans, as supernatural fare — including Syfy’s long-running Ghost Hunters — has been exhausted by competitors.)

    Also of interest: more international co-productions (see dystopian Continuum and vampire crime drama Lost Girl) that get exclusive stateside first-runs at a modest cost. Howe considers acquisitions of reruns, once Syfy’s bread and butter, to be firmly in the past. Off-net episodes of Lost, which he calls “a disaster,” proved to him that the Syfy audience already is up to speed on its competitors’ shows.

    Lurking in the shadows, of course, is Sharknado. After it scored a huge 9.5 million viewers over six broadcasts last summer, Syfy is eager for the social-media cachet that the July 31 sequel likely will bring. But the cheap B-movies that have frequented its schedule are not a priority. Howe says he plans to cut back on campy tele­pics from the 20 to 24 that Syfy now airs each year (though he admits Sharknado likely will remain an annual event).

    Instead, McGoldrick is most concerned with his directive of putting the network back in outer space — be it with Ascension or another project.

    “That’s the way to send a message in a big way that we’re back and we care about sci-fi,” he says. “There is enormous pressure to get that back, because we used to own it. And we’re going to own it again.”

    Yeah, I don’t see them walking away from the sheer buzz that Sharknado brings, even though it’s the buzz of a mass of snickering, pointing skeptics rather than of people who stand a chance in hell of sticking around to see what else the network has to offer.

    I wish Mr. McGoldrick the best of luck. He has a hell of a lot of lost ground to regain. HBO and BBC America and AMC have stolen the sci-fi from SyFy. They will need one hell of a show to convince anyone that they can get it back, and Syfy’s desperate need for that one hell of a show is probably paying Ronald D. Moore’s mortgage, because they can’t seem to come up with anything better than “Do you have Ron Moore on speed dial?” to fix the problem.

    Rockne O’Bannon is still out there. Hell, Rick Berman is still out there (yes, I just said that). Brannon Braga’s probably scoping out new prospects now that Cosmos is 12 weeks away from being finished. What’s Russell T. Davies up to? Chris Chibnall? What about getting the guys who do the animated Doctor Who reconstructions to do something new and interesting and original? What about going in halfsies with DAVE on the next season of Red Dwarf?

    Go big, Syfy… or go back home and be Shows That Wouldn’t Have Cut It On USA Network again.

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    It would be nice if they brought back some of the classic shows. How about classic Doctor Who?

    “All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.” —IBM Manual, 1925


    I’d say “don’t count on it” except that the BBC just sold the first classic Who rerun package in ages to a UK channel called the Horror Network. C’mon, BBC, just take the money.

    Of course, Syfy would have to propose it in the first place; if they don’t, BBC America may yet wise up, make Steve W’s Blue Box channel a reality, and out-sci-fi Syfy in the blink of an eye.


    Looks like Syfy might actually build up enough orbital velocity to escape the wooded areas near Vancouver! [LINK]

    Forget “Sharknado 2.” What the Syfy network really wants Comic-Con attendees to notice is a sharp turn back into space.

    Ever since “Stargate SG-1” and “Battlestar Galactica” ended their runs about five years ago, Syfy has been notably earthbound in its programming. New efforts include “Defiance,” a futuristic drama involving aliens on our planet, and “Ghost Hunters,” a paranormal reality show. And, of course, Syfy has its B-movie franchise, which will turn out the heavily hyped “Sharknado 2: The Second One” on Wednesday.

    “Ascension” is a six-hour mini-series about a covert United States space mission launched in the 1960s: hundreds of people have been sent to populate a new world, but halfway there they face a mystery that makes them question whether to turn back. If ratings are strong enough when “Ascension” runs in November it will probably become a full-blown series, Mr. Howe said.

    “Killjoys,” from the producers of “Orphan Black,” follows a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters, while “The Expanse” is a space opera set 200 years in the future and centered on a giant conspiracy theory. (No specific premiere dates have been set for those two.) “It’s probably the best space script I’ve read since ‘Battlestar Galactica,’” Mr. Howe said of “The Expanse.”

    What do these three shows have that was so hard to find? “It’s really hard to do space without a clichéd reliance on technobabble,” he said. “Phasers and transporters were interesting 30 years ago but not to a generation growing up with iPads.”

    😆 😆 🙄 😆 Silly Dave Howe. iPads were never the problem. Stirring the imagination with a decent story was the problem. Here’s your problem, Syfy, and it’s the same problem every other broadcast or cable outlet trying to produce original programming has run into: you’re cheap. You don’t want to spend any more money than you absolutely have to – we get it. So since Galactica came down to Earth and Stargate Universe got canned, the requirement has been: make it something we can film on location and soundstages in Vancouver. And that’s assuming that original scripted programming wasn’t being ditched in favor of “reality” shows to begin with.

    Not saying that Eureka and Warehouse 13 and Sanctuary didn’t have followings, but they also, generally speaking, didn’t have the kind of buzz that drew people who weren’t already Syfy viewers to the channel (see also: BSG).

    Steve W
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    I’m going to quote something from earlier in this thread.

    [Survivor creator Mark] Burnett’s untitled competition skein involves contestants creating cuisine from an array of sci-fi books and films, and bringing the food from those imaginary worlds to life.

    “The Genie” revolves around Steve Sims and his concierge company who create real-life adventures based on fantasy films. Examples include creating a chocolate river from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or experiencing life as a hobbit from “Lord of the Rings.”

    Others shows in development include “Stranded,” where a family or group of friends moves into a supposed haunted location, self-documenting their experience in total isolation; “Exit” is based on a Japanese format where contestants must beat the clock while simultaneously solving mental tasks and avoiding booby traps; and “Awesome Foundation,” where participants pitch ideas they hope will turn into reality.

    Other prospects trade on Syfy’s success with paranormal-themed shows. “Buyer Beware” follows sellers who try to unload their haunted houses; “Deadfinder” revolves around mediums who help solve cold murder cases; “Ghost Town USA” examines reports of supernatural activity in Mount Holly, N.J.; and on “The Wrights,” relatives of the Wright Brothers build contraptions to communicate with the dead.

    As I’ve repeatedly stated, I don’t watch TV anymore (one of the factors included the Sci-Fi Channel’s descent into suckitude) so I don’t know… did any of these shows ever get made or aired? I haven’t heard a thing about any of them, which isn’t too difficult all things considered. And now SyFy is talking about their newest season, when I’ve never seen hide nor hair of the old line-up of shows?

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    Seeing all the buzz about “Sharknado 2” it’s clear that there is a large audience (including me) for crap like this. People love camp. They know it’s stupid but they enjoy it anyway even if they do nothing but snicker and make fun of the inane acting, poor directing, bad script and other stuff. Think of the audiences you see in film at vaudeville: heckling the artists, throwing tomatoes, and causing a general ruckus. The audience loves that stuff because it gives them an excuse to misbehave. Same goes with the SyFy camp followers: they love to complain about it online and offline.

    With that in mind, Sy-Fy will always have its foot in the camp door. Camp is cheap and that’s what SyFy is about. Roger Corman and Bruce Campbell will always find a home at Syfy.


    Syfy’s next victim: Scalzi! [LINK]

    The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has put into development Ghost Brigades, a drama based on John Scalzi’s Hugo-nominated Old Man’s War universe book series, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

    The NeverEnding Story’s Wolfgang Petersen will oversee development on the project alongside Scott Stuber (Safe House), with Jake Thornton and Ben Lustig (Winter’s Knight) on board to pen the first script. The drama hails from Universal Cable Productions, Petersen’s Radiant Productions and Stuber’s Bluegrass Films.

    Ghost Brigades follows John Perry, who at 75 enlists in the Colonial Defense Force to fight a centuries-long war for man’s expansion into the cosmos. Technology allows experiences and consciousness to be transplanted into younger bodies that are outfitted to endure the harsher rigors of war in space. However, soon after John arrives, he finds himself involved with a mysterious woman, and at the same time, at the center of an unraveling conspiracy involving an elite fighting force known as the Ghost Brigades.

    Military sci-fi book Old Man’s War was first published in 2005 and was nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel in 2006. Paramount Pictures optioned the property with Petersen attached to direct, David Self (Road to Perdition) attached to adapt Scalzi’s book and Stuber on board to produce in 2011 but nothing ever came of it.

    Ghost Brigades followed in 2006, marking the second in the five-book series that included The Last Colony (2007), Zoe’s Tale (2008) and The Human Division (2013), which was published in serial form.

    Okay, suggestions for John Perry casting?

    Steve W
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    I’m already predicting this will be crap. Mainly due to the fact that they decided to change the name to Ghost Brigades rather than its original title Old Man’s War because the new title was more “sexy”. So they’ve already started off with a bad idea. It can only go down from here.

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    Scalzi also has Redshirts in the works right now. Very little is being said by John about Redshirts. I don’t know what network that will be on or who’s in it and so on.

    Scalzi is executive producer of both shows, if that means anything.

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    According to, Redshirts is a FX series.

    “All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.” —IBM Manual, 1925


    To be fair, Ghost Brigades is the name of the second or third book in the Old Man’s War cycle, so it’s not something that some marketing intern pulled out of his… aft cargo area.

    Steve W
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    Still, wouldn’t it make sense to use the first book name in the series? Would you like it more or less if they had called the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy motion picture “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe”? The name Old Man’s War is well known amongst sci-fi fans, I’ve never read the book and I’ve heard of it. I’ve never once heard the second book’s title ever mentioned until now. Why take the identifiable title away and give it one that has far, far less instant recognition? It’s just a dumb idea. I’m sure that they’re thinking that they won’t be able to capture that lucrative 18 to 29 year old male demographic all the networks crave with the word “old” in the title. 🙄

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    Well, the problem with titling the series “Old Man’s War” is it limits you to that one character. That character pretty much was done with the scene by the end of the book and the subsequent books dealt with other characters.

    So I don’t have a problem with it being called the “Ghost Brigades” since it allows the series producers and writers to expand the scope of the series. I don’t think it was a bad move at all.


    Yeah. Case in point that isn’t Syfy related: I doubt that when they do the Honor Harrington movie (and it is apparently in the works), I doubt very much they’ll call it “On Basilisk Station”. They’ll probably call it “Honor Harrington”. I could talk for an hour about how OBS is more evocative and mysterious and it’s the first book in the series, but they want the brand recognition right out of the starting gate. That movie’s not going to be called anything but “Honor Harrington”.

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